This past Monday, I did a live chat on Google Hangouts with my friend Alanna Schaffer to discuss one of the characters in Shattered Illusions, Danny Michaels. Danny was my favorite character to write, because he was the most difficult to create. Building Danny’s life took more energy and more emotion than the others, who I felt were, in some way, a part of me. Danny, the destructive, angry, juvenile delinquent was completely out of my comfort zone. Getting out of your comfort zone is good. We should all do it as often as possible. I took that chance with Danny, and it caused me to fall in love with him. He grew up the most of the four protagonists in the novel, and I was able tp appreciate his mind and his decisions by the time I reached the last page. But, what does this have to do with fear? A few things, but I’m not ready to tell you yet.
I asked my friends and fans on Facebook and Twitter to submit questions for Alanna and I to discuss during the chat. My favorite question was this: “If you were to write an epilogue ten years into the future, where would Danny be?” Ah, we’ve located the fear: Questions about the future are perhaps the scariest thing in the world (for me). When people question my future, I choke up and feel ill. The same thing tends to happen when people ask me about my characters. Talking about things that I have no answer to scare me. A lot. I mean more than spiders, heights and the boogyman. Fear of the future is the fear that shapes my life, because there isn’t a day that goes by when I am not in constant worry of what will be, and how it will come to be. The fear of regret or fear of making the wrong decision come in close proximity. I wrote my fear of the future into Danny Michaels, the rebellious know it all. The guy who doesn’t seem to give a flying flip about the direction of his life or where the future will take him is in fact the most terrified of them all. The difference between Danny and I is that he does a better job of hiding just how scared he is.
The truth is that I did write an epilogue, but a year into the future, not ten. Where would he be? Back in his shell, a bit disillusioned with life, still angry, but not as hard on himself as he once was. In a nutshell, Danny would still be left to wander. Even though he would eventually find his ‘fit’ in the world, a year into the future wasn’t that time. It scared me to admit that during the webcast, because, freakishly enough, the unpublished epilogue mirrors my life, almost exactly. Danny finds himself washed up and undetermined based on the circumstances following the last chapter of Shattered Illusions (I’m not giving any spoilers). The big question on his mind is ‘now what?’ That’s a question I find myself asking a lot lately. Where am I going? What am I doing? Who am I going to be? NOW WHAT? At the end of the unpublished epilogue, Danny has a little bit of a silver lining. Though it may not be easy, he’ll find his place, he’ll figure things out, he’ll get his act together. He’ll be okay. And that’s what I have to keep telling myself as well: Things are going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. If something doesn’t work for you, that’s okay too, you can always try something else. There is no wrong or right way to go about life. So, yes, I have a deep, deep fear of the future. Yes, my knees buckle whenever people ask me about the book, or about school or work or my social or marital status…but, no one has the answers to these kinds of questions. Every person in the world has to figure out what the right place for them is. It’s okay to be afraid, as long as you don’t allow the fear to take over your life. So I tell Danny, so I tell myself.
(You can watch the video of the live chat here.