*It’s been so long since I published this novel and I’ve had all this anxiety about getting back to the final book. I was afraid whatever plans I’d had would be forgotten and I’d be totally lost trying to piece together the big finale. But as I’ve been re-reading the series I’ve found so many breadcrumbs that I left for myself, some intentional, some not, and I can’t help but marvel at the way my brain works sometimes. There are tons of tiny threads throughout each of these novels; unanswered questions that are slowly but surely leading me in the right direction. The more I read, the more I can’t wait to find the answers to them.
*Roman wants desperately to be secluded and left alone. But that would be boring and also pointless because nothing grows in a dark empty room. I adore Adham and Cole–their dynamic is complex and they serve as both Roman’s connection to the only world he seems to feel comfortable in and an immediate source of motivation now that he’s so far from Bryn. In the short time he was in Germany the Rogues became his family and Adham’s presence is a relief now that they’re so far away too. Not to mention the fact that Cole is hilarious and Adham’s wisdom and eternal optimism may be the only thing capable of breaking through Roman’s walls and making him hope again.
*Bryn’s realization that she can’t save everyone changes absolutely everything. Being the most powerful Dreamer is no longer enough. Now there is more than just risk involved in this journey, there’s the very real inevitability of failure. As the hero of this story, Bryn no longer has the option to save everyone and from this point on that means making decisions that are sometimes selfish, sometimes life-altering, and always dangerous.
*Chapter 21 is one of my favorites. We find out that Sam is still alive, that Sebastian is much scarier than originally anticipated, and that the same nightmares that have haunted Bryn have also been haunting Anso. The story so far has set up Bryn as the hero but even though this is her story the other Dreamers still have a powerful role to play. Bryn’s character may end up controlling how the story ends but the other Dreamers are going to help get her there, making sacrifices alongside her, exhibiting a strength that mirrors her own. At this point, Bryn’s abilities become defined less by how much more powerful she is than the other Dreamers and more by the infinite possibilities that exist within that power. Sebastian, in particular, is a very real and very frightening mirror for Bryn. Essentially all the Dreamers serve as revelations when it comes to what Bryn can do. But Sebastian is the most terrifying because he’s not just like Bryn, he’s also like Anso. Bryn starts to see Dreamers on this continuum and the more power they have the more haunted they are; the more darkness they carry. She felt it every time she touched Sebastian and every time Anso touched her. But the worst part is that she senses it inside herself too.
*As Bryn’s abilities evolve throughout the story there’s this strong and totally unintentional (in the beginning) focus on connection. I’ve already talked about how I eventually fleshed out this aspect of Bryn’s character in order to keep her from being your typical isolated hero but her ability to make strong things stronger and strange things stranger is so much more poignant now that there are so many other Dreamers involved. Her connection with them is really a metaphor for humanity. We all have different strengths and weaknesses; different fears and those things are intensified through connection. Some connections are toxic and make us weak but some connections are pure magic and make us great. Sometimes’ Bryn’s connection with the other Dreamers causes her pain…eventually they all do as she absorbs their memories. Connections in the real world can be just as painful and just as scary. But connection is also necessary. It’s the only way Bryn can save the other Dreamers, and running the risk of sounding way too cliche, it’s also the only way that the rest of us can save each other.
*I love how Roman once burned macaroni and cheese and Felix blames it on his own illiteracy.
*Just realized how much the running-through-collapsing-cave/guard-made-of-beetles scene is reminiscent of The Mummy movies #90sKid
*Absolutely one of my favorite moments I’ve ever written. After the night Roman almost hurts his father he battles with himself over whether or not to apologize and how. He waits for his father to confront him and he waits for the strength to finally say he’s sorry but it never happens. It doesn’t have to. Because what Roman didn’t realize is that he was already living in the grace of his father’s forgiveness. From the second he made the decision to let go of the wheel, from the moment he swung, rage guiding his fist straight into the wall, he was forgiven. He was loved. All this time, he was loved.
*I love how non-Italians assume that all Italians can cook.
*If having Bryn touch her old sculptures and old photos wasn’t the perfect moment for her to wake, Roman’s sleeping-beauty-style kiss definitely was. Except it wasn’t. And I feel terrible about that. I know the readers really get yanked around a lot emotionally in book 3 but if they didn’t hate me at least a little bit by the end of it then that means I didn’t really do my job.
