BECAUSE I HAD TO is a “cant-put-it-down-tale of adoption secrets and the dark side of a therapist’s couch.” Its author, David Bulitt weighs in on some of the mental health and contemporary themes that are woven throughout the novel, as well as writing from the perspective of a 23 year old woman.
Q: Lets start at the beginning. Masturbation and cutting all in the first chapter immediately drops quite a contradiction of emotions onto the reader. Why did you decide that was the way to launch this story?
A: First of all, I wanted to write a book that grabbed people from the start. In terms of my main character, Jess Porter, it was vitally important to me that the reader immediately grasp a sense of who she is, her own inner conflicts and how they affected her actions and her thinking. Of course, if ‘the bathtub trick’ goes viral, that would be okay too.
Q: So why write the story from dual perspectives? Why a second narrator?
A: I liked the idea of running with a parallel story of an older, established and successful man who, much like Jess, was searching for his own path in life. That character, Joe Becker, narrates my first novel, CARD GAME, and Jess’s deceased father was his best friend. Bringing them together was, I thought, an interesting way to show that we all, no matter where we are and in what stage of life, can still be looking for our place in this world.
Q: We get a lot of insight into therapy, both individually and in a group setting. Where did that come from?
A: The research for that was easy. My wife is a therapist. She works primarily with teens and younger adults, many with ADHD, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression and more. I spent a good amount of time annoying her, looking to find out what would go on in her office in different circumstances, times in this young woman’s story. From there, I constructed the character of Jamie, her therapist and developed the dialog between them. I also wanted to infuse this aspect of the story with some humor and we see that come out primarily in the group therapy scenes with Jess, Macy and the others.
Q: Adoption plays a large part of Jess’ sense of who she is, or thinks she is anyway.
A: It does. I have four daughters, two of whom are adopted. It never mattered to me how we got our kids. We loved them all the same. Now for the two who are adopted, they have their own feelings – loss, confusion and the rest. Its funny, I took quite a shot from a reader on Goodreads who apparently felt as if the book was not in some way representative of most adoptees experiences. She is right, of course, but to be fair, it was not my intention to write a textbook or treatise on adoption. This is one girl’s story. That’s it.
Q: Jess’ cutting was particularly painful to me to read.
A: It was hard for me to write. I had a daughter who was a cutter. It made me pretty sick, to be honest. As a father, I just could not understand it, the blood, scrapes and scars. The behavior made no sense to me. I mean, intellectually I understand that cutting is some sort of coping mechanism, a way to deal with intense pressure, strong emotions, desperation and the like. In my book, Jess is high velocity package of emotions and feelings. Cutting is one of the ways all of that comes to the surface.
Q: Many readers might be confused by JB’s disinterest in his job when, to me anyway, the lawyering stories are pretty interesting.
A: You know, that’s the thing with him. What he does is interesting to most of us, just not him. He has a great career, one many would swap for, yet he isn’t happy. He isn’t fulfilled. When I fleshed out his character, though, I wanted him to be likeable and someone to root for, not spoiled or overly jaded.
Q: This story has a lot of sadness, a lot of loss. Were there any pieces in the book that were more difficult to write than others?
A: Portions of Jess’ story come from raising one of my own daughters and the really deep sadness in trying, and up to now not succeeding, to make her well. That said, the dream sequence with JB and Tom on the beach, for some reason, that was really tough for me to write. I love that chapter.
Q: Can we talk about the end of the story without giving it away?
A: Sure. Life is not easily wrapped up in a bow. I didn’t want Jess’ story to end that way either. That the ending should make for some good book club discussions did not escape me either.
Q: Is a sequel on the way? Sure seems like it.
A: Not at the moment. For now, anyway, I have moved on to another novel, completely unrelated to CARD GAME and BECAUSE I HAD TO. Ask me again in a year or two.