Thursday, 09.01.16, I released Nala and Malcolm from Dropping In, the third book in The Vert Series. As usual, release day is full of ups and downs. It's terrifying to release new characters into the fictional world, and hope that they mean as much to readers as they do the me, the writer. Even more terrifying is releasing characters that have been built up the way Nala and Malcolm have.
Writing these characters was both brilliant and difficult--heart shattering at times, even, because both of them have lived lives I've seen and felt compassion for, but never lived myself.
Nala is a sexual assault survivor. I never, ever want to write about something as serious as rape and have it be false, fake, a trope that means nothing more than a sob story for someone to come and save a character from. Sexual assault is real, it' prevalent, and even in writing fiction, it has to be dealt with carefully. Going through this journey with her, feeling that fear and neglect, that loss of dignity was hard, and in speaking with my editor, a large supporter of TAKE BACK THE NIGHT, and a survivor herself, I realized exactly how difficult Nala's journey was going to be, and how much I had to focus on her, not just the relationship.
“I learned a long time ago that other people don’t have the power to break us—not unless we give it to them.”
Nala is a strong character--a female who is unafraid to be herself, but has had moments of fear and pain. She is strong but vulnerable, and Malcolm is her true partner. He just has to realize how to be that.
Malcolm is the hotheaded passionate man who has survived years of abuse, and though he's made himself better than the man who raised him, there are those lingering doubts about being deserving of something as pure and beautiful as love--especially when this love comes from Nala. What is even better, and more desirable about Malcolm is that he loves as hard as he does everything else. Once he sets his sights on Nala and proves that he can be the man she deserves, he refuses to settle for less. There is never a time he questions his love for her, only a time when he questions if she deserves better. For a confident, cocky man to be humble, even a little afraid, opens up an entirely new side for a reader.
This is my favorite kind of story because it has background--history between characters that is both innocent and painful, raw and real, and it makes me ache just to think about it. They survived the kind of love story that breaks us before it makes our world complete.
I hope...I know these characters are going to mean something to people. They are strong, and passionate, and vulnerable in their own right, and they represent everything we all deserve: a second chance to find the love we all deserve, and to get it right.