When I started writing Alice and the Warden, I decided that I wanted it to be a three pronged love story.
First, I wanted to depict Alice growing to love herself. The foundation is built on her learning that she has inherent worth as a person, and that she isn’t defined by her past mistakes. As she herself puts it, “I lived like I was disposable, so it was no wonder that I was used and thrown away”. She realizes that before she can move on and build a better life, she needed to accept that she has value.
Second is the story of maternal love. Alice’s main motivation is to be the sort of mother she thinks her daughter deserves, and all of the introspection and hard truths that she admits to herself stem from that desire. After her baby is born, she does her best to empathize and care for her newborn without complaint, even when she’s exhausted. As she says, “I’m her whole world. I’m the reason she exists, and I can never be replaced as her mother. When I think about myself from her perspective, it makes me want to be a totally different person – the sort of person who’s worthy of that love.”
Third is the marriage between Alice and Hackett. Their relationship is built on companionship and acceptance, as they skip past the stereotypical romance and dive right in to quiet evenings at home with the baby — but they’re still flirty and affectionate whenever they get the chance. They aren’t perfect, but they’re determined to love and support each other, especially when things get tough. Because they both come from painful backgrounds, they find refuge in each other.
Alice: “I feel like it’s okay to be damaged with you. My real dad abandoned me because my parents divorced, but now I can rely on you to look out for me instead, you know? And you’re so good with Alicia, that I never want you to leave me. I love you. Probably more than I would have if I wasn’t damaged.”
Hackett: “She wants to make sure that Alicia doesn’t grow up lonely and vulnerable the way she did, and she wants to make sure that our marriage never grows cold and distant. And you know what? It makes me feel safe. I can be myself without turning into a giant disappointment.”
In retrospect, my original plan of wrapping it all up in 15,000 words was pretty silly. The character development is more ambitious than that would have allowed for.
Anyway, I promise that I’m not being self-congratulatory or anything like that. This year has been stressful in more ways than one, which has made me more forgetful than usual, so I decided that it was a good idea to start compiling my thoughts and goals with this novel. Truth is, I’m not sure I’ve satisfactorily met my goals with this story yet, since it’s still very much a work in progress.