What is the purpose of fiction, specifically romantic fiction? Escapism? The big “happily ever after”? Finding the dream? The big awwwwww moment? For me, fiction is a journey outside myself that leaves me more enriched than it found me. Sometimes, that happens, sometimes not, but as Donald Maass reminds us in Writing the Breakout Novel, “It is that truth that persuades us to care and convinces us that this story contains the stuff of life.” Most of my books, especially the novels, have a strong basis in reality, in fact. A portion of the events in these stories have happened to me, to my friends, or on the news, but none more than A Heart for Robbie.
Like a really convincing lie – threads of truth interwoven with fictional elements create a rich tapestry of believability – something that could actually happen. A Heart for Robbie is based on something that did actually happen.
The novel is about Julian, a gay YA author who has a baby via surrogate. The baby is born with a debilitating heart defect, throwing Julian’s life into chaos. In 1992, my daughter Kaitlyn was born with the same defect as little Robbie. His story, to the point of the transplant, is her story. The romance with Simon, the books—those passages are purely fiction (well, except having entire conversations with my characters, that is true). I don’t want to give anything away before people have had a chance to read the book, but all of the major events in Robbie’s life happened to Kaitlyn—until the point of the transplant, after that, the story diverges again.
Kaitlyn was born in March 1992 and died that very same August because her transplant wasn’t successful. She was the first pediatric cardiac transplant at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center here in downtown Chicago. The very first. Which means they learned a lot from her that went on to help other kids, but they couldn’t save her. The autopsy report, which I requested a copy of and read, stated that there was no evidence of rejection in the transplanted heart – which means she died of an infection. It’s funny because they didn’t expect a nineteen-year-old girl to figure that out.
Robbie’s story is an uplifting one, a story of hope, love, and a parent’s desperation to protect his child from all of the world’s failings, including sickness and death.
Celebrated Young Adult author Julian Holmes pits the heroic characters in his Black Heart series against all different kinds of monsters. But when a critical heart defect threatens his son’s life, he finds he has no champion. No amount of books, classes, or practice can prepare Julian for the fight to save his beautiful son’s life.
Suddenly there are hospitals, transplant lists, and the nightmare of insurance red tape to navigate. In the midst of his trouble, Julian meets Simon Phelps, the insurance coordinator for Robbie’s case. Simon lives so deep in the closet he might never find his way out, but he dreams of exactly what Julian has. Then one night, drunken need and desperation brings them together, and a new fight begins.
JULIAN HOLMES’S heart leaped into his throat while nurses scurried around the operating room barking orders at each other and handing complicated-looking equipment to the doctors. So caught up in the joy and excitement of finally becoming a father, he hadn’t realized his son’s life became an emergency. The neonatal intensive care team, who had been standing by as a precaution, surrounded his baby like a human shield so that neither Julian nor Erin could see him.
“Julian? Why isn’t the baby crying?” Erin asked as she tried to fix her glassy-eyed stare on him. Her voice sounded weak and vacant after being in labor for nearly nine hours before the C-section. She reached out, and his stomach clenched as he caught her hand. Desperation and clawing terror ripped the inside of his chest while he surveyed the tumult around them.
“What’s happening?” Julian asked over the cacophony of the roughly organized chaos. His voice came out as a panicked squawk compared to the calm, detached voices of the medical teams. The free fall, the lack of control, prickled sweat on the back of his neck. He hated it with a passion bordering on pain.
Not a single soul turned to look at Julian.
Only the doctor responsible for Erin’s surgery remained next to her bed while he worked diligently to close the incision. The man seemed oblivious to the flurry of activity around him, concentrating solely on his patient. The bright lights of the operating room kept everything around them in sharp, detached focus.
