*It’s been really emotional watching Bryn transform. Every long sleep has hardened her but she’s still the girl who cares about other people; who wants to save the world, despite not having been a part of it her entire life. But sometimes it’s also hard to watch. As Bryn spoke these words, I didn’t have a clear vision for her future. I still don’t. I still can’t imagine her at the end. I don’t even know what the end looks like. But I know what she wants, and my hope for Roman is the same hope I have for her, that after all the destruction, all the nightmares and darkness, I’ll finally be able to give it to her.
*At this point moments of hope are few and far between but despite all Roman and Bryn have been through, despite the darkness in them both, I never wanted them to forget what love can do. Their love. It’s not just a shield but a shining light and as they venture into the night it’s the only thing that can guide their way.
*I love the image of Roman, Bryn, and Felix locking hands–“a chain of love and light.” The so-called “normal” or “human” characters in this story are just as essential and just as strong as the paranormal ones, sometimes stronger. They make the same dangerous sacrifices and they love with the same intensity. And that’s what makes them powerful in their own right. Bryn’s character and her entire journey is just a metaphor for the power that we all possess and Felix’s role in Dani’s healing is a reminder of how accessible that power is to all of us. He may not be able to do what Bryn and Roman can do. He may not be indestructible. But in some ways that makes his love even greater because there’s so much at risk and yet he chooses Dani anyway.
*One of the greatest things about love is how it gives us permission to be the best version of ourselves. Bryn’s love liberates Roman. Existing within the confines of her imagination means that Roman can be the person she believes him to be, the version of himself he’s been fighting to hold onto all along. And in this moment he realizes that being good is a choice. Anything can happen in Bryn’s dreams, even redemption, and there’s nothing Roman wants more.
*This scene is just a flash but Roman’s control in this moment is such a triumph and such a sharp contrast to the way he’s been feeling and acting this entire novel. In the second book Michael is awestruck by Roman’s power to destroy and here Lathan is awestruck by Roman’s ability to tame the fire inside him. Roman’s sensed that the more he ignites, the harder it gets to control the blaze. Eventually that kind of power means nothing if you can’t control it. But what he doesn’t realize yet is that the more capable he is of controlling his power, the more capable he’ll be of controlling his rage and the destruction it leaves behind. This moment is an important one because it reveals that Roman can be more than just a destructive force. He can be a protector, a shield, a hero.
*According to Bryn’s grandmother lies are necessary between loved ones. To some extent, I agree. I don’t like dishonesty and I think that there are certain preventative measures that can be put in place in order to avoid being dishonest, such as not making stupid mistakes, not making selfish decisions, etc. But I also believe that humans are extremely sensitive and emotional beings and sometimes lies shelter us from unnecessary pain. Unnecessary being the key word. Bryn lies to her mother because she doesn’t want to hurt her and Bryn’s mother lies to her for the same reason. Their intentions are good and in the grand scheme of things sometimes people are better off without knowing the whole god awful truth.
*There was a point towards the end…when my mother stopped letting me go into my father’s hospice room. She didn’t want me to see him deteriorating…dying. She didn’t want my last memory of my father to be of his corpse. Even though I’d already seen so many awful things she’d saved me from something even worse and I’m grateful. When I was writing the scene where Roman finds Bryn’s grandmother the original draft shared the entire experience with the reader. We followed him into the yard, we found her body, we saw the death. But no matter how much I re-worked that scene I couldn’t get it to feel the way it actually feels to find something so awful. So I stopped trying to describe it. I stopped trying to paint this horrible picture of death. And instead I decided to have Roman extend to Bryn the same grace my mother gave me.
*Not only is Roman’s fiery rage becoming harder to control but the more he stokes the flames, the more addictive they become. Writing the scene where he attacks Drew was like writing from the perspective of a heroine addict. He’s past the point of being driven by anger and instead is consumed by this maddening hunger, which makes him even scarier.
*Insert another ticking time bomb. Bryn has always tried to prove to Roman that he’s changed; that he’s good. This scene is one of the most heartbreaking because she’s still fighting even though the rest of us know it’s too late. But when is it too late for Roman to be honest? How long can he hold onto this secret before it destroys them both? Because it’s really only a matter of time before Bryn realizes that the Roman from her dreams and the Roman from her nightmares aren’t all that different.
