Like I mentioned previously, most authors claim that writing is in their blood, that they just can’t remember a time when they didn’t write. I, on the other hand, grew up as a reader. I can’t remember a time I didn’t read. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to end up a writer. Books were a way to escape, something I was offered like a gateway. They were never a creative outlet for me.
Then, as an adult, I became the victim of online bullying. Now, it’s a very strange situation to be a grown-ass woman, unable to escape the virtual harassment of another, older, grown-ass woman, but it happens. Rather a lot, I think. Every form of social media, every forum, every hobby site, every place I’d ever “hung out” online became a battle ground. I was accused of everything from tax evasion to pornography. It was over the top, clearly nothing but lies, and oh so persistent.
The irony here is that I have real thick skin. I’m not the type of person to get all weepy because someone doesn’t like me, but this was different. It was invasive. My only escape from the constant noise of it all was to unplug. So I did.
Then I stared at the computer. For most of my life, the internet has been my escape. I don’t have a television, I don’t care for most movies. I read books. Ebooks. (Hey, at least I’m consistent in my love of technology!) Well, between the literature and the video games (which I could still safely play, since most middle aged ladies didn’t run in the same gamer circles I do) I found a little escape…
But it wasn’t enough. In the hours between another game or the maxed-out credit card that prevented me from buying another book, I still stared at the screen. I wished for a world where the downtrodden could get a little revenge. I dreamed of a character that could get knocked down seven times and stand up eight…. growling! Then, one day, I opened MS Word.
I didn’t expect anything. Hell, I’m not really sure I had planned out what I was going to do. I just sat down with this idea of a beast, mocked by the people around her, who tried so hard to fit into the rules society had put around her – like a cage – when inside she was so much more. This small, vulnerable girl who survived on the hope that one day she could make things better. If she just worked hard enough, pushed through the pain a little more, and kept going, then one day she could change her tiny corner of the world.
I wrote. The words came – and they were ugly. I didn’t care. I lost myself in this world caught between science and fantasy, where magic was just misunderstood science, history had been lost to the ages, but humanity was still the same. People still wanted to lift themselves up by treading on the backs of those they found weak, but one of those victims had teeth. Sharp teeth. And patience…
Somewhere around Chapter 3, everything changed. The catharsis of my writing faded behind the characters. The plot that I hadn’t put any thought into began to form. Edits were made to what I’d already created so there could be a compelling story arc, and I kept going. I forgot that I was writing to escape because I’d fallen so far into this rabbit hole that I couldn’t imagine trying to get out. I was lost in a world of my own creation…
And it felt good.
I became a hermit. I think it helped me heal a little, mentally, from the abrasion of the real world’s noise. Mostly, the story kept me going because no matter how much I abused my cast of characters, they kept hoping, kept finding ways to not only survive, but grow closer. They made hope into something so tangible I could almost taste it. And then I wrote some more.
It wasn’t until I finished the fourth book in the series (at that time, it was the third), that I got the nerve to show my manuscript to anyone else. Let me assure you, that’s the most terrifying thing anyone can do. In a novel, we leave little parts of our soul behind. I worried that people would assume I had written Salryc Luxx to be a version of me. I was terrified that the constant erosion of self that I’d been suffering every time I went online would be visible to anyone who read my story. I thought that by showing my written daydream of escapism to another, I’d be exposing my inner vulnerabilities, but this was my best friend. The one person who knew how hard I’d been trying not to give in to something as foolish as words online. The person I’d been leaning on when times got so very hard. She already knew about those wounds… so I showed her my book.
She read it in a night. Typos, grammar issues, sloppy sentence structure and all. Hidden in all those words, she could feel the aspirations to be more, the desire to fight back when there was no enemy to target. She read the story and was inspired, almost recharged, to push just a little harder. By encapsulating my pain and fears into a story, then twisting the plot to offer hope, I’d not only helped myself get better mentally, but I’d given someone else a boost. I don’t even know when you’d call it, but hearing that someone reading my book FELT something? I honestly hadn’t expected that.
So I kept going. I kept writing. I learned how to write, and then how to write better. I dove into perfecting my craft, playing with new ideas, and I wrote almost constantly. My husband supported me completely, and while he doesn’t read, he loves for me to tell him my stories, to explain the bits that make me excited, and he says it’s inspirational.
For as many times as I’ve turned to a book to help me crawl out of my funk, I had just created something to help others. The story was like a ladder, giving a path that the reader could use to move up, to get out of the oppressive mental anguish that is so easy to fall into. And for those with no depression, anxiety, or other problems? Well, it was just a good story, right? A new story, wrapped up in a bunch of old ideas.
But that was just a side effect. I wrote because I felt things. I wrote these books as a way to understand my own emotions, and maybe let my readers see a new side to their own. I wrote because we spend so much time trying to be calm, strong, professional, and independent that only in a fantasy world did I feel safe enough to admit I wasn’t. I wrote because I wanted people to think, to question my way, their way, and all the ways. In the iliri books, I focus on taboos, pushing at each one to find the line between good and bad. In One More Day, I lost myself in the powerlessness of disease, forcing a situation where the strong female character simply can’t be strong anymore because of her failing body. I write stories where others step up, fail, and sometimes even run away. I write stories where I can ponder something more than just the next task.
As someone who never wanted to be a writer, I now can’t stop. I’m a reader, and I will always be a reader first. I create books I want to enjoy myself. Books that fill a gap I can’t find anywhere else. I write books about people – regardless of their type – who have to face the darkness inside themselves and realize that it’s not so dark. I write stories with happy endings, even if the happiness is fleeting, because I think that every so often, we all need a chance to know it’s ok not to be perfect – but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be good. Even in the darkest shadows, there’s always a glimmer of hope, and I hope to tell stories that focus on it.