Hello there, everyone! Today, I’m handing the blog mic over to my friend, S. Usher Evans, author of the amazing Razia Series. Ya’ll be nice, now! Once you’re done reading her post, head over to her blog to read mine. (And if anyone is interested in doing guest posts or a blog swap, head over to my contact page and let me know!)
Suzanna asked me to pop in and talk about mental illness for a spell. Although Lyssa, the main character in my new book Alliances (Preorder now!) needs to be committed for her Daddy issues and general buttheadedness, this blog post is actually about the book coming out in May, and how that book helped me come to terms with my own fear and anxiety.
Empath is about a girl named Lauren Daily who is one month into break-up hell, but is really good at pretending she’s fine. One day, she decides to go buy a new necklace because all of her old jewelry makes her cry. That necklace transports her to a brand new world where she suddenly has new powers: she can read people’s feelings when she touches them. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a fire-breathing monster in the mountains that wants to devour her soul.
I got the idea for Empath based on this blog post about how I tend to turn my problems into mountains because I avoid dealing when them as molehills, or to continue the Empath analogy, fire breathing monsters from lizards. I had also just attended a jewelry party at a good friend’s house, where I casually mentioned that I didn’t wear any jewelry other than the sun necklace I bought to replace the one I couldn’t wear anymore. One thing led to another, and Empath was born, stealing some names and concepts from a book I wrote when I was 11 or 12 about a bunch of kids who are transported to an island and politics and such.
As Empath came together, I started to delve back into the memories of what life was like in those few months after the breakup, before my quarter life crisis, when I was trying to prove to everyone (and myself) that I was Just Fine *SMILE.* The point in time when I bottled everything up so tightly inside of myself. I thought if I just waited long enough, it would cool off and I wouldn’t have to actually jump into the boiling water.
I am a master avoider of conflict and angst. I even avoid paying bills sometimes, until the last possible second (oh, hey Dad). I would rather duck and hide and wait for everything to pass me over than have to face the music. And I wrote that into Lauren, giving her my fear and avoiding tendencies.
And then, par for the course, I avoided writing her story.
I waltzed around it, I danced around it, I added in the scenes that had nothing to do with the things that frightened me or made me uncomfortable. I made up a ton of excuses why I shouldn’t write this book, or this other book was better, or she was annoying me or the word count was too low, or whatever. Just excuse, excuse, excuse.
I think what scared me so much about this book was that it very clearly shows someone who is not perfect, and it’s very clearly based on me. Razia/Lyssa has pieces of me, but there’s very clear delineation between how she reacts and how I would react. I can step back and say, “Oh, silly Lyssa, quit yelling at Sage you dumb girl.”
With Lauren, I can’t say, “Silly girl” because I’m guilty of 100% of the things that she does. Lauren Daily is the most “me” person, and I gave her all of my bad faults.
Instead of just dealing with my pain after the break-up and letting people know, “Hey, you know what? I’m really not okay here” I just filled my life with busyness. Instead of coming face to face with my loneliness and learning to love the solitude, I subjected myself to endless dead-end dates, praying that Prince Charming would come and save me. I put my happiness in other peoples’ hands, and – surprise, surprise – I never found it.
I’m not (totally) that person anymore (thanks therapy), but by writing about her, by building a character around those faults of mine, it forced me to come face to face with the person I used to be.
In true avoiding fashion, I did not want to do that.
So, basically: I was avoiding writing the book about how I avoid my problems.
In my twenty-eight years on this world, I have discovered two things about avoiding problems that scare me: 1 – they rarely go away if you just ignore them and 2 – they always tend to be less terrifying than you’ve made them out to be.
When I finally get tired of avoiding my problems, or I’m forced to deal with them, I dig deep and find some kind of shaky strength and just face it. I make the phone call or send the email or check the post or whatever. Then I always feel better and promise myself I’ll never avoid my problems again.
Until the next problem shows up.
So I’m not perfect, but I’m growing. And that’s all that counts, right?