photo by Ev
I’ve been writing for what feels like all my life. I blame books. Books represent more than a simple escape for me, they are an emergence into another reality where my imagination and the author’s words take control. It’s such a treat when I find a story that makes me late to cook dinner or helps me forget that bedtime was an hour ago.
I’m in love with a character who suffers. Now, there’s a lot of different ways to suffer. You can suffer because the community around you is filled with and ran by fanatics. Take Hester from The Scarlett Letter. She suffered (and displayed resilience like only a heroine could during those times), but I didn’t like that book because society constrained her ability to control what she made of herself. Another amazing book that has a suffering character is The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m very happy that Netflix has turned it into a TV series, but I can’t watch it. The writing was great and the storytelling original, but I simply don’t want to revisit that future or the emotions that book evoked in me. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was bleak and a masterpiece in creative writing as well, but I had to give the movie a miss because I had been there with the nameless characters as they walked that gray, ash-fallen road in the book. Some experiences you only want to live once.
But give me Olamina from Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, and I’ll read it a few times. I realized that my characters must not be overly constrained by the world around them. They must be able to exert some kind of control over their fates like Detective Decker in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Bladerunner). The society around them might be against them (1984), but I must feel they have hope—even if it’s false.
There’s no accounting for taste, and that’s as it should be. We like what we like for a variety of reasons, sometimes easily explainable and other times books just elicit such a strong response from us that all we can do is hate them or love them.
My first book is coming out in July, and I’m feeling awfully exposed. I laugh at myself because this is what I have wanted for a very long time. But still, there’s something vulnerable about allowing people (especially those who know you) to see what your mind gets up to in its free time. Will they think they understand me better? Will they think I’m a weirdo? Will they draw conclusions about me based on what they’ve read? Will they like it? How will I feel if they don’t?
I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy because as much as I like to write about authentic emotions and the socio-economic challenges I see, I love when reality as we define it has been shaped by the fantastical. And I love characters who sit on the fringes of a society because they’re close enough to experience it, but still too far away to belong to it or to be “of” it.
The Evolved Ones series is a metaphor for motherhood at its core; although, I’m told the struggle to find out who you truly are is a universal one. The idea for the novel was born during one of those sleepless nights when your newborn isn’t sleeping, which means you aren’t either. Your mind begins to do funny things, it creates strange and insane stories when it doesn’t get a chance to process the day’s events through sleep.
There were moments during those nights when I wanted to give up and walk away. I wanted to quit. I questioned why any sane, intelligent person would choose to have children when it could result in sleep deprivation. I wondered why no one wrote books about those kinds of experiences.
So I created characters who helped me escape the reality of those nights when I couldn’t turn the light on and I didn’t own a kindle. When my daughter knew the moment I sat down, which had me up pacing again.
I wove together the outline for a story about a woman who wakes up without memory and realizes that she’s evolved. She sets out on a journey to discover her true identity. Along the way, she makes mistake after mistake, but she does so for the right reasons. She questions the choices she makes and only with the lens of hindsight is she able to see clearly.
I tried to write Rox’s physical attributes to be ambiguous because she’s you, she’s universal. She’s all of us who go on a journey to find out who we truly are. She fails, but she triumphs because she doesn’t quit. She dies a thousand times, but is reborn each time a little wiser.
Loneliness wasn’t a theme that I intentionally wove into the story (actually, I don’t intend to write any themes or metaphors, it just comes out that way), but Rox says a few times in Awakening (book 1) and again in Sacrifice (book 2) that it was the loneliness, the “not belonging”, that was the hardest thing to cope with. She explains how she wasn’t prepared for those moments when the day finally settled and night awoke and still there was no one to talk to. She spent weeks alone, and as a mother, especially when our babies are so young, sometimes the grocery store becomes a chore to relish.
I was recently asked if I thought the majority of people who read my book would ever see the parallels. And to be honest with you, I don’t know. It’s an action-packed story where life hangs in the scales sometimes. We lose characters we love in life and so does Rox. I think the opportunity to read any book and see its deeper meaning is always present, it just depends on where we are mentally when we’re reading it. I’ve certainly read many a books just for the plot, only to read the author’s notes at the end to discover that the book was about alcoholism or suicide–topics I just hadn’t seen interwoven into the story. But was I looking? Probably not.
I’ve been sitting on this blog post for awhile now. Mostly because it’s the first one I’ve written that has been totally about me–not my kids or my family or the lessons that they’re teaching me. But I guess I should do what I always do: Take a deep breath, re-read it, slip into my big-girl pants, and simply hit “publish”.