Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy Reunions? by Sandra Ruttan

Sandra Ruttan is the editor-in-chief of Spinetingler Magazine and blogs regularly at Do Some Damage.  Her published books also include WHAT BURNS WITHIN, THE FRAILTY OF FLESH and LULLABY FOR THE NAMELESS, and two of her titles have been translated into Japanese.  For more information visit her website:


by Sandra Ruttan

Several months ago, I took an enormous risk.  Many have heard about the girl who solved her own abduction more than twenty years after the fact, and was reunited with her biological parents.  And most of us have heard of Oprah’s dramatic discovery of a sibling she never knew existed, and their eventual reunion.

But what a lot of people don’t realize is how risky these types of reunions are.  Children who search for birth parents after adoption sometimes find people who want nothing to do with them.  The initial rejection is followed by new hurt, and these are wounds that will never heal by reconnecting, getting answers to long-asked questions.

My husband is a bit of an anomaly.  He always knew his dad was out there, somewhere, and his mother made sure he never got the chance to meet him or know him while he was growing up.

But Brian never considered finding his dad.  It wasn’t that his mother had more than filled the gap; they have a horrible relationship, and she’s far more interested in the children she had with her second husband.  Brian was discarded much the same way her first husband was, to the extent that she doesn’t even bother with her only grandchildren.  It’s only been in the past year that they’ve even realized that she’s “technically” their grandmother.

Me, I’m far too curious.  Unlike Brian, I had a hard time letting the issue of finding his real dad drop.

So I asked some questions.

Realized Brian’s great aunt hadn’t told me the truth.

Started to wonder what else he’d been told over the years wasn’t accurate.

And found Brian’s biological dad.  On Facebook.

And not just his dad.  His brother and sister, too.

Best of all, most of his immediate family lived within driving distance.  It wasn’t long before emails turned into phone calls, and phone calls turned into a face to face meeting.  And for the first time in their young lives, the kids actually got to meet their grandparents.

And Brian got to meet his dad.

But in those moments leading up to the reunion, there were a lot of nerves at work in us.  What would these people really be like?  You can think you’ve covered your bases, asked all the right questions, but we were early in our relationship.  There was so much we didn’t know.

I’ve heard other stories where the outcomes haven’t been great, they’ve been pretty much a letdown. 

But for us, it was the exact opposite.  Our experience discovering Brian’s family has been fantastic.  We’ve been at ease from early on.  The kids have quickly accumulated a stockpile of grandparent memories – picking peaches, going for walks in the mountains and seeing bears, swimming, playing games, watching movies, drawing, Christmas celebrations…  and his parents and brother were at our wedding.

And for the first time in his life, just a few weeks ago, Brian got to spend his birthday with his dad and mom (we’ve banned ‘step’) for the first time.

As you can probably imagine, it’s been a pretty emotional experience.

One that got me thinking, about writing and reading, and characters.  Yes, my mind is a bit odd and makes interesting leaps, and this might be one of those times.

I couldn’t help thinking what a gift it was to discover we clicked so effortlessly with Brian’s family and really enjoy talking to them and spending time with them.

And I couldn’t help thinking that if they’d been alcoholics or bad-tempered, or holding on to angst and anger over the past that the growth of our relationship probably wouldn’t have been so smooth.

Which is when I started to wonder about so many characters I read and even write about in crime fiction.  The reality is, a lot of these characters aren’t people I’d want to hang out with.  I completely understand, as a writer, the interest in delving into the psyche through your writing.

But what about the nice guys?  Doesn’t anyone want to spend time with the kind of guy they could bring home to their mother?  I mean, that’s not Rebus.  Or Reacher.  Or Thorne, or countless others I could name.

Back when I was starting my first mystery manuscript, I didn’t want to write characters who swore with every other word, who drank to excess, who were so weak they had dependencies to help them avoid their issues, and they jumped into bed with every available partner they encountered throughout the pages.

I wanted to create two people I could imagine living next door.  Two people I’d actually want to have live next door.

Meet Tymen Farraday and Lara Kelly.  I threw the conventional procedure out the window as well, paired a detective with a reporter, and the focus was on two people trying to hold on to their principles and values in a town filled with and controlled by people who were corrupt.  Two people trying to sort out their doubts and initial distrust of each other as they stepped into a case unlike anything they could have imagined when it all began.

SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES was always – always – about the characters first.  I really, really liked them, and hoped to develop a series.

Things went sideways after the book was initially published, and I won’t bore you with the details, but it is only now, four years later, that I can tell you a sequel is in the works.  SC is back in my hands, and is now –  or a limited time – available on Kindle for 99 cents.

For me, this is really exciting, because as much as all my characters have a special place in my heart, these are two characters I’ve been waiting for a long time to bring back.  And they’re two characters that – just like my in-laws – are a pleasure to spend time with.

I hope you’ll give them a chance to grow in your heart, and that you’ll agree.


Julia Buckley said...