Leaning down, Julian gave Erin a quick kiss on the forehead and looked into her face. They had been best friends for fifteen years, since their junior year of college. She read him so easily—his confusion, his fear, his need to know—and she nodded before squeezing his fingers with almost no strength. Julian laid her hand carefully on her chest and then hurried over to the group of medical professionals surrounding the tiny baby boy on a shiny metallic table. The nurse in front of him moved slightly to her right and revealed the unmoving baby.
Startled by the first clear view of his son, Julian noticed the baby’s skin had a slightly mottled blue tint as he lay listless beneath the bright lights. He couldn’t know that, just a few feet away, his father’s heart broke at the sight of the bag over his face being clutched rhythmically, breathing for him.
Squeeze…. Breathe…. Squeeze…. Breathe….
AUTHOR BIO: Award winning romance novelist, J. P. Barnaby has penned over a dozen books including the Working Boys series, the Little Boy Lost series, In the Absence of Monsters, and Aaron. As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.
GIVEAWAY: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED
55 thoughts on “Guest Post and Giveaway: The Reality of Fiction – Kaitlyn's Story by J.P. Barnaby”
RIP little Kaitlyn <3
that must have been so hard to go through
Thank you. I struggled with this book for a while – but ultimately for me as an author, writing is about therapy and it was time to work through this. <3
You may have struggled with the book, but you saw it through as only you can do. And you did it beautifully.
Hi JP, I have downloaded your book and look forward to reading it. I am sure it is going to be quite emotional. Thanks for the giveaway.
Thank you so much for taking good care of little Robbie. I think he needs a little love today – he was really nervous about the book being released. :)
The book sounds very interesting and the cover is so pretty. Thanks for the giveaway.
I have the most amazing cover artist – she does all of my covers – Aaron, Spencer, In the Absence of Monsters – she’s incredibly talented. When Kaitlyn was in the hospital, she had a bear with a little bandage on his head. That’s what I wanted for this cover – because they remind me of her. :)
From having read Aaron, I have no doubt that all the emotion you have poured into this book will palpable as we read it, especially as this one has such an especially personal connection for you.
The book is laced with emotion and tension, but it’s a completely different kind than you found in Aaron. I really hope you like it. :)
Wow. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I can’t imagine how hard all of that was for you. Just thinking about it has me in tears. I’m glad that writing this story has helped you work through some of it. Thanks for the giveaway.
It was a challenge, I’ll admit – but the best books to write and for me the best ones to read have characters that grab you around the heart and don’t let go. <3
So sorry for your loss, JP!
This looks like a REALLY good read. Can’t wait to read it!
Thank you so much – I hope you enjoy the story. Liam had Clay had a blast with it. :)
man I so want to read this story and don’t because I know it’s going to rub a little to close to my heart (not that my son was as sick as your daughter, and I still have him), still sick baby so young…
anyway, sorry for your loss and thank you for allowing us into that moment of your life (and the giveaway)
The story is very realistic and may hit close to home for you, but know that it has a happy ending. <3
So sorry for your loss JP thank you for sharing. The books sounds really good and I’m looking forward to reading it.
Thank you so much, I really hope you enjoy Robbie’s journey, Julian’s strength, and the laughter of Liam and Clay. :)
I can not even begin to imagine. That would be so hard!
With time, it got easier, but it did take 20 years for me to be able to write it.
I know how hard it was to write this and I applaud you for doing it. Remember you are loved!
Love you too, Jeff. <3
I really just want to thank you for writing a story so close to your heart and how hard it was for you to do so. Just thanks
You will find in my work, and in the work of other authors who write because they have to – most stories are close to our hearts. Sometimes, we just never tell you why. :)
This is so heartrending! Even though I know you face everything in life head-on, it still must have been a wrenching experience, and a hard one to re-live…
Thank you. <3
Thank you for sharing your story with us. As a new parent, it hits very close to home. I am so sorry for your loss. I’m glad you were able to find some healing through writing your novel. zeekensington @ gmail.com
Honey – don’t let my experience scare you. I have two nieces who came out just fine. What happened to Kaitlyn was a one in a million thing – it just happened to be her. <3
Thank you for sharing this story!! It really hits close to home, as my first child was born with a heart defect and required open heart surgery at 5 months of age. The surgery was successful and he’s a thriving soon to be 10 year old! I’ve loved every one of your series thus far (Little Boy Lost, Survivor Story, Forbidden Room) and am looking forward to A Heart for Robbie.
