I'm thrilled to have Seré Prince Halverson stop by A Bookworm's World today. Her debut novel The Underside of Joy has been released to great reviews.
To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the Northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two young children. For three years, Ella has been the only mother the kids have known. But when Joe drowns off the coast, his ex-wife shows up at his funeral, intent on reclaiming the children."
I asked Sere if she could give us some insight into her experience growing up with a mother and stepmother and her experience being a mother and a stepmother. Here's her response....
"My stepmom moved in when I was 15 and my sister, Suzanne, was 13, and, well, imagine what a hoot that must have been. To make matters more complicated, it seemed my dad had a thing for Jans. Jan was also my mom’s name.
So Jan II and her sweet, gentle six-year-old son, Marc, walked in, ducking flying hairbrushes, while our hormone-fueled yells competed with Peter Frampton and Fleetwood Mac blasting from the living room stereo. (What on earth, besides clothes, did Suzanne and I fight over? All that energy and rage directed at who was wearing whose Baretraps and Chemin de Fer jeans...Some of you might remember those.)
Amazing but true: Jan and Marc didn't scramble back into her little red Luv truck and peel out, though at times they must have wanted to. They stayed. And we became a family. We were still a dysfunctional family, as most families are -- at least the interesting ones. But we also managed to enjoy the heck out of each other. We still do. And Jan helped to make that possible.
Two teenage girls and one new stepmom does not an easy transition make. I know this from being both a stepdaughter and a stepmother. But Jan has a seemingly endless reserve of grace and compassion. She also has a kick-ass sense of humor. She immediately dubbed herself M.O.S. for Mean Old Stepmother, which stuck, mostly because it was the furthest thing from the truth.
Jan never took her role as stepmother too seriously. She didn't push herself on us. She didn't set up new house rules or demand that we be home at such-and-such a time for dinner. She brought home bags of Jack in the Box and leaned against the kitchen counter and simply listened. She simply loved us, even when we were at our most unlovable. And we couldn't help but love her back.
Years later, I became a divorced mom whose kids now had a stepmom. Years later still, I remarried and became a stepmom whose stepkids’ mom was still very much in their lives.
The Underside of Joy tells the story of Ella Beene, who is also a stepmom. (How many stepmoms can you fit into a Prius?) Does all this make me some kind of an authority on parenting and stepparenting? Absolutely not. Each situation is different, and we’re all bumbling along trying to do our best, even though sometimes we fall short. My story is certainly not Ella’s story, nor Paige’s story. But I do know this: none of us are evil, and in the best situations, the shared love of the same children can be uniting. Still, relationships between parents and stepparents are often complicated. And I’m a writer—who lives to dip my pen into complicated.
At least I didn’t give Ella and Paige the same first name."
Thanks so much for stopping by Seré! You can find Seré at her blog - Who Moved My Buddha and on Facebook.
I have a spankin' new hardcover copy of The Underside of Joy to giveaway. Simply leave a comment to be entered. And --- this one's international! Ends March 4. Read an excerpt of The Underside of Joy.