When I was still in college, I made it a goal to seek out the strangest classes for my theology and philosophy requirements. If I was going to be forced into an entire year’s worth of studying morality and the Bible, I was at least going to make it interesting. One of my most memorable semesters was spent studying death and suffering and its explanation in religious texts. What I learned stuck with me long after the final exam.
According to the Kübler-Ross model, there is a set of emotional stages that most people go through when experiencing a loss: Denial, anger, gambling, depression, and acceptance. I recognized these stages as something I went through after the death of a friend and classmate at the age of twelve. Loss, however, doesn’t always come in the form of a funeral. It can be the feeling of losing anything, such as the destruction of a home, the death of a dream, or the loss of a job. Sometimes, it’s not even tangible.
In Windmill Keepers, I introduce a number of characters attempting the navigate the choppy waters of grief. Loss and mental illness are a huge part of the story. It’s a topic that appears in many of my pending works and for good reason. Grief never asks us when it’s convenient to pop into our lives. Loss swoops in out of nowhere and leaves us shell-shocked in its wake. I believe it is extremely rare for someone to make it through childhood without losing someone or something they cherish. In adulthood, it’s impossible. That’s why I think it is important for YA novels to explore these concepts.
I chose to write for children and YA for several reasons, but I most often come back to the end of my childhood and the length of my teenage years. While I was growing up, I knew I would eventually lose someone. As things would turn out, I experienced more than one type of traumatic loss. For years, I told myself that mourning these losses was unreasonable. After all, not all of them were a situation of life and death. I thought I was being strong. That wasn’t the case, and it wasn’t healthy. To this day, I still struggle with this mistake and its consequences. I once wished I had found the right characters and stories to help me navigate my sorrow and understand that I wasn’t abnormal or alone. Now, I can be the writer I needed for someone else.
It’s the best apology I can give to myself.