Anniversaries – Powerful in Life, Powerful in Books

We all experience anniversaries, dates that come around every year. In fact, we are born with one! Our birthday. Anniversaries fall into two main categories: celebratory and remembrance.

Celebratory anniversaries are easy to spot: birthdays, wedding anniversaries, adoption days, first kiss date, day your book releases…

Remembrance anniversaries are trickier. We’ve all had days we don’t want to ever relive, and yet we don’t necessarily want to forget them.

When I was diagnosed with cancer on April 4th, 2011, the date became very important to me. Mentally, I split every picture that I see of me and my family in the past into “before” and “after” the diagnosis. Each year I celebrate the day I found out I had a battle to fight, because each year I am thrilled to tears that I’m still alive to love my family. I go through my box of hundreds of cards I received over 15 months of chemo. I sit quietly to honor the time when I couldn’t walk with all the meds battling within me. I hug my kids longer, loving the fact that the farther away from the year I was diagnosed, the easier it is for my kids to forget that awful time.

The Battling McCollums

So, remembrance anniversaries swing both ways, happy and sad. The initial event is full of shock, sorrow, and even devastation. But as the years go by, flowers can grow up through the cracks of our shattered lives. We must still honor those anniversaries, but also embrace the happy memories and positive things that grow out of them.

This not only works in our lives, but also in our characters’ lives. In my book, A PROTECTOR IN THE HIGHLANDS, which releases TODAY (woot!), the heroine, Scarlet Worthington, has survived a terrible event that occurred on St. Valentine’s Day. In the following book in the series (which I just turned into my editor), King Charles II has been buried on St. Valentine’s Day, which is true to history. Although it is not spelled out for my readers, the anniversary significance will not be lost on Scarlet.

Anniversaries are powerful. In real life, we should honor them, even if they are not celebratory, even if we do it alone in hushed reflection. Our unconscious will likely mourn even if we try to forget, so I find it better psychologically to acknowledge the event and remember any positiveness that came from it. It’s a good day to cuddle up with those we love, eat our favorite comfort foods, and watch happy movies.

In our books, anniversaries can also create powerful motivation, conflict, and character growth. Whether it’s a one-month anniversary of a kiss, a five-year anniversary of a divorce, or a fortieth anniversary of a psycho killer named Michael stalking and killing all their friends, anniversaries will affect your characters in powerful ways. Keep them in mind when creating your characters to give them depth.

BTW – today is not only my book birthday, but it is also my 24th wedding anniversary!

26 November 1994

Releasing 26 November 2018


Do you have any anniversaries coming up?


8 responses to “Anniversaries – Powerful in Life, Powerful in Books”

  1. Julia Day says:

    Friday is a hard anniversary for my family, the day my nephew passed away in 2001. He was at Duke Med Ctr, on the pediatric bone marrow unit. Chemo is tough on a little body.

    Like you, I divided my life into before and after Charlie. I had just started writing the year before, and his loss stopped me in my tracks. Could not write. A year or two passed before I caught my breath and discovered that writing helped.

    Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with frozen shoulder. It was awful. (If you’ve never had trouble with your shoulder, you cannot imagine how much you use it.) I had lots of agonizing physical therapy. I was about ready to give up. And my physical therapist said, “You have to work through the pain to get to the other side.”

    That’s one of the things I love about being a romance author. Writing stories with HEAs or HFNs allow me to work through the pain and get to the other side.

    • Heather McCollum says:

      I’m so incredibly sorry about your nephew. Death will stop anyone in their tracks, but a death of a child… there are no words.

      And I understand pain. Getting to the other side is tough when you don’t know for certain that you will get there. But we must believe we will.

      Love your quote about HEAs allowing you to work through the pain. Wonderful advice!

  2. Addison Fox says:

    Heather – what a wonderful post. And Happy Anniversary!!! And a very happy book birthday!

    I think you’re so right about the power of days. I think that’s one of the things no one tells you about getting older – how many more days become significant for one reason or another.


  3. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    Happy anniversary, Heather! And Happy Book Birthday!

    While I remember certain dates, I don’t have too many anniversaries I observe. Sometimes they sneak up on me and I’m like “Oh! Today is…” Some are hard to ignore. Like the day I met one of the first real loves of my life—it was Christmas morning 1988. (Fate had us going on different paths.) And then there was the death of a dear, childhood friend who passed away on my wedding anniversary. Particularly hard when I remember fondly how he insisted on dancing with my husband at the wedding.

    Anniversaries are good, though, as they help us remember for better or worse what make us who we are, grounds us, and be grateful for the memories.

    Lovely post, Heather.

  4. Thanks Heather, Lovely post. And congrats on your extra special book release, along with your anniversary!

  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    Happy Anniversary, Heather!

    Mark and I have an anniversary coming up next week: our 3rd wedding anniversary. But it feels odd to celebrate it because we were together 17 years before we got married. 😉

  6. Darynda Jones says:

    Happy Book Birthday and Anniversary! I love the nostalgia and conflict inherent in anniversaries. This is a great reminder of how we can use them in our stories to deepen characterization.

  7. Happy Book Birthday and Happy Anniversary, Heather! This is such a great reminder to think about our characters’ anniversaries – the dates that linger in our lives for various reasons. November 13th was my most recent book birthday, and also the anniversary of my brother’s death, so it was stacked with a lot of different feels. I hope your week is filled with joy and happy memories.


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