Sometimes books leave marks. Usually it’s small things. An expansion of empathy or understanding, observations that wouldn’t have occurred to you had you not followed this or that characters. Sometimes the aftereffects are larger. Stories can build new windows inside you, transport you out of your reality and return you with wider eyes, and sometimes they leave scars.
I’m wide open when I read. It’s like all the skepticism I’ve learned to buffer myself with in face-to-face human interactions is stripped away when I meet a new character. And that openness has turned reading into a really intense experience. You know that feeling when you’re watching a character do something really embarrassing on TV, like Michael Scott in The Office – where you’re cringing and writhing for them? That’s how reading is for me, but it’s ALL the emotions, all the time.
I used to think that everyone read like this, that dots and lines on a page translated into a deep and immersive experience. Not so, it turns out. Everyone takes different things from the stories they read, depending on what they bring with them – perceptions, experiences, desires, distractions.
It wasn’t until recently that I started to understand how much an author’s intent might influence my reading experience. That sounds stupid, because of course the author meant for me to feel certain things. Even people who say they “only” want to escape and be entertained expect to feel something.
Maya Angelou has that great quote, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
And this is great, and sometimes it’s really painful.
Authors don’t want to hurt you, but sometimes books leave scars. Sometimes they scar the author. I recall reading either an interview or a blog post – it was probably a blog post – by Robin McKinley, who talked about limping around her house, cradling her arm for weeks as she wrote about Aerin, the main character of The Hero and the Crown, having barely survived a fight with the great dragon Maur.
I’ve never physically suffered along with my characters. I’ve pined and been embarrassed and wept for other writer’s characters, but never my own. Until this most recent book. Falling from the Light was supposed to be a continuation of my Night Runner series. When it became obvious that the series wasn’t going to continue for much longer, I needed to bring Sydney and Mal’s story to a kind of conclusion. Not an airtight end with proclamations of love and a stroll into the sunset, but to a place of closure. And I hated it. The events that take place in Falling from the Light are pretty rough, but as I polished and revised and rewrote to take this from a happening to an ending, they became more and more dire. My unhappiness with the end of the series was translating into pain on the page, which became more and more difficult to write. I hurt, but the story arc was so fitting. These characters are so strong inside, and what they wanted was so far beyond easy, that getting it had to hurt.
I didn’t realize quite how strongly readers would react. I’ve been tweeted at, and received emails from curious readers before. I’d never received whole paragraphs of all caps and exclamation points, or woken up to a dozen DMs full of “how could you’s”. I don’t conspire to pour readers’ tears into my mug to stiffen my tea. And I assume that most of the authors who have made me cry – and that one that made me gasp then cry, though I think that had to do with jetlag and cold medicine – don’t either. But it happens.
What stories have made you laugh or wonder? Which have plucked your heart off of your sleeve and squeezed it uncomfortably tight? Do you hate it? Are you addicted to it?
FALLING FROM THE LIGHT Blurb
All Sydney Kildare wants is a minute in the slow lane, some time to decide where she’s going with her vampire lover, Malcolm Kelly. But after sitting out the last battle, the powerful Master Bronson is giving orders again, and he isn’t above blackmailing his former courier to get what he wants.
With Mal sent to track a vicious killer, Syd is forced to infiltrate a pharmaceutical company responsible for a drug that turns vampires into real monsters. She’s unprepared and alone, but fiercely determined. If her investigation doesn’t satisfy the Master, Malcolm will pay the price. A wrong turn throws her into the middle of a vampire power play. Caught between twisting forces, with their freedom at stake, she’ll have to decide what’s more important: love, power or revenge. But choosing what feels right might turn out all wrong.
About the Author
Regan Summers is the author of the romantic urban fantasy Night Runner series. As a native Alaskan, she’s used to long, cold nights but thinks they’re better with a helping of sexy vampires. Don’t Bite the Messenger, the first in the series, was a finalist for the 2013 EPIC eBook Awards in the paranormal category.
Find her here: