There comes a moment in every writer's life when they run into a book that was the hardest book they ever had to write. That book was The Joy Thief for me. There were times this book had me thinking about quitting -- literally closing the book file and walking away -- but I soon figured out that it wouldn't save me.
It's been said in a few reviews of Into the Darkness that Aeryn comes off as "cold" at the start of the book. I'd argue that we never say that about male characters, just female characters. Why can't female characters be as stoical as male characters without being accused of being cold? Also, Aeryn has been haunted by the voice of her dead father since he died.
How would someone describe you if you had to deal with over a year of sleepless nights and feeling like you're never alone in your own head? Aeryn isn't cold, she's just haunted.
She also tends to play life a little closer to the vest than some women. Until The Joy Thief.
When Aeryn and Theo travel to the city of Eben in book 3, Aeryn has to deal with the question of how far would you go to save a friend?
Aeryn nearly died to save the world in Into the Darkness. In The Joy Thief, the danger strikes at something even more personal: the young thief Theo. They were not fast friends when they met in book 1. One might say they even hated each other. But the events of book 1 brought them closer, and now, they are integral parts of each other's lives. One would not be the same without the other.
Cathell may no longer be in danger, but Theo definitely is. And what happens to her is something neither she nor Aeryn knows how to deal with. But if the events in The Joy Thief were hard for Aeryn and Theo to go through, they were even harder for me to write.
Both Aeryn and Theo experience a wide range of complex emotions I honestly hope I never have to experience. I had to reach down and find a way to describe those emotions. About halfway through writing this story, I thought the book would break me.
The reason I say that quitting wouldn't have saved me is this book gets under your skin. As much as I wanted to run away from having to tell this story, I knew I had to finish. If I had any doubt, I also had everyone around me saying that I had to finish.
The story is worth telling, they said.
In the end, I was glad that I made it all the way through, but man, was it hell getting there. What I learned in the process is that the hardest book to write is usually the one you MUST write.
If I had walked away from The Joy Thief, it would have haunted me until I came back. I had something to work out with this book as much as Aeryn and Theo had things they needed to work out.
Honestly, I'm not sure what that was. Maybe just learning not to shy from the hard stories. It's worth it to keep on the stories that aren't as much fun to write. Let me tell you, a damn good story came out of this one.
So if you're a writer like me, and you find yourself in a dark room with a book that's threatening to eat you alive, don't run. Face it.
Face whatever it is that the book is asking from you and do it. I promise you won't regret it.