Her drinking snuck up on her – as a way to sleep, to help her relax after a long day, to relieve some of the stress of the painful divorce that’s left her struggling to make ends meet with her five-year old son, Charlie.
It wasn’t always like this. Just a few years ago, Cadence seemed to have it all—a successful husband, an adorable son, and a promising career as a freelance journalist. But with the demise of her marriage, her carefully constructed life begins to spiral out of control. Suddenly she is all alone trying to juggle the demands of work and motherhood.
Logically, Cadence knows that she is drinking too much, and every day begins with renewed promises to herself that she will stop. But within a few hours, driven by something she doesn’t understand, she is reaching for the bottle – even when it means not playing with her son because she is too tired, or dropping him off at preschool late, again. And even when one calamitous night it means leaving him alone to pick up more wine at the grocery store. It’s only when her ex-husband shows up at her door to take Charlie away that Cadence realizes her best kept secret has been discovered….
First, can you please tell us about your inspiration for this book?
I began writing the story as a direct result of my own emotional experiences around being a mother and a recovering alcoholic. While the characters and plot are fiction, Cadence’s emotional turmoil during her descent into addiction and her journey back to sobriety are largely based on what I went through. As I worked on the emotional side of getting sober, it became clear to me that there is a special, intense kind of shame that accompanies being a woman who was drunk in front of her children. It’s that shame which forces so many of us to keep our addiction secret, for fear of what might happen if we tell someone the truth. We’re terrified of the stigma and possible consequences, but keeping this secret can have devastating – even deadly – results.
I know that this was a very personal topic for you to writing about what challenges did you face while writing this book?
I think the most challenging aspect of the story was developing Cadence as an empathetic character, a woman who at her core, loves her child more than anything else, and yet slowly descends into the grips of this horrifying addiction. It was important for me to show her vulnerabilities, and for the reader to hopefully understand that her drinking was simply a behavior she used to soothe deeper inner turmoil, the same way a woman with an eating disorder uses food (either controlling or bingeing on it) to manage her emotional strife. She didn’t understand how easily she’d develop a physical tolerance to alcohol, and how emotionally dependent she’d become on the temporary “escape” alcohol gave her from her pain.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want to absolve her of anything – she is accountable for her behavior – but I also I believe that there is a tendency in our culture to look at mothers who struggle with addiction with enormous judgment and disdain. I think it’s easy to see a woman like Cadence and be adamant that we would never be like her. So the other difficult task I faced was trying to show the reader that in many ways they are like Cadence, even if they never pick up a drink. So many women struggle with feelings of shame and inadequacy, and while we all cope with them in different ways, I wanted Cadence to embody our society’s typically accomplished, professional woman, trying to be and have it “all” in her life. I wanted to show what happens to her when she is blindsided by something she can’t fix or figure out on her own, and how difficult it is to ask for help when she was conditioned to be totally self-reliant. People wonder how a soccer mom ends up drunk, driving the wrong way on the freeway and kills herself and/or others, could have kept her problem hidden. BEST KEPT SECRET is my attempt to give them an honest answer.
Is there anything that was edited out that you felt very strongly about?
Thankfully, I have an amazing working relationship with my editor and we agreed on what the book needed from the start. If anything, with her exceptional insight, the book is more complete.
So there are many women out there facing this challenge every day – What would you say to them?
I’m not a big one for giving advice, especially to someone who is struggling with drinking, but I can say that once I opened my mind to the idea that I didn’t have to figure out the issue on my own, my life began to get infinitely better. The most important thing I would say is that they are not alone.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but that’s like asking a mother to choose a favorite child! I love different characters for different reasons: Charlie, because he loves his mother so fiercely and without judgment. Jess, because she is such a support in Cadence’s life. Andi and Nadine, because they both gently call Cadence on her crap. And Cadence herself, because I know the kind of pain she suffered, and I know what it took for her to find her way back to a better life.
Who was the hardest for you to write?
Cadence, no doubt. While we share emotional similarities, it was important for me to maintain distance from her, but also climb inside her thoughts and feelings enough to flesh her out as a believable, empathetic character. Finding that balance was challenging, but in the end, I feel like I managed to pull it off.
What is one topic that you would love to write about but never have?
Hmm. That’s an interesting question! I’m not sure I know. My ideas tend to come to me after I’ve finished a project, so I rarely am thinking ahead to what I’ll write next. I find that it’s more effective for me to stay in the moment and focused on the task at hand, otherwise, I’m easily distracted!
Now some quick questions:
Coke or Pepsi? – Neither. I don’t drink soda!
Iced Tea or Lemonaide? – Iced Tea. No sugar, lots of lemon.
Black or White? – Black. I’m far from a fashionista, so it’s my go-to color. Slimming, and easy to match!
Day or Night? – Day. Definitely a morning person.
Beach or Pool? – Beach!!!
Summer or Winter? – Summer, in Seattle, though please, where it doesn’t get too hot!
Card or Flowers? – Flowers AND card. With a personal note.
Lake or Ocean? – Ocean, always. Something about it just soothes my soul.
Thank you so much Amy for taking the time to be interviewed. Your honesty bring more to this book and it’s story.
This was by far the most honest and heart -breaking stories I have ever read. It made me take a really hard look and how something so simple can turn into something huge without even realizing it was happening. A glass of wine for Cadence turned into a devastating problem, one that she was aware of, but could not save herself from. The consequent issues that she is faced with are a mother’s worst nightmare. Especially as she looks back and sees the danger she had put her son in and what she exposed him to along the way. It was a book that I could not put down even through my tears and feeling expossed because I could put myself in these shoes and it was painful. I think that Amy Hatvany took on one of the toughest subjects out there and made a piece of art out of it. It is so personal and at the same time feels like a warning to be careful with the decisions you are making. All I can say again and again is that this is a powerful story and one that I think every woman should read.
5 Penguins – This is an amazing yet heart wrenching story that comes very highly recommended!
* I was provided a copy of this book from Amy’s publicist for review. This did not affect my review and opinions of this book.