*I love how the Rogues use a tour of the morgue as a cover story as if that makes them any less creepy.
*Bryn eats a lot of cinnamon rolls and we share in that tradition. When I took leave from school to stay home with my dad while he was sick we used to buy these giant (literally the size of your face) cinnamon rolls from the market and eat them every morning together.
*Bryn and Roman’s reunion is not fireworks or some big dramatic moment. Instead, it’s quiet and close and sad. They hardly speak and spend what feels like a lifetime just holding each other. I wanted their reunion to be emotional but I didn’t want there to be a false sense of hope or safety. Bryn can already see how their time apart has created this tangible distance between them. Her initial thoughts upon seeing his body are proof that she’s been traumatized in a way that won’t be healed by a single kiss. And Roman has his own awful secret, one
that if revealed, would only confirm Bryn’s worst fears about him. So while finally bringing them together was a relief it was also heart breaking because I know the worst is still yet to come.
*The First Dreamer isn’t just Bryn’s alter ego, she’s also Bryn’s sanity…or, rather, insanity. I knew what kind of difficult choices were in store for Bryn in the final book so I wanted to give her a physical manifestation of the darkness inside her just like Roman has with the shadows. The shadows haunt Bryn too but because she only sees them as such, their attacks on her aren’t as personal. In the final book I needed her to be tormented by something more personal. Something that would really scare her. Bryn’s biggest fears have less to do with her illness and more to do with the way her illness keeps her from being herself and doing the things she wants to do. She values the kind of intense freedom that one can only experience when they are wholly and truly awake and her illness was constantly threatening that, not only because it caused her to sleep but also because it made her vulnerable psychologically. In this novel the First Dreamer just seems like some kind of mad messenger but eventually Bryn begins to sense that the same power that creates the dreams can also destroy and not just her conscious mind but the world.
*Bryn and Roman’s matching wounds were a really poignant coincidence. Their reunion in the real world is one of my favorite scenes in this novel, not only because it’s slightly more hopeful than the last time they saw each other but also because it confirms for Bryn that they were both hurt by their time a part. During the previous scene in the dream-state she made the assumption that he would never understand what she’d been through and that she’d suffered in a way he hadn’t. After seeing the jagged wound along his hand she realizes that maybe pain is relative and that maybe it doesn’t matter who was hurt more. Even though Bryn went through something traumatic, and even though in some ways she still is, the sight of Roman hurt forces her guard down just a little and reminds her that she’s not the only person Anso hurt; she’s not the only person whose been broken; she’s not the only person who needs mending.
*The scene where Roman watches Carlisle struggling with the shadow and very obviously trying to deny its power over him was a really important moment for Roman’s character. He wants to be able to see the evil that exists in the world in terms of black and white but the more he realizes that things are actually much more complicated the more conflicted he feels about his own power and what exactly he’s supposed to do with it. Even though this revelation makes being superhuman harder, it also makes being human a little easier. The ultimate goal for Roman’s character is for him to accept himself and he can’t do that if he’s fearful or hateful or in denial. Part of breaking out of those mental bonds is seeing someone he hates–Carlisle–struggling to hold onto his humanity the same way Roman is.
*Jimmy’s betrayal and Roman being arrested could not have had worse timing but Roman had essentially spent three whole novels hating himself and if he was ever going to get over his own self-loathing then I had to give him what he wanted, which was to be punished. His desire to finally get what he “deserved” was his biggest hurdle and there came a point where it was really getting in the way of his own evolution. The shadows are really just a physical manifestation of his past and in this novel it was time he finally death with it. I wasn’t as concerned with whether or not he made the right choices or followed the most righteous path to self-discovery. I just wanted him to make some damn discoveries. I just wanted him to do something.