It’s such a scary thing when your child is sick, and you can do nothing to help except tell the doctor yes or no. I’m so glad your little boy came through okay. It will hit close to home, but has a happy ending. It will be okay. :) And thank you so much. <3
Congratulations on your newest release… I’m so proud of you for yet another accomplishment (personal and professional)!
Thank you so much, Jamie. <3
When I first read the blurb for this one, I recognized it as coming from your own life. I know a lot of authors not only take things from their life for their stories but also process events from their life through them, too. I think that’s actually really beautiful and special because so many readers process things through reading stories. I’m glad you can see how Kaitlyn helped other children. That’s a gift. Thank you for always being so honest in your writing. We readers can feel it.
Thank you. I like to think that my books are about helping other people cope with things that happen to them in life. I take comfort from that. <3
Thank you for sharing your life.
Thank you for coming to check out the tour. :)
JP – I am so sorry for your loss and know she watches over all you do and you make her proud every day.
That’s so sweet -thank you. I really hope that’s true.
What an awesome post. I hope writing the book was a catharsis for your terrible loss.
Aaron certainly was – I hope this one turns out the same way. Thank you for coming to check out the tour. <3
I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing this post with us.
Thank you for coming to check out the tour. :)
Such a beautiful baby girl. I’m so sorry for you loss.
Yes she was. You can’t tell from those pics, but she had the most inquisitive little blue eyes. :) Thank you so much.
Such a bittersweet book. I know you will never forget Kaitlyn, and as time continues to pass I hope that any lingering pain /sorrow is outweighed by the good memories of her and the love and support from all of your family, friends and readers.
Thank you so much – I do have a wonderful support network, then and now. <3
Oh my gosh! I didn’t realize that this would be such a difficult read since the cover is adorable, but wow! I can’t wait to read this one! I’m going to have my tissues ready. Thank you for sharing this story with us.
The average I’m hearing so far for the first crying jag is about 12-15 pages. To me, those are the best books – the ones where you care so much about the people in your head that you cry for them. <3
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry for your loss.
Thank you so much. <3
JP your books always rip my heart open and this one will do it double, knowing it is partially your story too.
I love Julian – there is so much of me in him. No wonder the poor guy is a little crazy. ;)
Having two little girls of my own that doctors have assured me I will outlive ( they expect somewhere in their early 20s, they are currently 13 & 14 ) is in itself a constant challenge. ( my point being that I may understand a portion of your struggle? )
It gives me hope that you were able to find a way to tell your story and experience the cathartic benefits of doing so.
Thank for sharing such a personal and sad moment with us and for writing a story with those memories so close to your heart when creating Bobby. My brother and his wife lost a daughter in similiar circumstances and for a while he was so silent about his grief and then he started writing the most beautiful and heart wrenching poetry and they were the words & feelings he could not say out allowed.
I have this book on my wish list, so thank you for a chance to win a copy. I have just started reading your Little Boy Lost stories and I have to get the rest pretty soon as I wept at the first one and need to find out what happens – gosh only 6 books in the series!
I had a little cousin who died of a genetic disorder at a year old. I spent most of the summer at my aunt and uncle’s house that year, so I can almost begin to imagine what it might have been like, but still. Bravo for sharing your story and putting yourself out there by writing this book.
Thanks so much to all of you for stopping by to enter JP Barnaby’s A Heart for Robbie blog tour giveaway. The contest is closed and the winner’s been selected. A $10 ARe gift card goes to
Congratulations, Vicki! I’ve already emailed William, JP’s amazing assistant, so expect to hear from him soon.