This book took me longer to write than I ever thought it could conceivably take, and I really wish it had happened any other way.
I thought long and hard about whether I would provide some kind of explanation. The truth is, this book was difficult for very personal reasons. But those personal reasons ended up playing out partially in public, and after some deliberation... Here’s the story.
When I was planning this series, this was one of the books I looked at and said, “Wow, that’s going to write itself.” (Cue slightly bitter laughter). When I was planning it, it seemed exactly like the kind of book that tended to work well for me—the hero and heroine both had secret identities! The book was about coming into those secret identities and slowly learning to trust each other!
The books I’ve written that have been the easiest have always been about secrets. I honestly thought this one would go swiftly—even though I knew that my writing was slowing, that it was getting harder and harder to write and I didn't know why.
A lot has a happened in the...more than two years since the first book in this series came out. I wrote a lot of words that could have appeared somewhere in another version of the book written by someone other than me. I thought sometimes about just trying really hard to throw them into a book—something coherent, anything—just so I could publish something and be done with it.
But I felt disconnected from the words I was putting on the page. I tried all the tricks I knew to make myself feel something. Different secrets. Better secrets. More betraying secrets; easier secrets. I knew that I wrote about secrets, and I figured I just had to find the magic secret and it would all come out right. It had worked for me before; I was sure it would happen here, too.
I tried secret after secret, idea after idea, and everything felt wrong. If I didn't feel anything writing the book, how could I imagine that my readers would feel anything reading it?
Ultimately, I could have forced myself to produce a book that didn’t have anything of me in it; I just didn’t want to inflict it on any of you.
There were more than a few things going on, but the big one was one I discovered at the end of 2017, when I decided to go on the record about an experience I had earlier in life.
(If you missed it, the Washington Post story is here, and my personal account is here. Content warnings for sexual harassment and workplace emotional abuse on both of those. For those who want to know how the story ends, here are some follow ups.)
The few thousand words of that personal account were harder to write than anything I have ever tried to put on paper in my life. I went over it again and again, trying to capture an essential truth from a time that I hadn’t wanted to think about in over a decade.
On the morning when the article was set to run, I looked over my statement one last time. I read the words I had written. I stopped where I said that I wrote books about secrets.
I sat with my dog on my lap and stared at those words and said out loud: That’s my problem. I don’t want to write about secrets any more.
Once I understood that, I could finally write again.
I’ve written a lot of books that are close to my heart. I don’t think this book has any more of me in it than some of my other books.
But before I could put me in this book, I needed a different me—one who was just a little braver. It took a while.