by Marnie St Clair
A key character in my latest novel, Deal Breaker, has an acquired brain injury. ABI is defined as any injury to the brain acquired after birth, and can be further categorised as traumatic, resulting from something like a car crash, or non-traumatic, for example, the result of a stroke. In my book, the ABI was caused by a virus that migrated to the brain.
The idea arose from a real-world situation that really challenged me. It made me cry and it made me think. What do we owe the people in our lives? What do you do if someone you’re close to changes forever? How do you balance having your own life against someone else’s overwhelming and unrelenting needs? Hope for recovery against realism? How do you persevere when you know it’s forever? How do you find joy?
Few generalisations about ABI can be made. Every human and every brain is unique, and so is every ABI story. Different injuries affect different areas of the brain, but many result in the loss of executive functioning type skills—organising and planning, self-management and self-regulation, judgement and emotions. These symptoms can be hard to recognise; ABI is often referred to as a ‘hidden’ disability. In terms of recovery, different things work for different people. There’s no guarantees, but there is always hope. It used to be believed that recovery would plateau after six months; now we know the brain is more plastic than that, and improvements can continue indefinitely. Still, at some point, it’s a journey of acceptance.
As you can imagine, a lot of research went into this book. If you’re interested in learning more, I strongly recommend the BBC One series Recovery, with David Tennant and Sarah Parrish (you can stream it on youtube – careful not to accidentally go to the horror movie of the same name!). It’s heart wrenching but excellent. Keep the tissues handy.
There are so many carers out there, doing such amazing, difficult work. I wish they got more recognition, and more support. On that front, I hope the NDIS (the new disability insurance scheme in Australia) lives up to its promise. In my own fictional world, I couldn’t resist giving one such carer (and the ABI woman he cares for) their own HEA’s.
Ambitious management consultant Ellen Kennedy is going places. But when last year’s one-night-stand shows up in her office as her new manager, it threatens everything she’s worked so hard for. Even worse, she’s not quite sure that one night was enough.
Alex Broadhurst has private reasons for moving to Melbourne, and he has no intention of sharing them with anyone, including the woman he never forgot. But business and pleasure can’t mix, not ever, no matter the temptation.
Workplace romances always end in disaster, so Ellen and Alex strike a deal: one night in the past won’t affect their present or influence their future. But sometimes even the best deals are made to be broken…
“This story might have the most original obstacle to the couple’s HEA that I’ve ever read in romance novels” – Maria, Goodreads
Deal Breaker releases 12 September. It’s available for pre-order now!