Humanize The Experience of Guilt

Jillian Arena Author Interview

The Songs of My Family follows a woman who is a wife and mother who blames herself for a car accident that orphans three childrenWhat was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

I think that we often carry the weight of blame, even in instances when it is just an internal struggle, but particularly when we know that others are projecting blame upon us.  Myra’s relationship with her own guilt over the car accident was born of the understanding that we’ve all felt this level of remorse and responsibility at one point or another, deserved or not.  Myra’s self-judgement is both directly related to the external judgement she is facing and also completely independent of it.  Through her struggle with her own culpability, she is forced into recognition that the only way to achieve true forgiveness is to find it within herself.  She has to remember that she alone has the power to change her circumstances, regardless of how others perceive them. The goal of the story is to inspire that understanding in the reader, and to create a direct experience that showcases how influential we are and how freeing an act of grace can be.

Myra must come to terms with her guilt and open herself up to healing and helping those that need her the most. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I really wanted to humanize the experience of guilt.  I believe it’s one of the most dominant forces that holds us back from our own greatness, and that bringing that awareness to light is the first step towards undoing the faulty belief that our mistakes define us.  Kindness dismantles guilt and brings us face-to-face with our true nature, that of love.  When we act from love, we remember what is possible and the hope which is ignited through that remembrance carries a powerful punch. 

Through Myra’s reluctant acceptance of Emilia’s proposal, she rises above the external perceptions of who she is and creates an internal shift that allows her to step into her own power.  All of the other characters who are privy to this gradual transformation are changed by it, too.  Her act of kindness, regardless of where it was sourced from, extends outward and helps them all to find those same seeds of possibility within them.  I wanted her character to illustrate that, even staring into the face of adversity, the choice to act from love always exists and doing so holds the ability to dramatically alter the trajectory of both our lives and those we interact with.     

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Although I’ve spoken to it already, most certainly the power of forgiveness was a huge theme throughout.  I also really wanted to explore the concept of accountability as an act of self-love and to tackle our tendency towards judgement, oftentimes without ever digging deep enough to understand the bigger picture. 

Another theme that felt important to integrate was that of cross-cultural relationships and how our differences can be a source of connection, as opposed to division.  Though Myra’s family and Emilia’s family come from extremely different backgrounds and cultures, their shared trauma ultimately leads them to common ground and the understanding that all hearts are created equally.  Throughout the story, they each experience highs and lows, extreme ranges of emotion, and the deep desire to feel understood and validated.  At our core, we are sharing a human experience, and that recognition creates a lot more peace in the world.      

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have a few ideas buzzing around in my head for the next book, but haven’t fully

committed to one, as of yet.  I’ve had several requests for a follow-up to The Songs of My Family and it’s most certainly on the table.  I’ve toyed with the idea of rewriting the story from the vantage point of Greg, who is absolutely the most misunderstood character.  All that being said, the next book will happen, it’s just a matter of when.  Whenever it is, my commitment is to continue to develop deeply engaging characters with relatable story lines that speak to the love that is innate within us and the powerful transformations we are always capable of making.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

The idealistic world of Myra Jenkins comes crashing down when a tragic car accident changes her life forever.

Unjustly carrying the burden of the accident alone, she is forced down a path that will put her face-to-face with the children of the couple she has killed. Despite their disdain for Myra, further tragedy compels the children to ask her for an almost unthinkable act of kindness and what unfolds proves to be the thread that will ultimately reshape the tapestries of both their families forever.

The Songs of My Family is a heartfelt story of courage, resilience, and love that inspires its readers to remember the power that lies in patience and the beauty of second chances. It serves as a reminder that all things happen according to a greater plan and that we each have an inner potential that is best sourced through our deepest challenges.

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on January 29, 2023, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.


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