It’s rare for me to be up until after midnight because I can’t put down my book, but I found myself almost reading through my fingers recently, with a copy of Patricia Dixon’s Over My Shoulder in my hands.
This is a tale where something dark is afoot: a tale of secrets unearthed, and of how we deceive ourselves.
All stories take us on a journey, but this was especially apparent in Over My Shoulder, which leads us into realms intentionally provoking and uncomfortable.
Patricia Dixon reveals that a message from a stranger, a woman seeking help, inspired her to write the book, which draws partially from her own experiences. Patricia tells us, “Without giving too much away, I delved into my past and wrote Over My Shoulder to exorcise a ghost. At the same time, I want to help other women (and men), who find themselves in a dark relationship. The final part of the book is pure fiction; snippets of the rest are drawn from real life.”
Exploring the theme of domestic abuse, mental and physical, Patricia comments, “I relied heavily on my memories of working in Manchester (UK) and the flat in which I lived during my early twenties, as well as memories of an unfortunate relationship.”
She adds, “I considered carefully how far to go during the more violent and disturbing scenes, as I know only too well that once you’ve seen, heard or read something that upsets you, it cannot be easily undone. Rather than graphically describing the abuse, I tried to lead the reader into the scene, leaving them to use their own imagination and draw their own conclusions.”
“While I’m aware that anyone who’s suffered abuse will want me to get it right and may be more critical, I also want to ensure that those who haven’t, understand the psychological aspects of being trapped in such a relationship. I’ve tried to find a balance that won’t alienate the reader,” Patricia explains.
“A particularly difficult scene to write was the one on Christmas Eve, for which I used my own memories of a Christmas that crashed and burned. I know that many women have been through similar; the festive season can bring out the worst in people.”
The final portion of the book takes a dramatic turn, realizing the worst fears of the female protagonist Freya, and those of the reader. It was at this point, reading at around 11pm, alone in a tiny cottage on the Shetland Island of Unst, during a snow blizzard, with a gale rattling the windows, that I decided I couldn’t close the book without finding out what happened. The tension of Patricia’s storytelling became overwhelming. I knew that I’d be unable to sleep unless I gained closure on the story.
Patricia admits, “The scene where Elena is taken downstairs still makes me cry each time I read it; the bond between two women, total strangers who have found each other in a moment of crisis, is very moving for me.”
“The most satisfying scene to write was that in which Freya escapes – I actually held my breath while I wrote it. I even asked a friend to show me exactly how it would work so I knew it was feasible and authentic.”
Patricia asserts, “I’d like readers to take away some new awareness from reading the book. In the prologue, I allude to the fact that we’re surrounded by women (and men) who may be hiding abuse. You might think somebody needs your help but, for all the reasons I describe in the story, they may not be ready to accept such help. If you’re being abused, I want you to know that you can make it stop. There are people who’ll help you, when you’re ready. “
“Over the past thirty years, I’ve heard some dreadful tales, told largely in confidence, many from women who’ve hidden their abuse, mental or physical, for years. The reasons for this are many and complicated: fear of not being believed, fear of upsetting their family or of losing their home and lifestyle, fear of having nobody to turn to, and shame. The subject has been covered in film and soaps on television but I wonder if this touches us in the same way as the written word. This is why I wrote the book in first person; Freya speaks directly to the reader. I hope that, by the end of the story, the reader feels a personal connection, as if they would speak with Freya, if only in their mind.”
Over My Shoulder will have you rooting for Freya, hoping that she’ll find the courage to escape her abuser, and the terrible, disturbing situation in which she ultimately finds herself.
Some stories are so provoking that they cannot help but stay with us. I remain haunted by Over My Shoulder.
As for what’s next, Patricia is currently writing a story set in Manchester and France, telling of a man and a woman whose deep and enduring friendship is misunderstood by their friends and family, causing heartache. “There’s an aspect of the male character’s personality that I hope will inspire sympathy and understanding,” says Patricia. “I also have a murder mystery to write, featuring a dysfunctional family.”
Patricia Dixon is an author with serious storytelling skills. She’s one to watch.
Purchase link : Amazon
About Patricia Dixon
Patricia Dixon lives in Manchester and is the author of six novels: À Bientôt, Three Mothers, The Christmas Cottage, A Perfect Summer Wedding, Return Journeys, and Over My Shoulder. After a career in fashion, she swapped all things fabric for bricks and mortar, working alongside her husband in running his building company. Now, with an empty nest, her time has come to write.