I’m reminded of some advice I read some years back: the book you could write today will not be the book you write tomorrow. It’s so true.
I’ve been looking back at some of my major works, and have realised just how deeply personal they are to me. In ways that no reader could possibly ever identify, these books are about me, about my life, about the stuff rattling around in my head that mere thought can never quite purge. These books are my demons, the monkeys on my back. Each one reflects one facet of my growth into the man I am today.
This article should not be read as a guide to the books, because (I believe) they will contain different meanings for every reader. This article chronicles what they mean to me at the moment, and how the writing reflects the various stages of my life.
If you want to know what was plaguing my mind at any given point in my life, I suspect you could open up one of the books I wrote in that period and figure out the broad strokes of it quite easily.
But here: I’ll save you the leg work. You’re welcome. (Please still buy the books.)
The Lesser Evil
I started writing The Lesser Evil when I was thirteen. I’d been writing since before I can remember, and I had big dreams for my writing. It was the only thing I wanted for my life. It’s an obvious and direct parallel to Ross’ dream, and the recognition that chasing that dream means turning his back on his family’s plans for him.
The story of The Lesser Evil is fittingly simple, but the themes are clear: to me, it’s a story about dreams. The difficulties, the defeats, and the sacrifices… even if they come true.
I was eighteen when I finished the first draft of Peaceful Tomorrows. Adulthood is not something that clicks on like a light switch, and I was just starting to recognise that fact. In my zeal to find some responsibility to latch onto, I made some mistakes, and starting taking on obligations I couldn’t fulfil, and accountability for things that couldn’t possibly be my fault.
Allowed to make my own life decisions for the first time, and blinded to reality by the choices of the past, I flubbed up in a couple of major ways (though thankfully these self-destructed before they could do any real harm) before finding the path that was right for me.
To me, Peaceful Tomorrows is a book about the transition into adulthood and adult responsibilities.
When I first wrote The Game, I was in the final year of my creative writing degree. I had no lucrative publishing contracts to keep me afloat; the crushing inevitability of a job I’d always feared hung over my head like a dark cloud, low and fierce.
It makes sense that I would turn to a prequel. A book where the ending is a foregone conclusion, and the characters are on a path that they cannot escape. When I read it, I realise that it’s no coincidence that one of the main characters is a child in a cage.
To me, The Game is a book about being trapped.
This story was written in collaboration to a mostly-predetermined story, so its links to my own life are not as clear-cut as my other books.
However, James Flamestar and the Stargazers clearly channels and reflects the passion I’d learned in recent years to feel for my chosen vocation, the commitment I have to creativity, and the fear I have that an all-consuming passion might well end up destroying everything else I hold dear.
At this point in my life, I’ve got a lot of great things. I’ve built an amazing family and a comfortable life. My writing career has kicked off, despite having limited time to tend to it. I can’t shake this feeling that I deserve none of it. That I’m not good enough to have this life, and that I’m not capable of dealing with the challenges that come with it.
Occasionally, this feeling weighs me down so heavily that it feels like the world itself is ending.
Although it features a love triangle as its foremost plot element, Triumviratus is a story about self-esteem, about the difference between feeling worthy and being worthy, and about being a slave to one’s own shortcomings.
If/when you read my work, you may not pick up on any of this (indeed, I might be inserting new meaning into my work where none previously existed – that is the prerogative of the reader, after all). My entire life is allegorised in those pages, my soul laid bare on the page for your consumption.