Two weeks from today, A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS hits your shelves! If you haven’t preordered it yet, you can do that here. Also, if you’re my Patreon supporter at the $3 level or above, you get my books before they come out as soon as I get the eARCs! You can also listen to an excerpt of the audiobook, narrated by Amber Benson, right over yonder.
I was thinking this week about grief.
I got to do final proofs of KEYS, which involved also getting to see some of the gorgeous interior design (this book is PRETTY, y’all, SO PRETTY). That also meant I came face to face with the dedication I wrote and then apparently forgot about. I knew that I was writing the dedication to my cousin Nate, who passed away very suddenly almost five years ago. But I forgot that I went a bit further than a simple line or two.
When I opened the files and started looking through the front matter, flyleaf, copyright page, bibliography of my work (which holy shit, is getting long), I naturally ran smack into the dedication.
I’ll show it to you.
Nate should still be here.
One of the themes I’ve been living for the past few years since he died is the presence of the past.
We humans like to think of ourselves as three dimensional beings, but in reality, that’s false. We are not three dimensional beings. We exist in four.
There are three spatial dimensions (that we know of) and one temporal (that we know of). We tend to think of time as a one-way, linear thing. But a line is the first dimension and time is the fourth. Time cannot possibly be as simple as a one way line.
This is a theme I went in-depth with in November’s release, LOOK TO THE SUN, but in a different way.
In A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS, my protagonist Ella still feels the loss of her brother every day. Anyone who has ever experienced that kind of grief knows how present it is. How present we are in it. It doesn’t matter how much distance has happened between us and it — time is not a line. It’s not like traveling from New York to Mumbai. It’s more like the ground beneath our feet; no matter how far we walk, that ground is still there. Even if we’re on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic, deep below, eventually there’s dirt and rock beneath us.
Ella’s story is about grief. It’s also about magic and control and myriad other things. Love and family. Hope and trust. Who we let into our weird little worlds. What sacrifices we make for those we love.
A lot of times when we’re grieving, we feel broken. We’re not. We’re working exactly the way that is most human, to feel. To miss those we love. To look into the hole they left and feel like nothing in the world will ever be okay again. That’s normal. That’s not broken; that’s hurting. And it’s okay.
A lot of the time, people want grief to have an end point. They want us to be okay one day. They want us to stop talking about it, probably because it’s a reminder of our own mortality and the mortality of the people they love too.
But grief doesn’t have an end date.
Part of my little quantum schtick is to talk about how we exist in the past all the time. We exist in it, because clearly we were there and it happened. So we’re always still there, too. It’s why I can close my eyes and hear thunder on Pelee. It’s why I can still see that rainbow that appeared in the sky after the trees and Lake Erie stopped churning. It’s why I can still see Nate’s face, sitting across from me on the porch with his friend, see his smile and his slightly crooked teeth. It’s why I can still hear his voice through the phone line, read how many countless emails he and I sent to me when he joined the Air Force. It’s why I can still feel the trepidation that he wouldn’t accept me, because he was 17 and had blue hair and I was a tooth-bracketed spotty loser of a 14-year-old. I can feel all of that as if it were happening now and not years ago.
Sometimes I think if I turn my head quickly enough he’ll be there, shaking his head at me and telling me to chill. Or maybe he’d just sit with me like we did on Pelee and listen to the night air.
And I still hear my other cousin’s voice on the phone that dreadful morning. I was on my way to work. And I didn’t believe her at first. It wasn’t possible.
That’s so often how grief feels: impossible.
It keeps feeling impossible.
But existing in the past isn’t all we do.
We also exist in this swiftly-passing present. We exist in the futures that haven’t happened yet. We can keep our pasts with us and keep moving.
And that’s ultimately what this book is about. It’s a quieter book. There aren’t any slummoths that come running through the wilds of Buffalo, New York. Ella doesn’t have any swords, and if she did, she probably wouldn’t be very good at using them. She’s not perfect. She’s sometimes selfish. Her friends aren’t perfect either. They can be resentful and sometimes make bad choices. Her family is not perfect. Her friends’ families are not perfect. In fact, they’re often really…wrong. But love isn’t about perfection.
I hope you like this book.
I want to hear about people you love and miss. Tell me a story in the comments, if you want. Let us remember them too.
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