Q & A with Amy Hatvany

SAFE WITH ME by Amy Hatvany is a compelling and riveting novel that deals with such issues as death of a child, organ donation, abuse, and self-respect. The storyline is centered on three women who are drawn together through a tragic circumstance. This book is highly recommended since it intertwines the reader emotionally with the powerful characters and plot. It is a page-turner that you will not be able to be put down.

Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for such a gripping story?

Amy Hatvany: I was inspired by a story I read almost a decade ago. A woman living in New York was remodeling her house. She started chatting with one of the gentlemen, telling him how her husband had a kidney transplant during the last year. To make a long story short the workman had donated a kidney and after comparing dates, times, and doctors, they found out this man was the one who saved her husband’s life. I remember thinking, ‘wow how fate played a role in bringing these two people together.’ Then my writers mind took over and ten years later I revisited the story.

EC: Would you ever write a sequel?

AH: I have not gotten to that point yet. I think I would need ten years to re-visit. It might be fun then to do a ten year ‘where are they now’ book.

EC: Are the facts surrounding the topic realistic?

AH: I did a lot of research and spoke with the head coordinator of a local donation center. She helped me to understand what the families of both sides go through. Through research I found out there is a difference between life support and mechanical support. Life support just gives fluids but allows the body to process. Mechanical support is when someone is brain dead and it pushes the air in and out of the lungs. If the mechanical part is taken away there will be no way that a person could live.

EC: What part of you was in this novel?

AH: I am a little bit of all three of my female characters. Since I write about emotionally driven topics I see how my heart feels at that moment. I really try to put myself in the struggles of these characters.

EC: What have you struggled with over the years?

AH: I am in recovery. I struggled with alcoholism in my early thirties for a short period of time. I had young kids and had struggled with a tough divorce. Alcoholism snuck up on me. I could not sleep so I had a glass of wine which soon became two. Luckily a switch got turned on and I realized I had a drinking problem. Almost nine years ago I had a particularly rough Thanksgiving weekend. I talked to the man who is now my current husband and told him I had a problem. He helped me. After eighteen months of treatment I am a sober woman who is in recovery. I have not looked back since.

EC: How did others react to you since you were a mom with a substance abuse problem?

AH: I faced a lot of judgment and was shunned as well as stigmatized. I wrote about it in my book, Best Kept Secret. Those who contacted me about my experiences humbled me.

EC: Each of your characters struggled with an issue. Let’s first talk about Hannah, a mom coming to grips with the reality that her only child is gone and others have survived from her daughter’s gift of life.

AH: I like Hannah’s resiliency since she found a way to keep moving on, even though she has yet to get past that loss and grief. I found that pretty inspiring. In some ways she is both dependent and self-sufficient. What I hoped to explore was the importance of having support systems in your life, since she had her best friend, her brother, and her parents. I know what it is like to not have that support, and the negative consequences of not receiving it. I did not have much when I went through a really tough divorce.

EC: Please talk a little about Maddie?

AH: She is my favorite. I love her tough exterior and how she allowed herself to open up. She is a courageous and brave child. When I wrote that scene where she showed Noah her scar I was just sobbing because I could relate to her vulnerability. In developing Maddie’s character I was influenced by my teenage girls. We had conversations about how this virtual world has taken over how they view themselves. There is this added influence of seeking approval from others. With Maddie it was like playing virtual dress up since she could not get out when she was ill. Maddie wanted to escape her hard, challenging, and lonely daily life. Unfortunately, she was connecting as someone who she wasn’t.

EC: You touch on some of the dangers of the Internet, with children being able to connect with someone they know nothing about. Can you explain?

AH: I talked to my own children about the dangers of the Internet. I am vigilant about what they can and cannot do: not giving out personal information, and no interacting with anyone you don’t know. I told my children and hoped to get the point across in the book that with social media people show their best selfie. We don’t usually see people’s true struggles. For example, Maddie just wanted to take on someone else’s identity because she was a teenage girl who just wanted to fit in. But, are we really connecting if we just show our happiest moments? True connection for me is someone understanding some difficult experience I have gone through.

EC: I think any mom can relate to Olivia. Do you agree?

AH: Yes. I loved that she feels so strongly that she is doing the right thing. She has built up this idea of what marriage will be and was committed to making sure her daughter is safe. I wanted to put myself, as a parent, into Olivia’s position. That is why I wrote in the book, “It makes her (Olivia) ill to realize how fervently she’s been praying for another child to die.” If I were Olivia I would be thinking that exact thing, wanting my child to find an organ donor so she could live. It must be horrible to think that for my child to be saved someone else must die. That first chapter was with me for years. The hospital scene was pulled from my own emotional experience when my mother was operated on for a brain aneurism. I added that extra feeling of being a mother.

EC: You contrast Olivia, a stay at home mom, with Hannah, a working mom. Why?

AH: I wanted to show that you should not be consumed by motherhood and lose touch with everything else. I think those are the ones who struggle really hard with an empty nest. They lose so much of who they are since their entire identity is wrapped up in motherhood. However, with that said, it is very understandable how Olivia was wrapped up in protecting Maddie, considering her illness. I drew that from my own family experience where my mom was my severely handicapped sister’s constant caregiver. That is what any mother should do for an ill child, sacrifice everything.

EC: You have a quote that any mom can relate to, that a parent will always worry about their child, no matter how old. How did you come up with it?

AH: I actually say that to my children. My fourteen year old is very pragmatic and thinks she can take on the world, which is how I was at fourteen. She likes to say ‘mom you don’t have to worry about me.’ I answer I will worry about you for the rest of your life. It annoys her royally so I know I am doing my job.

EC: Can you briefly discuss James, who I consider a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

AH: I wanted to show the charming side of an abuser. Men with power and wealth have such a charming exterior. No one suspects who they might be behind closed doors. So many abused women get caught up in that push and pull. When that charming side appears it was hard for Olivia to disengage. I wanted to show why it was hard for her to leave. One day James was wonderful and sweet while the next day he beats her.

EC: What is your goal as a writer?

AH: To keep writing and affecting people with the words I put on a page. I feel so blessed. If I connect with people I feel I have done my job. That is why I have resolution with my endings. I want people to have hope moving forward and to find their way. I want the readers to feel the characters have learned something on the way and can find new experiences.