A Woman of Valor represented a major departure for me as a writer in a number of ways. Some may applaud what I’ve attempted; others may take issue with it.
First, at the most superficial level, I switched sub-genres (from legal thrillers and mysteries to “police procedural”) and begin an entirely new series with new characters, setting, etc. Nobody, I presume, will take issue with that.
Second and more importantly—and perhaps, more controversially—my main character, who also serves as a “third person close” narrator, is a young woman with a history of rape in her childhood.
Obviously I’ve never been a woman, much less a young one. And in spite of having been both a boy scout and an altar boy, I’ve experienced neither rape or child abuse.
Some may take issue with a middle-aged man presuming to understand the perspective of a young woman with this history well enough to tell a story from her point of view. It is, objectors might say, a form of cultural appropriation. Men are the problem in this story. How could a man ever hope to tell that story with true understanding? Without bias, without in any way inviting excuses or forgiveness for the perpetrator of these crimes—also a middle-aged man?
It’s a fair set of questions and a fair objection. I felt nervous about this choice from the very beginning, for that very reason. My worst fear was that I’d write a book about rape and child abuse that would completely miss the mark. One that would obfuscate the issue, rather than shed light on the problem.
It’s why I relied very heavily on the input of women while writing the novel. Why I made it a point to listen carefully to women on these topics, and to reflect critically on how my own past may have made the problem worse.
I even thought about backing away from these themes. After all, it didn’t have to be rape and child abuse that gave my character PTSD. I could have switched to any number of alternatives.
But the more I learned about the topic, the more I knew I couldn’t back away from it. This issue needs to be discussed by both men and women. The stigma and the burden of proof must be removed from victims and placed squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrators of these heinous acts.
Let’s be clear. Most of the perpetrators—well over 90%—are men. Well over 90% of the victims are women.
Men need to talk and write about this because we need to own the blame for this problem. We need to think like women (as best we can) about this topic in order to understand it and to help solve it.
Thankfully, it appears that the women who helped me develop Valorie Dawes got through in important ways. Reviewers have said so, anyway:
Kaybee’s Bookshelf wrote:
“He, the author, had amazing insight into the psyche of an abused woman and how childhood abuse can affect you as an adult.”
Rita Lee Chapman:
“Gary Corbin’s protagonist is believable, real and likeable.”
“First, thanks to the author for writing such a strong female character into this novel. Valorie Dawes is not only a survivor, she is making it her business to help others. … The author takes a great mystery and also adds the harsh reality of what PTSD can do. … I think readers will not only like the mystery, but the woman living through it all.”
Author Kate Kort:
“It’s Valorie’s inner journey that will keep the reader hooked. Corbin captures with striking intimacy this complicated female voice, creating an authentic and highly relatable lead character.”
In the end, only the reader can truly judge for herself whether this man succeeded in the attempt to get inside the psyche of this troubled woman.
So, dear reader—if you’ve read the book—what do you think? Did I convince you that I understood this woman well enough to tell her story? Or did I let you down?