First, I have to say I’m excited. Like, hugely. Every Move is about to be released into the wild – uh, I mean, the world – and it’s thrilling to know that in a few short weeks, people will be reading it.
It’s also NERVE-WRACKING, like whoah. I don’t think I’ve been this nervous for a book release before – I don’t think I was even this nervous with Every Breath. I’m worried that readers won’t like it, or won’t find it a satisfying conclusion to a series in which they’ve invested time and love. I’m worried about typos (every book has ‘em. Me and Sophie tried our utmost, but like head lice, they’re really really hard to thoroughly eradicate.). I’m worried about the spicy bits – I’ve tried to judge it right, but I can’t cover all folks’ comfort levels. I’m worried about what reviewers will say (I know! I shouldn’t read them! But I can’t help it).
So, yeah – stress. Nerves. But exciting ones.
Speaking of stress, there was one thing I wanted to talk about before the book came out: it’s the subject of Rachel’s PTSD. I think it’s pretty clear, from the blurb on the back of the book, that Rachel has had a reaction to all the trauma she went through in Every Word. Which stands to reason, yeah? She and Mycroft had a pretty horrifying time in London.
I’ve always tried to be true to the characters in the series: that’s been really important to me, that it’s obvious to the reader that chasing after murderers and hunting down clues isn’t totally risk-free. It’s a fictional world, but I’ve tried to keep it real. I haven’t glossed over the danger, or the injuries that both Rachel and Mycroft have copped in the series.
They both carry some physical scars. But in Every Move, Rachel is suffering some of the psychological effects of those experiences. Safe to say – without spoilers – that she is still having a rough time many weeks after England, and is exhibiting a lot of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. Mycroft too, although he is coping with it in a demonstrably different way. I wanted it to be clear that Rachel and Mycroft are just ordinary kids, who’ve experienced something terrible and have a reaction to that. There’s no way I was going to just write it like ‘ok, we solved that one, la-li-la, now everything’s fine!’ In real life, it wouldn’t be fine. In Every Move, it’s definitely not fine.
At this point, I need to credit someone here for some help, someone who (unfortunately, and my deep apologies) didn’t get a credit in the Acknowledgements. Braiden Asciak – who is, I have to say, a superstar - provided me with some fantastically useful info on PTSD and how it’s diagnosed and treated.
PTSD sufferers display some classic symptoms, and I’m gonna detail them right here: recurrent distressing memories, recurrent distressing dreams, disassociative reactions (flashbacks), intense psychological distress in response to cues, marked physiological reactions to cues, persistent negative emotional state and exaggerated negative beliefs about oneself/others, diminished interest in significant activities, irritable/reckless/self-destructive behaviour and emotional outbursts, and hypervigilance.
These are only a few of the issues around the disorder. It was my job in Every Move to write Rachel as coping with the problem, and hopefully finding her way out of it.
There are readers out there who will find Rachel’s struggle difficult to read. I wanted to say that I didn’t include ‘trigger warnings’ with this book, for a couple of reasons. One is that they’re not in common use in print publishing – in Australia, or anywhere else that I know of. Two is that I’m with Roxane Gay on this issue: I don’t think that trigger warnings are useful. They provide the illusion of safety. Just about anything is a trigger for somebody. It’s clear from the Every Move blurb that the issue comes up. I will trust the reader to make the decision about what they’re okay to read. In the end, no one can make that assessment and decision except the reader themselves.
I also wanted to point out that there are no links at the end of the book to PTSD support organisations. I did suggest it, but again, it’s something not frequently done in Australian fiction. But I’m getting in touch with organisations like Beyond Blue, SANE Australia, ReachOut (for teenagers and children), and headspace (the National Youth Mental Health Foundation) to let them know the book is coming out, and that it deals with the issue.
Something else I wanted to say is that I’ve experienced PTSD myself. My partner and I lived in Indonesia for a long time, and we lived and worked in Jakarta during the fall of President Soeharto in 1998-99. It was a period of dreadful political and social upheaval. We didn’t live in a gated expat enclave, but in an apartment building right in the middle of the one of the most riot-prone areas of the city.
I was working at an international school at the time: all my students and I had overnight bags in a locker in case we couldn’t leave, after a nearby school’s bus was overturned and set on fire one afternoon – all the kids made it out, thank god. I rang my partner every day to find out if the roads were clear of riots, so I could make it home. I rode a motorbike, and needed to know if I would have to dodge rocks, Molotov cocktails, military forces or angry crowds. My partner and I were at home on the day a large contingent of tertiary students staged a protest march along our main road. Military forces fired on that rally, and many students were killed – and we watched it all happen, hiding behind the concrete balcony of our apartment.
It was not a good time. It was a horrible time, and when we finally left the country, we were heartsore and traumatised. The country we loved to be in was tearing itself to pieces.
We left Indonesia and went to India, for a six-month hiatus. Unfortunately we arrived in the middle of Diwali. The constant explosion of firecrackers made both us edgy. We jumped at loud noises, and had bad dreams. We recovered to a large extent, but it’s still a time of my life I remember with a great deal of anxiety. Typing this out now, my hands are shaking. When I try to explain it to people, they look at me like I’m joking, like it’s exaggerated recall, or something I saw once in a movie. But it was real, and I still get a reaction to the memory.
These experiences made me try really hard to do justice to Rachel’s story in Every Move. I hope I’ve gotten it right. How does Rachel find her way through? Well, I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out :) But I do hope that it strikes a chord with some readers who need to know that it’s possible to recover.
Phew! Okay, it was great to have a chance to talk about things before the book comes out. I hope you like the book, and I’d like to say again a huge thank you to all of you, especially all the readers out there who’ve come this far on the journey with me and Rachel and Mycroft. I’m feeling the love! Now I better get back to writing (I’m getting there on the new MS), and I’ll be in touch again very soon to let you know about the Every Move launch party (probably March 16 – that’s gonna be the next post) and the upcoming blog tour.
Have a good week, good luck to everyone who’s back at school, and hooray for March!