*Roman’s fight with Carlisle is life changing in more ways than one. Even as the author of this story I still don’t know whether or not to call Roman a murderer. Their confrontation was premeditated and Roman chose to confront Carlisle with violence, despite the fact that he was well aware that Carlisle was still human. It was a difficult decision to have Roman actually kill Carlisle. For the majority of the series Roman hates himself but because of who he is as a character and because of what we learn about him from his own thoughts, the reader can still come to his defense. After he kills Carlisle, not only does he become the thing he feared most but he loses that credibility and as much as he feels like he has to prove himself to Bryn (even though he doesn’t tell her the truth) he also has to prove himself to the reader. It was a strange thing having him break the reader’s trust but how could I place so much emphasis on the grey area of good and evil without having the story’s heroes make such controversial choices? No one person is all good or all bad and Roman’s no exception. In order for him to truly be a hero he has to make the kind of mistakes necessary to help him uncover what that truly means. Not to mention the fact that hitting rock bottom has always been Roman’s only means of transformation. He can’t save anyone if he’s too afraid of what will happen if he tries. By having him
face his fears head on, and then eventually climb up out of the muck of his mistakes, the fear of failing will no longer paralyze him. Because he’s already failed. He’s already done the worst thing he could possibly do. And now there’s nothing left for him to face but himself.
*Adham’s control and deep spirituality are such a sharp contrast to Roman’s chaos and hopelessness. There are a lot of new characters in this story who serve as a mirror for Bryn and Adham’s presence offers Roman’s character a chance to reflect as well. Not only on what it means to be a hero but on what it means to be a partner.
*Not only is Adham a friend for Roman when he needs it most but he also delivers one of the most important lines of the entire series. Roman is constantly wrestling with whether he’s good or evil and here Adham gives him the answer. He doesn’t accept it at first but I suspect that when Roman needs to reach a level of strength he never thought possible, it’ll be Adham’s words that help him find it. Adham’s spirituality also gave me a chance to explore some of those themes within the novel. This isn’t a story with some kind of religious agenda but it is a story about good vs. evil, which are very human issues that often cause us to think about things like right vs. wrong, morality, and life after death. As a writer, I don’t have definite answers to a lot of life’s big questions concerning spirituality or what makes a person truly evil but I’m hoping that by crafting such complex characters and forcing them into these highly emotional situations they’ll end up discovering the answers for me.
*Bryn redefined her definition of “soul mate” after meeting Stassi and her brother Domingo. By introducing Cole and Adham’s relationship I was trying to challenge those assumptions again. What would happen if someone (Cole) who’d always viewed themselves as straight suddenly felt this unexplainable yet inevitable connection with someone of the same gender? This is not me making some kind of observation or comment on what it’s like to be closeted or me trying to say that people can become gay at some point later in life. Again, this story does not have an agenda and I’m not trying to make any definitive statements about anything. All I wanted to do was explore this question and all of the other ones that go along with it. What does it mean to be someone’s soulmate? What is attraction vs. connection? Can a relationship like Cole and Adham’s transcend labels altogether and just be? In today’s world I believe that the answer to that last question is yes. As a society we’re slowly getting to the point where labels mean little and connection trumps everything. And it’s been a privilege to write about two characters who are on that journey towards enlightenment.
*Bryn’s journey through her nightmares starts with revisiting her childhood home and reliving a moment she wished she could forget. The nightmares she’d faced with the other Dreamers were more like tests, everything colliding into some fear factor style obstacle course. But those were physical adversaries and in order for her to truly find her way back to herself she has to face the feelings that are scarier than any monster. Bryn’s journey back through her nightmares; back through time isn’t just about survival or finding a way out, it’s about healing. Because the only way to truly conquer your fears is to heal the wounds they leave behind.
*Since this post is mostly just me raving about how awesome Adam’s character is, did I mention he’s also hilarious?
*The El Dorado legend as presented in this novel is half made-up and half not. There have been disputes over the most accurate translation of the term (which fit nicely with Roman’s whole made of fire thing) and the Chibeha and Chibcha tribes were real and did have their own versions of the legend. And that’s pretty much where reality ends.
*Like Oswald, I had a childhood obsession with aliens (okay, I still do) and every year my family would stop in Roswell on our way to Ruidoso to visit the alien museum. I remember my parents would always try to get me to nap in the car (I still can’t sleep in the car) but I refused for fear of missing out on an alien sighting and would stare out the window the entire 4-hour car ride waiting for a spaceship to go by.