What an amazing story! Facebook may have its drawbacks, but this one goes in the positive column for sure. How amazing that a search could be that easy when 20 years ago it might have been impossible!

And congratulations on your wedding!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Hi, Sandra - Welcome! Always a pleasure to have you here.

I'm with Julia - this is truly an amazing story. It's nice to hear about the positive things that can come from the internet, and this is absolutely one VERY positive story. I'm happy for Brian and you, the children AND for Brian's dad and mom. (And I applaud your banning of the word "step." Yay!!!!!).

Bobbi Mumm said...

Sandra: I loved the story about your husband's quest. And I agree wholeheartedly that nice people take the day. I like cheering for characters who are basically good and I look forward to reading about Tymen Farraday and Lara Kelly.

Julie D said...

Wonderful story, Sandra. I'm glad things worked out. Best to all of you.


Sandra Ruttan said...

Hi Julia! I know what you mean. I was reluctant to join Facebook and held off for a long time, but obviously I'm glad now that I did.

Thanks for having me Kaye, and letting me share this story here! Your blog is like curling up by the fireplace with hot chocolate and good friends, the snow falling gently outside. I love it.

Bobbi, it's good to know there are others rooting for the good guys, and I hope you like Lara and Tymen as much as I do!

Thanks Julie - it's been a very positive experience for us.

And... I'm going to be having a few special contests to celebrate the Kindle release of Suspicious Circumstances. Anyone who's interested should check out my website Monday March 28.

Diane said...

I have never had good feelings about Facebook until I read your husband's story. I look forward to meeting your characters! They so refreshingly different and intriguing!

Mason Canyon said...

Sandra, what a wonderful story and so glad that it did have a happy end (beginning). Your characters also sound intriguing. Wishing you much success.

Kaye, thanks for the introduction to another 'new to me' author.

Thoughts in Progress

Sandra Ruttan said...

Diane, I was really reluctant to join Facebook as well. I'm glad now that I did!

Mason, yes, a happy ending that was also a happy beginning! Well said.

I put the kindle version up earlier this week and then we reviewed the copy and went over it to try to weed out any formatting problems. It's back live again now on Amazon - in the next few weeks I'll work on smashwords and Barnes and Noble. I've done some editing from the original hardcover, but resisted any urge to rewrite it in full (which is tempting, because four books later, when you got back to your first book, you have so much you've learned) but I think the core of the book, which is the characters, shines more than anything. Hopefully, readers will feel the same way.

Thanks to everyone for dropping by! I blog every other Monday at Do Some Damage, but it's always nice dropping by Kaye's place!

Vicki Lane said...

An amazing story! I've always wondered what a reunion like that might be like.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Vicki, after all these months, still emotional and at time, overwhelming. I have to remind myself that we've effectively doubled Brian's parent's immediate family if you're just looking at children/spouses/grandchildren. Going from 4 to 8 is huge.

Brian's so much like his dad, right down to similar phrases and views that it's downright scary. Has definitely put weight to the heredity side of the heredity vs environment argument for me.

(And anyone who is my friend on Facebook can see photos.)

Joan Boswell said...

The nature half of the nature or nurture controversy gets a boost from your husband's story. Thank you for sharing it.

Anonymous said...


Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes, Joan, it definitely does! It's downright eerie.

Anonymous said...

Poor Brian! Abandoned by his real father and adopted by another, who until a few years ago was still supporting him. Its just a bold faced lie to say he was somehow outcast. He went to St Joe's private school as a child while all his other siblings went to public school. What abuse! In your post you forgot to mention brian's extensive criminal record, which can be found here at this site: Just do a search for Brian Richard Lindenmuth to see for yourself

Anonymous said... the way. Nice try with the Ex Parte plea claiming child abuse by the childrens mother. Obviously the judge shot that down. Especially, since the childrens councilors claims behavioral improvement, teachers see improvements in performance and grade and the family have seen overall improvements in demeanor....and all since they've been away from YOU. Why dont you do whats best for the children and stop your catty games to hurt their mother.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Dear Anonymous (which speaks volumes in and of itself).

I'm going to ask you politely to please quit leaving these notes.

You always delete them fairly quickly, but in the meantime they keep showing up in my mailbox.

No one else is seeing them.

Just you and me, so what's your point?

I'm an innocent party here with no ties to you, Sandra, or Brain. Just trying to run a little blog. How 'bout giving me a break?

Sandra Ruttan said...


You have always been a gracious host and have a wonderful blog, and I am sorry that you have been inundated with this nonsense.

Anyone who posts anonymously is not worth the time, trouble, or dignity of an intelligent response. They slander in cowardice, and do so because they know it's the only way they can. If there was truth to their claims they'd sign their name, and not be so quick to delete the posts themselves, as you've said.

But your blog does not deserve to play host to this, and you should not have to continue to moderate this. Please feel free to suspend comments or take my post offline, and thank you again for being, as always, a wonderful host.