I’ve been writing some posts over at P&K Blog about my new INKomplete series. This is the third post of four so I’ll be posting them here out of sync. Ah well…
The Hardest Story I’ve Ever Written…
Have you ever attempted to write something that touches on a topic so important, so meaningful to so many people, that you’re terrified of… well, fucking it up?
I can’t begin to explain the doubt I felt when writing INKurable, the third story in the INKomplete series. My main character, Phee, is diagnosed with breast cancer earlier in the series and this story describes her journey as she comes to term with the illness and how it affects both her mind and body.
Cancer touches so many people’s lives that there is no doubt that at least one person reading about Phee’s journey will have a personal experience of their own, either through their own diagnosis or that of a loved one. The thought of getting it wrong, of not doing that journey justice, really did make writing this story so much more difficult than I thought it would be.
Firstly, there was more research involved for this than for anything else I’ve ever written—including my dissertation! If you get the technical details wrong on something like this then you lose the reader at page one. I’m not saying it’s perfect—it’s far from it, in fact—but I gave it my best shot and took a lot of time reading up on the details. I really wanted INKurable to be realistic.
But to be realistic, it wasn’t just the technical details that it was imperative I get right. The emotional impact of cancer—on both the patient and their friends and family—was also absolutely crucial to the story. I have to admit that more than once I thought about abandoning the theme after reading personal experiences in my research. Firstly, I wasn’t sure that an erotic romance was the right place to tackle something so emotional. Secondly, I wasn’t at all sure I could do it justice.
I’ve spoken in a previous blog about how I wanted each of the novellas in the INKomplete series to represent a different stage in life; young love, parenthood, deterioration of health, and grief. It didn’t feel right to skip a stage just because it was difficult. In fact, that felt like the right reason to write the story; because it was difficult. Life is difficult and you don’t get to hopscotch over the tough bits. People get cancer. It’s shitty but it happens.
In the end I decided to suck it up and go for it because, as Maya Angelou so beautifully puts it, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Phee’s story needed to be told. It was important for the series and I wanted to do it.
Even then my fear wasn’t over. In deciding to go ahead with the theme, I knew I would have to walk a fine line in balancing the romance element alongside the fight for survival. If there was too much romance, I ran the risk of Phee’s cancer becoming a flippant and unnecessary subplot. Too little and the story would become very gloomy indeed.
Whether or not I was successful is entirely up to the reader to decide. I’d like to think I got more right than wrong in INKurable, I’d like to think it’s relatable whilst still being a good erotic romance, and I’d like to think that Pete and Phee have the story they deserve. I’m so proud that not only did I give it a go, but that I finished with a story that’s in the ballpark of what I was going for. I feel like I can definitely chalk this up as a win… even if it was the hardest thing I’ve ever written!
I’d be really interested in hearing about other author’s difficult stories. What made it difficult? How did you solve it? Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter here
When Emily begins an apprenticeship at the renowned tattoo studio INKomplete, she didn’t realise she was stepping into a world very different from her middle-class upbringing. But not everybody is happy about her dipping her toe into new waters. Famous tattoo artist, Matt Jones, knows she doesn’t belong. What’s he got against her, and how far will he go to drive her away?
After her husband walked out on her, leaving her to provide for their daughter alone, Joe has no intention of relying on a man for anything ever again. As a successful tattoo artist, she can take care of what’s hers. The only thing she needs is a little fun every now and again. And if a gorgeous man offers her exactly what she needs, if they both know what they’re getting into, it can’t get messy, can it?
Phee has breast cancer. As heart-breaking as it is, she’s determined to be strong so her friends don’t worry. They’re a family, so if she hurts, they hurt, and she can’t allow that. But when lines start to blur between her and her handsome surgeon, trying to hold everything together suddenly feels like the real fight.
It’s been five years since Blakey’s beautiful wife Elizabeth died and his grief is just as sharp today as it was back then. But now he’s desperately lonely too. As he becomes closer to his friend Aisleyne, Blakey fights it with everything he has. How could he even think about moving on? No, friendship is all he has to offer. That will have to be enough.