In 2012, my grandfather died. He was my favorite grandparent and it truly broke my heart. I stood beside his bed crying, playing Frank Sinatra to comfort him as he passed, and prayed that I would make it through. At the time, I was working on my novel Dreadlands:Wolf Moon, a Viking era paranormal with werewolves and Norse mythology. Totally unrelated, right? Not at all.
Life Changing Fiction
From the first chapter of this book, I knew that (spoiler alert) the mother was going to die. During chapter one, the protagonist, Arud, is hunting a deer for his mother to use in stew. As soon as the arrow hit the buck, I remember setting my pencil down and covering my mouth: the deer was his mother. This foreshadow needed to be powerful, to demonstrate not just the boy’s personality but also his place among his people. In their culture, the death of the innocent sustained the lives of the rest. Innocent blood redeemed the people. My theme.
Fiction Changing Life
I had no desire to get back to writing, but as I wrote this scene, I recalled my broken heart, the emptiness, the tears and pain as I watched my grandfather leave this world. I used these emotions in the scene as Arud knelt beside the deer in silence as it died, thanking the beautiful creature for sacrificing itself to sustain his own life. Later in the book, I drew even deeper into my loss to write the scene when Arud’s mother died. When my grandfather died, I thanked him for his love while gently touching his forehead. I told him how much I would miss him.
An Unexpected Journey
Using this experience, Arud stroked his mother’s hair and thanked her for her sacrifice, the same motions from chapter one with the buck. In a subsequent chapter, Arud returned to the spot where his mother died and stared longingly at the empty space beside the churning river. This was me, each time I passed the home where my grandfather lived out his final days. Each time I returned to the memory of his room, which now stood empty and cold, like him. It pained me, and I poured that pain into Arud’s loss. It wasn’t easy to face, but using this unexpected time to build my character was the exact mourning I needed to start over.
Jaimie Engle writes dark fiction where magic turns ordinary into extraordinary. She loves weaving lore into her stories and taking readers on wondrous adventures. Engle is a cosplayer, podcaster, entrepreneur, and speaker at schools, conferences, and colleges across Florida. Check out her story-scented candle line Wick Books™ plus learn all about her at www.theWRITEengle.com. Want to support this creator? Visit patreon.com/thewriteengle to take writing classes, get SWAG, and more!