When you write a story, you know its insides as well as its skin color, its height, the shape of its mouth and its eyes. A lot of people burn through books these days and walk away with a photograph in their mind of what the story looked like, memories of the feelings that it gave them, maybe a smear of its blood on their lips or a few bruises where the story tried to open them up and slip inside. But it’s rare that people really see the bones.
But then sometimes a person reads your book and they have no bruises, because the had no resistance to its punches. They let the story move inside of them, meanwhile slicing through to the heart of the story itself. They peel back the skin, examine the muscles, the connective tissue, the organs, the waste. They bite into the marrow of the story, the place where fantasy turns back to reality, and they understand the ineffable, the seed power that spouted into the novel before them.
I got an email this morning that told me the reader had done that. (I would post it here, except that it’s spoiler-heavy) I felt at once totally naked, totally free, and totally understood. The things he saw in The Hierophant were not projections, as sometimes happens when you hand a story over to the world. They are genuinely there, carefully cultivated and hidden in the text, the characters, and the metaphor of fantasy. And he told me he recognized them. And there is nothing quite as empowering as the feeling of being seen and understood.
On the outside, it is easy to pitch my novel as a paranormal fantasy adventure complete with magic and demons and true love. But let’s be honest: those books are a dime a dozen these days, especially in YA. So I have always wanted nothing more than to tell people about the soul of it–the secrets of it–the things that, even though it is a fantastical story, can be taken away into the “real world.” I want the jacket blurb to talk about Ana and Kyla’s amazing friendship; about Ana’s relationship with her ancestors and her desire to belong somewhere without changing who she is; about how Ana’s father is only human, doing the best he can; about how we each choose and learn to bear our crosses differently.
But that’s the point of the novel, isn’t it? To express those things that can’t be said in just a few words. To express those things that must be said with story.
And if I tell you about it, well, that ruins the magic of discovering it for yourself, doesn’t it?
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