It began with a single sentence. Now I’m left with the terrifying prospect of explaining everything that came after.
I wanted my brother back.
Seemed simple at the time. One thought, unspoken, bounding around my head day after day. But it bred. Opened up a world in which pain and suffering were the norm. Where desperation led to reckless behavior. Where truth and hope were no longer allies.
Mark Murphy had a story to tell and, at times, I wanted no part of it. It stung. Pulled out a sadness in me that lingered and scoffed at my attempts to wish it away. 30 years of suppession let loose and I came to understand that grief never ends. Then grief reared its head anew and everything on Mark’s journey became mine. We traveled together–we still travel together–and shared tears more often than I am able to admit.
The Weight of Ashes was easily the most emotionally challenging story I have ever told, much less written. It is the best thing I have ever written. And that’s saying something because I’ve become a bit of a perfectionist with my writing. I don’t brag much at all. I just write.
In two weeks, it releases. Readers will be able to buy it anywhere. That is awesome. And terrifying. I won’t speak on behalf of every writer, but I know I can speak on behalf of most of them. We control our imagined worlds and characters, we edit and rewrite to get it where it needs to be, we work with beta readers and critique groups and agents and editors, striving to make it the best book possible. Then, if we’re fortunate enough, it’s wrapped up in a pretty little bundle of pages and binding and set loose in the world and we can’t do a single thing about it. We’ve lost control. There’s joy, don’t get me wrong. There’s beauty in seeing that book baby sitting nice and shiny in a store.
It’s gorgeous. The smile can’t stretch far enough. Pride and joy and love and hope and intense happiness.
And fear. So much fear.
What if it doesn’t sell?
What if people don’t like it?
Did I do enough with the story? Will people emotionally connect with my character? With my story?
Oh, God. I just bore my soul to the world. Why didn’t I just go to therapy?
Alright, so maybe the fear isn’t always grounded. Maybe it’s an overreaction to, I don’t know, artistic desire or something nonsensical like that. But it’s real and present and a writer can only tighten their hands on the safety bar, watch the rising hill of the roller coaster, close their eyes (or more likely leave them open because every writer is curious about what their death will look like), and hope for the best. Probably not going to buy that picture of us screaming our way down, but still.
Crazy thing is this isn’t abnormal. This is what most every writer experiences as their book baby goes out into the world, no matter how many they’ve had. It. Is. Normal. Breathe. Relax. Enjoy the ride, okay?
Remember that the next time you read a book. There’s a soul attached to that story. There’s a reason authors plead for reviews, and not simply the business-related and most definitely true reason. It isn’t even about getting positive reviews (though, yes it is) or even bad reviews (which, no it isn’t), but peace in knowing that it is being read.
I am very much one who believes that speaking something aloud makes it real. I wanted Mark to learn that lesson. In that way, The Weight of Ashes is now real. It is in the world. Speaking daily. That is a most amazing and wonderful truth. Everything I poured into Mark’s journey is real. No longer imagined, but living in the hands of readers. On shelves of bookstores. In the homes of others. Mark can now share his heart with everyone.
And that scares the living hell out of me.