Spoiler warning: If you haven’t read Graveyard Shift yet and want to avoid spoilers, save this blog post for after you read it.
Graveyard Shift has been out for almost four months, but at this time last year, I was still writing it. For those of you who read it, I wanted to talk a bit about that scene — the one that made a few readers cry, made others knock stars off their rating of the book, and made some other readers angry. All completely valid reactions.
I’m talking about Iskander’s death.
From a storytelling perspective, I knew someone needed to die in this book. They were facing Hudson’s nightmare and the consequences for failure had to be huge. It was like the scene in Serenity, just before the climax, when Wash manages to land the ship and everyone’s safe and—he gets killed. Right then, you knew that none of the characters were safe in the upcoming fight.
So my first synopsis included Iskander’s death. He was never supposed to survive the first book, but…he did. (Just like I had the bad guy all planned out in Not Dead Yet, and then Julia surprised me and walked onto the page in the big reveal.) I hemmed and hawed about Iskander’s death because I really didn’t want to pile the pain on Evan. My editor came back and asked for some changes to the plot (not about the death, but stakes), and I decided to change who was going to die, and how. I started the book with that plan in mind.
And then, on March 1, 2019, my dad passed away.
He was battling lung cancer for the fourth time. I wanted to believe the chemo was working and he’d beat it this time like he’d done the other three times. But he didn’t. Things got very bad, very quickly, and I’m so grateful I was able to be with him and my mom when he passed.
I can hardly believe it’s been a year.
When I got back to writing — because I was in the middle of drafting Graveyard Shift, and had to push deadlines back — I let my grief out onto the page. Iskander died. A character all the other characters in the book loved. And through that, I was able to process some of the things I was feeling in that moment. Putting my grief into writing helped me deal.
The audiobook of Graveyard Shift is sitting on my phone, untouched, waiting for me to listen to it. Greg Boudreaux is such an amazing narrator and I absolutely loved how he brought the first two books to life. But I can’t do it. Not yet. Because that grief is real, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to revisit it.
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time, just to share. Thanks for reading.