Illustration by Shintaro Kago
And I didn't see it. Until now. It hit me like a sledgehammer. Perhaps it was the accumulation of frustrations over not knowing what I was doing, perhaps it was just time. I don't know what it was, but I know that I won't be able to go back to how I used to write.
I used to dump an emotional mess on paper and then dig in it, sleeves rolled up, scraping out and cleaning and polishing something solid that I've stumbled upon, never knowing for sure if I should be digging deeper for more, or if it was enough to pull out what I have grasped and call it done. I used to tell myself, "Just write." And I did. I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. I was what I sometimes hear is called as a discovery writer, or a pantser, doing it by the seat of my pants.
Only with time my stories have graduated from pure therapy to actual writing. Suddenly I wanted to write about a specific idea in a particular way, and I got stuck. I didn't know how to do it. Why didn't it work? What was wrong? I wanted to write about some serious themes, but simply hiding them behind symbolism, like in TUBE—hiding the theme of phallophobia that stems from sexual trauma in Olesya and, hence, her fear of the toy train engine, i.e., penis—didn't work. I needed structure, to be able to get my message across so it was heard. and didn't sound cheap or cheesy or deliberately shocking, which it is right now. By the way, I have renamed Tyubik back to TUBE: Trans-Urban Blitz-Express at Anya's suggestion, after we brainstormed over it and decided that renaming it with a Russian word is just going to wreck the original premise
Anyway, back to writing backwards and themes.
All my books are about abuse within a dysfunctional family. Of course they are. It's what I know, it's how I grew up, it's what I still battle within me. And so that's what I set out writing about, some very dark themes. Siren Suicides is about suicide; Rosehead is about alienation; Irkadura is about homelessness; The Badlings is about misfits; TUBE is about sexual trauma, as mentioned above; Janna is about parricide. I didn't pick these themes. They came to me as a form of therapy, to let go through writing. Only I wasn't aware of my themes. So after my writing mentor told me to plot Janna and I stopped writing TUBE and started looking for a theme there, I was devastated. I saw that what I wanted to get across didn't come across at all. Why?
BECAUSE I WROTE IT BACKWARDS.