*Crafting a true villain was a first for me. There’s a fine line between campy and scary and I re-wrote Anso’s dialogue a hundred times just trying to get it right. I wanted him to be maniacal but not over the top and I wanted him to be deeply disturbed but not grotesque. He’s violent but as we find out later he’s also grieving, giving him the kind of complexity that all great villains require. Again, it was that combination of the human and the inhuman that makes him accessible, which is what truly makes him scary. Because the scariest thing about a villain isn’t what they’re capable of…it’s what they make use realize we’re capable of.
*Bryn’s abilities are sort of all over the place but there were so many interesting abilities to experiment with that introducing other Dreamers was the only way to truly explore this story to its fullest potential. I introduce a lot of new characters in this story and even though I tried to give them all unique backstories and personalities, they’re really all just extensions of Bryn and what she can do.
*Roman is proof that even if our intentions are good, even if we think we’re doing the right thing, even if we believe we fight for something right and just; that we’re fighting against evil, the fighting itself can change us and turn us into the very thing we hate. The violence and rage that fuels our fight turns us into a warrior but sometimes it turns us into something else. A killer. But the righteous fight that too. Roman fights the urge to kill Carlisle even though his body tells him that it’s not only the right thing to do but that it’s what he needs. To feel good. To feel safe. To feel strong. He wants to hurt Carlisle more than anything but he stops himself. And this is who I want his character to be. I want to be able to throw every difficult decision at him and for him to make the right choice. But he’s also the most flawed character I’ve ever written and even though, in this moment he makes the right decision, the boy is a ticking time bomb and the next time he’s faced with this decision there’s no outrunning his lit fuse.
*If goat is technically a language then so is wind and car horn and finger snaps and basically anything that makes a sound. Right?
*If I had Kira’s ability to control plants I would grow and endless supply of avocados.
*And…Drew’s back. I know, I know. We all hate Drew and rightfully so. He’s manipulative and a coward and selfish. Which makes him the perfect human adversary for Roman-emphasis on human. Now that Roman has discovered this amazing power inside himself he wants nothing more than to be a hero worthy of that power. But after feeling helpless and useless and like a failure in so many other aspects of his life he’s also tempted to use that power to satisfy some of the rage and regret he feels. The first time he’s tested is when he finds Dani attacking Bryn in Germany and the next time he’s tested is when Drew interrupts his attempt to bring Bryn back to life. The thing is, so many of the issues explored in these novels are human issues and the paranormal aspects are only meant to amplify them. It’s justifiable and even easy for Roman to destroy the shadows because they’re pure evil. But what about when Dani was possessed? Was she evil then? And what about Drew? He’s a horrible person but is he evil too? These are the questions that Roman will spend the rest of the series answering, questions that will drive him to make some difficult choices, some life changing…some life ending.
*There’s a lot of symmetry in these stories and the characters often find the answer to the question of what to do next by reexamining the past. For a while I really contemplated Roman’s plan to wake Bryn actually working. In the first book his memories were ignited by touch and sound and smell–his senses connecting him to the real world. I thought Bryn waking in the same way would be poignant. But then I realized that having her not wake at all (and adding yet another perceived “failure” to Roman’s list of personal mistakes) would be even more powerful.
*The decision to have Roman go back to New Mexico was another hard one. If the roles were reversed Bryn would stay by his bedside until Anso himself dragged her away. But Roman is right when he admits that he’s not as strong as Bryn. Even though Roman’s a different person since waking up, a better person, he’s still in constant battle with the old version of himself who is pretty much a selfish coward. Separating them again was the right thing for the story but as far as their relationship goes I’m not so sure if his actions can truly be justified. But maybe that’s what makes it ring so true. People have a tendency to avoid the things that scare them and no one does that better than Roman.
*Roman’s turning point in this novel is the moment he erupts on his father, revealing the first glimpse of the darkness he’s suspected has been inside him all along. It makes you wonder if the darkness was really innate or if Roman’s self-loathing obsession somehow drew the darkness to him like a magnet. And if that’s the case, can he propel it with the adverse thinking? That he’s good and worthy of Bryn’s love? He entertained the thought briefly after meeting the Rogues but now they’re thousands of miles away and Bryn feels even farther. Which means Roman’s mental breakdown could not have worse timing. It was definitely tough writing this scene. Roman’s father is one of my favorite characters but all Roman does, even when he’s not trying to, is cause him pain. And here, in this moment, he hurts him more than the distance and his suicide attempt combined. Because even though Roman’s not dead, the son his father knew is gone.
*Felix defines living with anxiety to a T-“Trouble sleeping, eating, shitting, walking to my car alone at night—” etc. etc.