If you could find five minutes for yourself to sit down and read my thoughts here, I’d greatly appreciate it. Even share it if you’re so inclined. Thanks again, everybody, for all the support.
There’s a reason the cover for my box set is strikingly similar to the cover of My Abigail.
When I release the Gold Collection Box Set this August, there will be some minor differences in the books you read. However, none of those changes will compare to the additions in My Abigail, which has been available on Amazon since March 30, 2016.
Why, over three years later, is this book so heavy on my mind? If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, whether this blog or via Facebook, you’ve heard about the book a lot. I often hint that it’s my favorite, most important to me, etc. You might have assumptions about why, or even about the book itself if you’ve never read it. I’m here to answer those questions… do my best anyways.
(Maybe some light spoilers up ahead. At least read the section that says “read this section” below.)
A Process of Self
Up to March 2016, I’d only written She (a very soft, cushion-y horror novel) and As Trees Turned Away (a collection of “scary” short stories that basically focused on ambiguous endings.) While both of these works have been successful in their own way and filled a void of writing, neither of them really reflected me. At the time, I was a miserable 16-year-old, stuck in my own head, and fighting my own battles. To make matters worse, nobody my age seemed to be dealing with the same questions/concerns/anxiety/depression (and no, I don’t use that word lightly) at that time. Looking back three years later, I know that wasn’t entirely true.
I wanted to write a book about somebody who’s unique, who’s an outcast, who suffers and must make gut-wrenching choices and live with that memory for the rest of their life. In short, I wanted to write about Caleb, the central figure in the book. Who I stumbled onto was Abigail, the creepy girl who sets Caleb’s life on fire and then… destroys it. I don’t want to spoil anything (you should read the book, people), but they are both dark characters in a dark world. I was… some kind of character, in a world I didn’t understand and didn’t feel part of.
There is a particular scene in the middle of the book where Caleb finds out something horrible. Emotional abuse, physical abuse, rape, violence… there’s a reason I put the whole chapter in italics, basically saying “skip this part if you want. You won’t feel the book like you should, but you might save your sanity.” At this point in the book, I’d used minimal cuss words. I was 16 attending a Christian high school, after all, and felt uncomfortable. The book to that point wasn’t all that different from She. Very cozy. Very easy. Brisk.
I spent a couple of weeks talking about “the scene” with my dad/first editor. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. I needed this scene, because My Abigail needed it. The story wouldn’t be complete otherwise. The story wouldn’t be felt. And I wanted this book, above everything else, to have feeling, to have soul, to test emotions and beliefs.
In the end, we included the scene. I broke down writing it. I still do when I read it. But I’m so glad I left it.
I have a real hatred of happy endings and I’m not sure why. She, obviously, doesn’t have a happy ending, but I knew that the sequel would turn out a little better for the characters. I wanted a book with a sad ending. A horrible ending. And I did it. Every time I read My Abigail, I think to myself, “I really should change this now.” But I don’t. I fight myself to keep it, because I wanted it that way and I’ll leave it.
I won’t tell you what happens, obviously, but the ending is another point I struggled with. For this book, I knew exactly where I wanted it to end. I got to that point, and I did it quickly. The edition in the Gold Set has some extra chapters, and I recently added a prologue to the version available on Amazon. For the most part, it’s a short book with a powerful punch. Change the ending and I would’ve lost that punch.
I still have a hatred of happy endings and I still don’t know why. They feel more real. They feel more honest. And it feels like stepping into that darkness and saying “I’m not afraid of you. I can handle you.” Even if I can’t. It’s a step.
So what’s the point? (read this Section If Nothing Else)
My Abigail didn’t sell the most copies or make the most money. It doesn’t have the best star rating. It isn’t the newest, the flashiest, or the longest. But it changed me as a person. It influenced how I viewed the world around me, and by writing I processed that world. Without the act of creating this book, I don’t know how I would be today, or who I would be.
My Abigail forced me to confront dark realities, both in my fictional town and inside my own head. As Caleb wades through the mystery, deceit, and consequences of the world he calls home, I explore and inspect my own.
I thought, maybe, that the book would lose significance for me after years. After all, I lost my grandpa, my great-grandparents, my parents divorced, and I’ve seen my friends go through some… pretty bad stuff. But in spite of that, and perhaps because of it, My Abigail only grows on me more and more.
For three years, I’ve refused to say goodbye. I’ve had tie-ins, short stories, anything to keep it alive. I think… at last I’m ready to. When this box set comes to life, the book that changed my life will die. And I’m okay with that. It’s time to move on. I can only hope that you will feel half of what I did, and that it will stick with you like it has me.
This quote by Christopher Paolini is one of my favorites because it still rings true, especially to someone who lives in created realms of horror.
Without fear, there cannot be courage. In the same way, without darkness, you can’t appreciate light.
If nothing else, I hope My Abigail helps you remember that. Darkness, pain, and suffering are not part of our world; they are our world. The beauty in life is when you face that reality, face it with friends and family. It makes the shadows… not quite so scary.
The Long Goodbye
It’s time to let go, chase other books, write the next “best” one I can be proud of. My Abigail reminds me that I am capable of creating something worthy, something I can be glowing with pride when I mention. And at the end of the day, that means I’ll never fully say goodbye.
But I will stop writing about it, so there you go. A conclusion.
Goodbye, Abigail. And thank you.