For months I've been toying with what to write next.
I always knew I wanted to do something else from the Junkture stories. I went to Mardi gras and Mobile earlier this year to do research for the next book, Mantissa. (That's Alex Wheeler's first wife's backstory, if you're interested. If you don't know who I'm talking about, read my first novel Persona Non Grata.) Most of it would be totally fiction with bits and pieces of my youth and stories from friends' lives as well.
There's also the story of Talia Wheeler, Alex's current wife. Sequentially it happens just after Persona Non Grata but is told from Talia's point of view. I knew a lot of it would reflect my real life in the aftermath of separation and the process of divorce. I haven't had enough closure or distance to be able to delve into it quite yet.
I had a dream in the spring that was the catalyst for an entirely new story. The details were swirling in my head, and I did hours and hours of research. While utterly fiction and having nothing to do with Junkture, the tempest that is Sass and Bounder was strongly influencing how these characters were evolving. This was true the first time we were together and even moreso the second time.
I was stuck, though. I couldn't quite see these new characters. Queen Frostine was asking me regularly where this book was—she knew the gist of the story and wanted to see it come to fruition. Even Hammer was intrigued by the idea.
"It's all in my head," I would answer.
When Bounder and I broke up in July, I was on my way to Mobile again. I needed time to think and wrap my head around what was happening. The day after it finally happened, I drove out to Dauphin Island. I sat on a mostly-deserted beach in the rain, listened to music, and cried. I purged a lot of emotion that day, giving it to the wind and the rain and the withdrawing tide.
From that point, they had identities. I could hear and see them, knew how they acted and moved. I borrowed Lady Hammer's laptop and wrote what would become the first draft of the first chapter on Sunday. It took a few days, but I eventually got into the groove and the energy needed to write this story.
Like all writers do, I'm writing what I know. Even though the story itself borders on paranormal romance (but is as about as genre-specific as PNG—which is to say, not at all), the emotions of Michael and Layla are effectively Bounder and me. Like I did for the first book, and like I do for Muchness and Light, I am drawing upon my very real life to drive my writing.
But just once I would like to not have to live a traumatic relationship just to get a book out of me.
"Most women gain twenty-five pounds when they break up," my editor said. "I'd say emotional writing is much more productive."
I agree, but it's hard to relive the good and the bad just to reframe the sense of emotion. It's hard to see the texts and emails and then remember what was occurring in the midst of that. It's as difficult to the middle-of-the-night "I miss and love you" messages as it is to see the "This is too hard, I don't think I can do it" ones. It breaks my heart all over again to see all the times we were messaging simultaneously that we were listening to the same song, or to see when he'd text me that he was on his way to come and kiss his girl.
In some ways, it leaves me even more confused about what happened. He was there, plainly and constantly, and then suddenly not. I knew when and why I think it happened, but I don't know how. It seems like there was literally one moment in time when something shifted and everything fell apart. If I mapped it out on a storyline, I can see the day that's pinpointed as the climactic turning point. But there are still details I'm missing.
I have to accept that I may never have that insight. Writing Original Sin is kind of my way of making sense of it all, though our specifics are differently complicated than Michael and Layla's. I get to build the monument to this as I see fit.
"This is what your lightning strike was for," Hot Pocket said.
She's probably right. And I will take the lessons I learned from writing Persona Non Grata—step out of chronology, limit the emotional punch, break down the specifics to only what you need—and write this story as best I can. The energy for it is abundant right now, and I'm let it flow openly and unabashedly. If it's anything like my actual relationship with Bounder, it will come quickly and then be gone, leaving something entirely new in its wake.