Can you lose something you never truly had?
To be fair, I’m not great at keeping track of my own stuff—car keys, my phone, possibly a wedding anniversary or two. In fact, I once misplaced my car in a parking garage for much longer than I care to admit.
But for the most part, those losses are material objects, “things” of one kind or another, and most things can be replaced. What can’t be replaced are the relationships we lose over the course of our lifetimes, including those people close to us, such as classmates, friends, parents, or grandparents. No one can go through life without realizing early on how ephemeral that life can be.
As a voracious reader, I’ve also suffered losses of a completely different type. How many times have I neared the end of a novel, only to be gut-punched when I realized that the relationships I had been enjoying with all of these new friends would soon be ending? Honestly, it can be downright depressing and even physically debilitating, with a recovery time that can span weeks or months. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Chronicles of Narnia.
With that in mind, imagine my increasingly precarious emotional state as I worked on the last chapter of WHITE, the final book of my Firebrand Trilogy. I mean, this was my world, and these were my characters and friends. The entire universe was concocted in my slightly warped mind and entered word by word into my computer over the course of years. Reading this trilogy might only take a dedicated soul a few days or weeks, but I’ve been weaving this tapestry from the threads of my imagination for over half a decade. Was I ready to say goodbye to all this? Was I ready for these characters to vanish into some literary Rapture? Hell, no!
I began writing the Firebrand trilogy back in 2017, and I finished WHITE, the final book, a few months ago. As I was working on the last chapter, I found myself backing off a little. I thought at first that I was more concerned with giving the characters the proper send-off they deserved. But as the final pages loomed, it dawned on me that I didn’t want this journey to end. Scout, Singer, Carly, and even Hunter were more tangible to me than I thought possible, even more real than the memories of some actual people from my past. Regardless, as I typed the last few sentences and hit the period key for the final time, I found myself almost overwhelmed by a sense of melancholy: my goal for so long had been to finish this story and to wrap up the adventures for these characters, but I hadn’t counted on the pervading sense of loss I would experience by doing so.
Fast-forward several months, and that initial tsunami of loss has, as you would imagine, begun to wash back out to sea. Since I completed WHITE, I’ve had to review the manuscript several times in preparation for its release in November. This has been the normal back-and-forth editing that everyone has to go through. I’ve probably read it cover to cover four or five times now, to the point where I really hope I don’t have to again anytime soon.
However, whenever I read those final pages, that sense of loss returns, although it’s blunted a bit more each time. I’m trying to decide if that’s a good thing or not. I don’t know, but perhaps I’ll have to rely on readers of the books to let me know. I mean, if they’re as upset about losing these characters as I was, then I’ve done my job as a writer.
After all, we all know misery loves company.