August was…rough. This month has always been a difficult one for me, well – for the past fourteen years. My brother was in a fatal car accident on August 27th, fourteen years ago. Three months after I married my husband. My brother gave me away at my wedding, a memory I will forever cherish. Another memory – of my brother’s face as we said good-bye to each other minutes before he was to get in his car. It was one last weekend together, playing computer games, eating Chinese food (we loved to eat Chinese food), making fun of our parents – spending time together before I was to leave for my first year as a graduate student at the University of Michigan.
I’ve never written about this before, so maybe this is a sign of something. That the years can dull the pain, at least enough that you can write about it, can share it with others.
Years ago I talked with a psychic. She told me I would write a book about my brother one day. This was way before I decided to write fiction, so my reaction was…one of surprise. I never thought I would be able to write a novel, and certainly not one that laid bare my pain, my loss.
If you’re over the shock of reading I spoke with a psychic, then here’s the important part: She was right. I wrote a novel, and it was about my brother. I didn’t realize it at the time, of course. It took working with Lisa (editor), and some serious introspection to understand that the novel I wrote was about loss. About how to live when you don’t necessarily or always want to, how to move past the guilt and pain and anger to a place where you can remember the good times without crying yourself to sleep. Oh, tears still flow – but not as uncontrollably.
Two weeks ago one of my uncles – George Patino – died of a heart attack. My brother’s middle name was George, named after our uncle. My brother considered being an architect, like my uncle. My oldest son’s first name is Stephen, named after my brother, Steven. See how things come round like that? How the memories and the connections and the love never really goes away? That’s in my novel, too. Those connections that carry us through, that maintain our will to live when times are dark, and show us that life can still be good, even great and beautiful.
When you read advice on writing, you often get the message that you should write what you know and not be afraid to put yourself out there, not hold back. When I started working with Lisa, she said there would be places I would go that would be…uncomfortable. I think this is part of what she meant. I didn’t sign up for this when I started my urban fantasy, that much I know. I had no intention of putting myself out there like that, of exposing my wounds. Nor did I make the connection between my choice of characters – someone who will, theoretically, never die – and the sense of loss I continued to carry. Still carry. But perhaps it was too be expected. If you hold something in so long, it will find a way out. So I will continue to put myself out there – in my writing, and maybe one day ‘in real life’. Though sharing this face-to-face with someone too often, or with too many people, is not something for which I’m ready.
Put yourself out there, bare all. It may hurt, you may cry, but it will help not only your writing and your ability to connect to readers, it will help your soul.
Tears still flow…