Thursday, October 25, 2012

Scary Stuff - Ellen Hartman

A few days before Halloween, I bet you thought a blog with that title would be about ghosts or haunted houses.


I'm thinking about how the thing that terrifies one person can be no big deal to another.  I love writing heroes who are confused about the vulnerability their heroines feel and who offer unconditional support--not grudging, not condescending, but wholehearted.

So what's an example of something that scares some people and not others?

My family is hosting an exchange student right now.

All of the extroverted readers are wondering when I'm going to get to the scary part. And all of the introverted readers are nodding their heads and shaking in their boots. That's right, fellow shy people, I invited a stranger to live in my house!

I have a lot of strategies that enable me to be a fake extrovert at my job and socially, but my home is my sanctuary where I retreat to recharge and recenter myself. I spent the summer worrying about how it would feel to share my home with and care for a teenager I didn't know.

There are folks reading this blog who can't comprehend being scared of a social situation. I personally have never been afraid of traveling alone. I'm irrationally afraid of fire, but I actually enjoy speaking in front of groups. I have a very difficult time breaking rules of any kind, but I am rarely intimidated by a challenge or steep odds of success.

The characters in our books all have that type of rich set of issues that informs their life choices. My first heroine was afraid to open herself up to love because so many of the people she loved had died. My second hero was terrified he didn't understand the rules of normal society and would never be worthy of love because of it. In my September book, Out of Bounds, Posy worries she's too big emotionally and physically for Wes to love, while he's carrying a burden of emotional debt to his brother.

The nice thing about writing romance novels is that I always know everything is going to be okay in the end. And you know what? The same is true in my life, too. Despite my fears, I've genuinely enjoyed our exchange student and I'm going to be sad when he leaves next week. Hosting him has been a wonderful experience for our entire family, and one I'd tackle again in a heartbeat.

What about you? What scares you? Have you ever had to confront a fear? What scares other people but isn't a big deal to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Ellen Hartman said...

I have a very busy day tomorrow so I'll be popping in less frequently than usual. I will be here, though, ready to read and respond to every comment! The conversation with you is my favorite part of blogging. :-)

linda s said...

"Grandma! Look at me!" the scariest words I ever hear. They mean my grandbaby (just turned 3) has managed to pull himself up onto the highest (he likes 4 feet up or higher), narrowest ledge he can find and is standing on it waiting for me to come look before he free falls (not jumps) off it, face first, arms outstretched. He gets really annoyed when I catch him before he does a face plant.
He terrifies me at least once a week.

Snookie said...

My son terrifies me, not in a terroristic way, but because he has extreme ADHD and mild tourettes, there is always something going on with him. He gets angry and then depressed when things go wrong. I dread the phone calls especially because he is so far way now. I do like it that he calls me though. It usually takes hours of texting and calls before he calms down. It so hard when he's so far away.

kris said...

Ellen, here's a big KUDOS to you for taking on an exchange student. Having done that twice ourselves - and being majorly introverted myself - I completely understand what that must have been like for you.
Where is your student from? We are still in touch (via Facebook) with our Chinese student, and our German student is still such a part of our family that we include her news in our Christmas cards. And when my Maestro was doing the exchange thing earlier this year, he was able to live with her for a month!
It's a fabulous experience, but yes. You get serious props for taking it on.

Pamela Hearon said...

Ellen, I've noticed before how similar you and I are in so many ways. Not in public speaking though. I taught school for 30 years and one would think I'd be good at speaking in front of groups. I even taught Speech as part of my Language Arts class for 15 years. It seems that the older I get, the more intimidated I am by public speaking. I can't imagine teaching a workshop at a conference, but I so admire the people who can!

Ellen Hartman said...

Hi Linda,

Ooh. Your grandson sounds wonderful and terrifying! :-)

My stomach swooped as soon as I read the first words of your comment because I guessed what was coming! How wonderful that he has that trust in his body and in you that he'll come out okay from these we just need him to get some understanding of physics!

Best wishes to both of you!

Ellen Hartman said...

Hi Snookie,

Hugs. Hugs. Hugs. I know where you're coming from and that is a rough feeling. I'm going to repeat what I said to Linda--how wonderful that you and your boy have that trust between you that allows you to maintain your support long distance. I'm sending my good thoughts to both of you today.

Ellen Hartman said...

Hello Kris,

What a lovely new photo! You look maahvelous...but where's the boa?

Our student is from Germany. Our exchange program is only 3 weeks, but I can already see that I will miss him when he's gone. Nice to know that you've kept in touch. I actually drove our guy to Cortland last weekend because his brother had hosted a student from there and they've kept in touch.

Love, love, love that picture!

Ellen Hartman said...

Hi Pamela,

You're right--we are quite a bit alike. I hope we'll meet up at a conference or something sometime. :-)

The public speaking thing is interesting to me. I don't think I'd be comfortable teaching school. I'd be worried about losing control of the discipline. With a conference crowd, I don't have that concern, despite how rowdy romance writers can get!

I actually am dying to experiment with stand-up comedy--it would be scary, but I think the rush would be amazing if it went well. (That's one of those "big if" situations.)

Jeannie Watt said...

Hey Ellen--I enjoy public speaking and have a fear of heights. One year my husband and I decided to roof the garage. I can't tell you how hard it is to roof effectively when lying on one's belly. Good luck with your exchange experience!

JackieW said...

One thing that scares me is flying in an airplane...I'm one of the white-knuckle riders. I tend to hold my breath all the way. This would not scare most people but it does me. I'm also afraid of being hooked up to a mammogram machine and being forgotten.

Kristina Mathews said...

I have a fear of heights. My sons love to tease me about it by doing things like hang over the edge of Hoover Dam.

I have recently developed a fear of football. My 14 year old suffered a concussion at practice last week and while his headache is gone, he's still a little not himself. So tonight was his last football game, but he did not play. And another player went down with a knee injury. And now I remember why I stopped watching football 14 years ago.

I also worry about the Detroit Tigers pitcher who was hit in the head by a comebacker, but remained in the game. My son was excited after his tackle in practice, it wasn't until the next night that we realized he had the concussion. I hope the Tigers' medical staff will have him fully evaluated before he flies back to Detroit.

Eli Yanti said...

I scared with mouse, they are the most scared animal i think :(

JOYE said...

Snakes, snakes and more snakes....need I say more?


Ellen Hartman said...

Jeannie and Kristina--I'm right there with you with the fear of heights. Mine is weird--I'm afraid I will fling myself off a height. I'm also terrified watching my kids up high. Jeannie--I'm constantly amazed at the do-it-yourself projects you accomplish.

Jackie--wow your mammogram fear is intense. Mammograms are an anxious time for so many people, I can't imagine doing it with that extra stress.

Eli and Joye--here's hoping you are able to avoid your animal fears. My most-feared animal is the bee. (I wonder if that counts as an animal?)

Kristina--Hugs on the concussion. I can relate. They are pretty darn scary, especially because they're in the news so much now. We took our hockey playing son to a sports medicine guy who has a special interest in concussions last year. The conversation was both reassuring and a bit scary. I do feel better informed, though, which helps me deal with my fear.

The effects definitely can linger. My older son got a concussion in gym class last year and he had effects much longer than the hockey player did from his. I hope all is well now with your boy!

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