“Puke and rally, puppy dog. We’re needed on the rooftop.” – Kian, Last Light
When I first started writing the Undertow series, I had no clue what the characters would do for people. What their lives and their story would mean to people. And honestly, I had no clue the impact that the fictional world and characters I’d created would have on me – as a person, as a writer, and as a dreamer.
The writer I was when I started the journey of Eila and her crew, no longer exists.
I no longer write as an outsider, commanding a puppet-crew of characters. Rather, I write AS the character; inside their skin, feeling their heartbeat and the flex of their feet on a stone floor. I’ve had my daughter crash to the floor with a friend, repeatedly, just to see how a body really tumbles when attacked. I’ve stood in the shower ‘til the temp runs cold, just to feel how the water trails over my lips and brow, so I could feel the rain on Ana Lane. I’ve dug through the memories of both heaven and hell, agony and joy, to bring it to the page.
I’m a method writer, not unlike a method actor, and I live inside the character, the world, and the story completely. But some stuff is freakin’ IMPOSSIBLE to feel your way through . . . like smoking, especially when you’re a non-smoker. Like me.
And let me tell ya: I’ve been smoking, on and off, for three days now.
Mainly in my car, occasionally in line at the grocery store.
Granted, the cigarette is imaginary, which really freaks out the casual observer of my madness, but I’m blowing the invisible smoke from my lips and lazily grasping the thin paper cylinder. Want to know what I’ve learned? There’s a thousand and one ways to attempt to look cool smoking . . . in your head at least.
In reality, however, a 40-year-old woman in an older model Jeep, attempting to emulate a supernatural bad-ass smoking a herbal joint, only leads to a hideous rendition of James Dean. Rillin Blackwood needs to smoke what amounts to herbal tea and getting it right in the book may just cause my brain to melt.
I’ve concluded that writing can be hazardous to your mental health, especially if you’re a character writer. I think I’ve finally nailed the scene (and managed to dig deep enough into the mind of Rillin to know how he’d handle a cigarette without looking like a pansy . . . or a 40-year-old chick who’d never smoked).
Last Light is thrilling for me to write – cathartic, I guess. It is also proving to be a challenge because, as of right now, MJ Williams is one of the three POVs telling the story (Eila and Raef round out the trio).
MJ has been the ultimate surprise to me. When he was first written, I kinda made him a side character. But then I met the young man who’d go on to become the model for MJ, signing as the shifter’s character at book launches and dazzling a few fans at writing workshops. In meeting him (Sean Potter), MJ’s character bloomed. Traits of Sean became traits of MJ, and suddenly MJ’s part started to grow. His voice became more defined, his personality undeniable.
And he started to gain a fanbase. A rabid one . . . A “TEAM MJ” developed, reviewers swooned, and pretty soon I knew I had a character on my hands that was a star in his own right.
So, I knew that if the series was to go out with one Hell of a bang, MJ needed a chance to speak. I thought, “How hard could it be? I know this character inside and out – easy peasy.”
WHAT THE DOG FART WAS I THINKING?
Not only does he have a love interest in Last Light (cue the squealing), he also has to deal with the challenge of a lifetime in his alter ego, Marsh. He has to balance the needs of the many with the sarcasm of a few and the needs of his Gal Friday. His voice and personality, so dominant throughout the series, has to display his multifaceted character AND THAT OF HIS SHIFTED FORM.
Seriously, someone slap me if I ever attempt a series this twisted again.
Oh yes . . . and then there’s the Wreckers, a freaky twist about Jack the Ripper, a suicide bomber with ties to the crew, and a chilling limo ride with one very sociopathic bad dude (and the football captain). There’s a nightclub for Killers, Sula Lane’s secrets, and ley lines with ties to the original Five Points of New York.
And there’s Elizabeth. Ya know, the dead chick? Total nightmare.
Welcome to my twisted mind . . .