As with every book I write, there were circumstances, happenings, and shenanigans along the way. For the first time, I’ve included some of those in an Author’s Note in the back of the book. It felt important to share a little bit of my process and my life. And I wanted to include that piece here on my website as well.
So read along if you like, or scroll to the end for a link to buy your copy of Night Strikes. Thank you so much for joining me on the journey.
I love all forms of story, from books to movies to plays. I love folktales told by the light of a campfire and spectacular Hollywood blockbusters in which there are so many explosions that “Explosions” should be listed as a character in the credits. I feel the same way about paintings and drawings and sculpture. And music. So much music.
All of that is to say that, as much or more as I’m a creator of art, I’m a capital-F Fan. There are few things I love more than losing myself in someone else’s art, and the number one force that drives my love of art is connection.
You might have noticed that very short dedication at the front of this book: For Chester.
High on the list of bands whose music I love is Linkin Park, and Chester Bennington was the band’s lead singer. He died in July, and it broke my heart. I never met him, and I never got a chance to see the band perform live, but none of that matters in the end. The connection forged through the music is what matters. Helping each other is what matters.
I wrote Night Strikes while listening to Linkin Park’s music. In fact, I listened to nothing else for months. Although I listened across their entire catalog, I can say unequivocally that their album, A Thousand Suns, was and is a huge blessing for me, and that I was listening to “Iridescent” with tears streaming down my face as I typed the last words of the book in a small upstairs room at an inn on the Oregon coast.
2017 has been a very difficult year. There have been hardships, untimely deaths, natural disasters, and catastrophes created by human beings as well. There has been enormous change. The special headspace I enter when I write—which, for me, is almost entirely the rocky underground of my subconscious mind—has sometimes felt hard to access. But I do the work of excavating there anyway, because that is where my deepest hope lives. And damned if we don’t need all the hope we can get.
Every artist I know has expressed something similar.
Alongside my greatest hope lives my greatest fear, of course. Usually, I find a way to dance with it so that I can return from the deep with the treasures that become words on the page.
That’s how it works for me. That’s how it’s always worked. With Night Strikes, however, something different happened.
I typed, “The End.” I sent the finished draft to my wonderful first readers, who are also terrific writers and friends, and spent a week handling other things, including herding cats at my day job (that’s my official title there: Cat Herder). I handled all of the other stuff that goes by the wayside when I’m writing. And then I got a phone call about the book.
My friend and first reader said, “You realize you forgot to write the climax of this novel, right?”
I hadn’t realized that at all—not until she told me. I mean, the climax of a book is its reason for being. Why would I leave out something so important?
For a good reason: I would have to delve into particularly tender places in my subconscious in order to write the climax of Night Strikes, and I just plain didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to dance with the fear this time.
But I couldn’t leave the book without a reason for being.
So, I had a good laugh on the phone with my friend. And then I canceled my pumpkin-carving plans for that afternoon, put on some Linkin Park, and breathed through the dance. In the process, I healed a part of my broken heart.
I learn something new with every story and every novel, which is really a polite way of putting it. It skims over the hard work, making it look effortless even if it was anything but. A dear, departed friend of mine had a better take, and I’d rather put it his way.
Writing this novel, like every other meaningful life experience, was AFOG—another fucking opportunity for growth.
As they say, everyone you meet is facing a challenge you may know nothing about. So, please, be kind to yourselves and each other. And when we fall down, let’s help pick each other up.
Wishing you stories, magic, and heart,
November 26, 2017