After I finished writing GABRIEL’S ROAD, which Book View Cafe published this week, I wrote the Author’s Note wherein I explained why the book was coming out later than anticipated, and also poked into why the story went where it did, and how I realized — after the fact — what I was writing about.
And why the book was so very hard for me to get on the page, even though I’d known for over a year what happened.
It’s all Gabriel’s fault. Or maybe it’s Old Woman Who Never Dies. It’s definitely Graciendo’s fault for giving Gabriel terrible advice, however well-meant (if you’ve read “The Devil’s Hope” in WEST WINDS’ FOOL, you know that Graciendo is not the best role model to follow).
And maybe it’s my fault, too, for letting a character get too real.
From the very beginning of SILVER ON THE ROAD, I knew that Gabriel didn’t have his shit together, although he had a very pretty façade going. While Isobel was facing a traditional coming-of-age, he was coming up to his Second Chance, the opportunity to stop running and finally put down some roots like a grown-ass adult. And for most of the story, that’s how we played it. Until about halfway through RED WATERS RISING, when I realized that he’d been hiding much worse damage than even I knew.
And you can’t put down roots with that much damage – the first storm that comes along will just uproot you again.
So okay, I thought. I’d broken him, I could put him back together. But as I drew Gabriel along this part of his journey, a lot of small, unexpected details both in his actions and his reactions started to feel very familiar to me.
Painfully familiar, in the “oh fuck” kind of way. And it stopped me dead.
Sometimes the writer lizard-brain hides things from you, to make sure that you don’t trip over your own emotional feet. Once I realized what it had been doing, there was a lot of sitting back in my chair and going “huh” happening for a few months, until my front mammal brain finished processing.
Sneaky, story-smart, lizard brain. Because I never would have been able to write this story unless it dumped me into it, self-blind.
I’ve written about my own PTSD as part of the #holdontothelight mental health essay series, (which I highly recommend to anyone wondering ‘is it just me?’) I’ve written characters experiencing PTSD before (FREE FALL, “Apparent Horizon,” and a few others). I had never written a character going through therapy for it before – never even thought about it. But that’s exactly what Gabriel undergoes in this story. and as I look back now, I realize I’ve been writing my own Journey as well.
Less magic in mine, but the monsters were very similar.
Thanks, lizard-brain. It took walking backwards into the story to get it done, but we did it.
Neither Gabriel nor I am ‘cured’ or ‘fixed’ or ‘done.’ We never will be. But we’ll be okay.
And we’re still riding.