Bonus – Owen and OCD

This guest post about Owen from On His List first appeared in the Ex Libris blog in 2014:

Owen and OCD

Most writers put a little of themselves into characters, but I expected questions when On His List came out as I’m very open about having severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I might even be disappointed if readers don’t ask, “So, how much is Owen Savoy’s OCD like yours?”

Honestly, my main character’s OCD is a lot sexier.

Though I’ve been told that my very particular way of living is part of my charm.

Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, there is a vast array of symptoms of OCD, and a good many of them are internal and then there’s a whole slew of issues most of us avoid so you can’t tell how bad it really is.

For example, I live in western Washington State where it’s not so uncommon to travel by ferry. When I’m off my meds, going out and standing on the deck of the ferry is terrifying. What if a strong breeze blows someone off? What if someone pushes me off? What if I’m overcome by a sudden homicidal urge and push someone else off? On and on it goes. So, it’s easy enough not to go out onto the deck of the ferry, and most people don’t realize the internal struggle I’m going through with that and a million other things.

It’s an exhausting way of living. We control what we can—whether it’s by avoidance, patterned behaviors, or by doing things in a certain way. We lose it a bit when we can’t. Control is very important to someone with OCD.

My favorite instance of Owen’s OCD is from after he’s finished eating. He’s ordered his burger from In-N-Out down to the lettuce placement whereas Remy has ordered off-the-menu…which says a lot about how they live their lives. Here it is:


 Shaking his head, Owen folded his hamburger wrapper into a tidy little square, tucked it into the fries’ container, and placed both in the bag. The crinkle of the wrapper shook her out of the fantasy she’d been building. Just like that. He was through watching her.

Wow. She blinked.

Done. Over. Dismissed.

This want was making her feel sluggish and heavy, but not him. Not at all. Now the bag was being neatly set to the side, and he gathered up the leftover stack of napkins. He’d used one. One single napkin. Apparently, the lettuce placement was crucial to controlling mess. Still, she’d put less work into doing her taxes than he did into disposing of his trash.


How much of Owen is me? I’ve always folded my wrappers. When I looked at the lettuce placement on In-N-Out’s burgers, I thought it was far from ideal. I think there is a “right” number of items for a list, but I’m fond of thirteen—it’s odd and prime. That’s where the similarities end for the most part. Owen became his own person, his own breed of OCD.

My early readers loved Owen, and they loved that Remy viewed his control both as charming and a challenge. I love that too. I love that opposites attract and a person who lives life so carefully can find a match in someone who’ll help them stretch those boundaries. Love is magical that way.

After you’ve had a chance to read On His List, you tell me, is there anything hotter than watching a man lose control?