Initial Feelings: Terrified–I’m so far removed from the writing of this novel that I find myself anxiously anticipating the next two books with the same high expectations as my readers. Except mine are probably higher. From here on out every mistake is going to stick out like a thorn because everything myst be remedied in the finale. Every loose thread snipped or tied; every plot hole fixed and filled. And it all starts here with these last few chapters, with the deer, with the shadows, with Roman’s first breaths in the real world.
Initial Thoughts: This. is. it.
*This has to be one of my favorite sections of the entire series. Every word and every sentence was strategic. Reading it now, the rhythm alone reminds me of Roman being tossed in by the waves. Churning, rolling, gaining momentum. And then everything comes to a crashing halt. And then Bryn…. Honestly, as an author, it hurt me to hurt Roman. These last few chapters really rip him to shreds and his suffering continues into the next book. My heart aches for him here, especially since I know what’s coming. More pain. More discoveries. And then I think…how do I give him the ending he deserves? What does he deserve? What does he want? Will the end of Bryn’s story allow me to make him a hero too? That’s what Roman wants. That’s what I want too. But I’ve learned that I am never in control as much as I think I am and sometimes that’s not just terrifying but heartbreaking.
*After Bryn discovers that Roman’s been in a car accident, her desperation really transforms her in an unexpected way. For the first time her thoughts reveal how much she’s really wanted to be loved and her most powerful fears revolve around Roman in the real world no longer being able to give her that. Her character is usually fiercely independent and even after all her back and forth with Drew she really is resolved to this idea that she won’t ever be able to be in a real relationship. But Roman changes all of that for her and in the last few chapters her fears make her vulnerable in a way that almost comes across as a little self-centered but really it’s just desperation. She’s so close to having something she never thought she would have and the thought of losing it–of losing Roman, of losing her chance at being normal, of losing the closest thing to a cure she’s ever had–is devestating.
*Chapter 34 was just a few paragraphs as I neared the final draft of the novel. I knew that it needed to be longer and that Roman needed a more significant triumph over his own demons, even if it was only temporary, I just wasn’t sure how to get there. It wasn’t until I was deep into the second draft of book 2 that I realized Roman’s mother needed to play a much bigger role throughout the series and that her haunting of him could serve as this really climactic moment in the first book. The final version of this chapter was being ripped apart and re-written right up until the night before I hit publish and one of my wonderful beta readers walked me through those revisions every step of the way. Now it’s one of my favorite chapters and really captures the style of book 2, which is dark and heavy and tragic and everything I love about this series.
*Bryn and Roman’s soul connection plays a more obvious and crucial role as the series goes on but from the very beginning they choose to believe in the inevitability of their relationship. I believe in soul mate connections and used Bryn and Roman’s relationship as a way of celebrating the durability of that kind of love. But even though they don’t believe in coincidences they still have to fight every step of the way, not only to survive, but to stay together. Book 1 really builds up this idea of “we are not a coincidence” and book 2 does its best to shatter it to pieces. I wasn’t trying to emotionally manipulate readers by creating this dark story where I suddenly rip the love interests apart. I just really appreciate stories where the love interests can evolve a part from one another because it reminds us that even though true love can exist, being loved does not validate our own existence. Bryn and Roman may belong together, they may even need each other to survive, but they are separate people and that’s important.
*Much of the final scene in the novel came from a flash fiction piece I did in college after my father passed away. We had a timed writing assignment in class and the prompt was to write about the worst day of your life. At that point, it felt like I had been living the worst day of my life on repeat for the past seven months and as I wrote, I imagined scratching out every image, every horrible memory that I was sure would haunt me forever. Watching someone be so sick…watching someone die…it’s unlike anything. I can’t describe how painful it is. I can’t describe how helpless it makes you feel. I can’t describe the rage that burns every second of every day even after they’re gone. I needed Bryn to feel that helplessness. I needed her to face the physical manifestation of Roman’s choice and for it to break her in two. I tear up every time I read this final chapter and I remember trying to scrape the tears from my eyes just long enough to see the computer screen as I wrote it. Now when I think back on those memories I wished I could forget, the ones I used to
craft this entire novel, I realize that pain is an indispensable tool, one that can hurt and heal at the same time.