I pulled my punches.
I was afraid, and I let my fear take the wheel.
One of the criticisms DAUGHTER seems to receive goes something like this: If Emma had a true and authentic spiritual experience, she wouldn't doubt her faith.
As a heathen who has definitely had profound and entirely authentic spiritual experiences and also still doubted her faith, let me tell you, FIRST of all, that no, having the experience does not magically make one's faith bulletproof. You are still surrounded by people on all sides telling you it cannot possibly have happened and your experience cannot possibly have been what you think it was because your god isn't even REAL--there's definitely some not-so-subtle gaslighting taking place under those circumstances and it sucks. If you can get the people you love to admit that what you experienced is an authentic spiritual experience at all, often times they want to co-opt it and claim it existed inside the framework of their own faith, that that's the only possible way it could be authentic and real, again undermining your experience completely and your faith and trust in YOURSELF and your own senses.
But SECONDLY, and maybe even more importantly, I want to apologize, because the reason that Emma doesn't have an authentic spiritual experience ON THE PAGE in DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS is 1000000000000000% because of my own fear. Because while I was writing it, I was still TERRIFIED of putting anything approaching my own experience of the divine, of Thor, on the page, and having that experience rejected.
This time by the whole publishing, reading world. Or worse than that, other pagans.
I didn't want to include that very personal truth and have it labeled "fantasy," for that matter, either. (It was devastating enough to see it ultimately categorized as fantasy as it was, let me tell you--maybe especially because I'd denied myself and my truth in the hopes that if I did, it would be more acceptable, somehow.)
I was so, so afraid. And that fear took something from the authenticity of Emma's characterization. The reality of her experience of her faith and her god. Which is not to say I'm not still proud of DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS--because I am! SO proud! In some ways, it feels like it is very much my best, most literary work. But I wish I had been more honest with myself then, while writing it. I wish I hadn't been so afraid.
That said, I think when I was writing DAUGHTER, I was doing the best I could do. I think writing DAUGHTER gave me the courage and strength to look back on it now and say "this book was written from a place of fear. I want to do better next time."
So this is my promise to you, and to myself: In the future, I'm going to lean into the things that scare me instead of trying to skate around their edges. In the future, I'm going to keep control of the wheel. I hope you'll find the courage to do the same!
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