My current project has been difficult to write, perhaps more so than any project since my first. That’s because it goes places that are dark and personal, and it’s bringing up some memories that are kind of painful. It deals with loss and grief, and I’ve had more experience with those than I care to think about. And yet, I am compelled to put this pain down on paper; I’ve drawn from my inner turmoil and darkness before, which is what helps make my main character, Scott Campbell, so sympathetic. He’s not just some blood-thirsty vampire, he’s a person who has had his share of sufferings, and will only come into more suffering as his story plays out. So it is with life.
Needless to say, this has not been the most enjoyable project I’ve done. I’d love to skip through the hard parts and get to the more exciting and fun part, but I can’t. That would be short changing Scott’s journey. It would not be honest to his story, or to the stories of the characters involved. So here I go, into dark territory, because I feel I must.
Perhaps it’s a form of catharsis. I’ve found writing to be quite cathartic, as a way of working out my struggles and frustrations, and this, I hope, should be no different. I confront my pain, my darkness, and that way acknowledge its truth, but in a way deny its power — that pain and darkness is there, but it does not dominate me. At least, that’s the idea.
I don’t suppose the pain ever goes away, and, to some extent, I don’t want it to go away. I’m afraid, that if it does go away entirely, then I’m not honoring that which I have lost. If the pain goes away, then I’m afraid that the pleasant memories will mean less. I don’t know if that’s true, I only know it’s the way I perceive it.
Life is hard, and none of us gets out unscathed. I remember back to JRR Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings: In a line that was paraphrased in the movie version, Frodo tells Gandalf that his wounds from a year earlier are still aching. Gandalf replies, “Alas! There are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured.” And so it is in life; some wounds will never fully heal, not in this life. That does not mean they will destroy us, or that they will poison us, only that they remain, and we who live on must learn to carry on despite that pain.
And then, there’s the fact that certain characters in the Suburban Vampire series have run their courses. Their stories have been told, their contribution to the whole story of Scott Campbell have been made, and now it is time for them to retire, to go to their rewards. For some, these rewards will be rich and joyful, for others, not so much. There is a catchphrase about “killing your darlings” that has been bandied about literary circles, and, in the interest of ‘keeping it real’, here I go, killing some of my darlings. Now, don’t get the wrong impression; I’m not going full George RR Martin here, but I am telling a continuing story, one that includes not only loss, and hardship, and darkness, but also love, and hope, and light. Perhaps it is because of darkness that the light is made all the more brighter. Perhaps it is because of hardship that hope is made all the more sweeter. Perhaps it is because of loss that love is made all the more dearer. Perhaps, as cruel and evil as things seem, there is more to the story.
I have faith, and hope, that, in the immortal lyrics of BB King, there must be a better world somewhere. A world where pain, and grief, and loss, and hardship, and darkness, are no more. I am staking my claim on that. And I hope I am able to communicate that through my writing. That includes going places I don’t want to go. But I know I’m not going there alone.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with a bit of a thought that is true, no matter what you believe or where you are in life, because it’s a universal truth: “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT).