Lately, I've been working hard to finish Retribution and stay on track for a March 26th release. It's not going as well as I'd hoped, for various reasons, and I'm starting to contemplate pushing back the release date for both Retribution and Revenge.
Although it's been a shaky road lately, I've experienced some moments while writing that have reminded me how surprising and personal the process can be. After writing one of the most recent scenes in Retribution, I was brought to tears. Not only because of what the character Juriel was experiencing, but because of how similar her turmoil was to my own.
Before I share the excerpt with you, I want to give you some background.
My dad died when I was 12. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer when I was 9, and the three years that followed were spent living in hospitals as both he and my mom battled cancer. (My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer the year my dad was in remission.)
My family was extremely religious. I grew up as a staunch Roman Catholic. I followed the rules. I went to Mass and Confessions. I never got into trouble, and I did and said all the right things.
When my dad became ill, I was told to pray. "If you pray hard enough, he'll be all right," they said.
So I did.
But my prayers didn't work. No one's prayers worked. Remission lasted for only one year. The cancer returned. He went into surgery. They opened him up, realized there wasn't anything they could do, and closed the incision. The cancer had spread to his liver, lungs, and brain.
I watched him slowly waste away until his death, all the while frustrated and confused as to why all of this had happened - why my prayers weren't working. After his death, I blamed myself. I hadn't prayed hard enough. I didn't believe enough.
If I'd tried harder, he would still be alive.
In the months and years that passed, this fear and guilt of not doing enough transferred into my other relationships. I had few friends, but those I did have, I latched onto quickly. I'd do anything for friends, help them with whatever they needed. I couldn't say no. I needed to try as hard as I could to keep them. As a result, I became overbearing, and lost many of the relationships I tried to hard to protect.
So, when finished writing the excerpt below, I thought, "Shit, that's me."
Juriel’s heart swelled with pride at what the Order had become. “This is because of you,” Juriel whispered, wishing Jae could hear her. “You made this possible. You were the light the kingdom needed. Not me.”
Overcome with grief, Juriel let her pack fall to the ground; staring at the college through her tears, she sat on the frozen grass. What the hell am I doing? The thought echoed through her mind before fading away into oblivion.
The absence of an answer frightened her. She felt lost, like an abandoned pup trying to find her own way through the woods. But for what? She had no direction. No sense of purpose. Nothing that would bring her a taste of worth if she managed to find her way through the maze of trees and brush.
Since Jae’s death, she’d been turning in circles, looking for something – anything – that would make her happy. But she’d never made any real progress. She continued to latch on to other Mé’Draak, forming quick bonds with them in hopes they would replace what she’d lost. Her attachment became faster each time, and she became more vulnerable and broken after each loss.
She’d blamed herself for Jae’s death. She hadn’t been good enough or strong enough. She could have tried harder to help him. With each friendship, she vowed to do better than the previous one. Each time, she failed.
Each time, her heart broke further, her insecurities compounded, and the cycle continued.
The only loss she had a chance to amend, was Ganmér’s.
Juriel sat a little taller at the revelation. That was why she’d become so stubborn about Ganmér’s rescue. It had become a way to prove her worth. Not only to herself, but to her fellow Mé’Draak in the Order.
To prove that just once, she’d been able to save someone she loved.
The above excerpt from Retribution reminded me of how inspiration can sneak up on you. Personal experiences can seep into your characters without you realizing it. It can be difficult and painful, but it can also make for some of the most raw and relatable characters.
Have you had a moment where you were surprised to see similarities between yourself and one of your characters? Have you ever had inspiration sneak up on you?
Share in the comments below!
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