One of the hardest parts of Hunter’s Moon for me to write was the scene when Mel wakes up after her first transformation. The horror of said transformation itself was, believe it or not, easier for me to write than the aftermath! Because the morning after, Mel has much more time to think and process and dwell on what’s happened to her, since her mind is not being wiped away and the pain is no longer all-consuming.
Obviously, I’ve never found myself waking up as a bearer of the werewolf curse. With fantastical situations like that, no one can truly know what it’s like. But I’ve had no small amount of regular human trauma: bullied daily from kindergarten to 12th grade, dreading going to school each day. Suicidally depressed for half my twenties, no dreams, no direction, very little in the way of companionship. Years of having to take medicines with terrible side effects...with dying as the only alternative. I have been weeks away from death’s door, blue lips, coughing up blood, and I’ve heard a doctor say the word “incurable” to me. But that—my biggest trauma—was 14 years ago (the anniversary was actually this week) and so is no longer fresh in my mind and heart. How did I feel just afterward, faced with a future in which I’d never fully recover from a seriously incapacitating disease?
My amazing editor, Deborah, helped jog my memory by asking me some questions about that initial hospital experience. I was able to recall one thought I kept having right after my diagnosis: “At least it was me, not Katey or Andy [my siblings].” As my mom sat by my hospital bed holding herself together valiantly for my sake, I thought of how she’d already lost one of four children, and if I had died, she’d have lost 50% of her babies. I don’t know if the thought “at least it was me” is mentally healthy, or if I’ve got some kind of hero/savior complex, or if deep down I’m a bit masochistic or self-flagellating, trying to atone for my sins. But I think it was mostly along the lines of “If this was going to happen to someone in our family, I’m okay with being the one who has to deal with it, and I’m glad the rest of my family is healthy.” Just being happy that my loved ones were okay was mostly the gist of it.
Deborah liked that thought/reaction, so I inserted a sort of mantra into Melanie’s waking-up-as-a-werewolf scene, and in several more places throughout the book: “At least it was me.” “It could have been Pam.” “It could still be Pam or Jos.” (Mel has to be careful because, unlike me, she’s contagious.) “Let it be me. I can be strong.”
My life, like Mel’s, took a completely unexpected, devastating turn 14 years ago, and my future looked very dark and bleak indeed. If you can’t tell by the other stuff I’ve written in this blog, though, it got way better! Hope has been a theme in my life, hope and a new start—resurrection. So if you’re wondering where Melanie’s story is going (I’m writing it, I’m writing it!!) just know that it will end up in a good place, no matter how many dark places she has to travel through first.
Sarah Awa lives in Ohio with two hairy guys and writes books about werewolves.