The Story Behind the Story

This story weaves together many of the themes and current issues I as an author am passionate about. While I certainly haven’t worked out even my own stances on many of them, I wrote the book as a way to introduce them to readers in a way that was nonthreatening and allowed them to engage, in the safe space of a printed page, with issues, ideas, and worldviews that might challenge their own.

I myself have changed since writing this book. The research I have done to create three-dimensional, honest and well-represented characters has led me down the never-ending path of how much I do not know about the world. I had lived most of my life with the privilege of being isolated from the issues and prejudices so many people face on a daily basis, and had convinced myself that because I thought I cared about a few issues and didn’t actively make discriminating remarks or perpetrate violence that I was not part of the problem. During this writing process I have been forced to confront my own internal prejudices, the incredible privilege I take for granted, and the fact that my desire to be the one who spearheads efforts for change is as demeaning as the attitudes I want to fight. I’ve learned that maybe instead of being everyone’s hero, it’s my place to support the heroes who truly know what they are fighting, to treat them as more than capable of fighting their own battles, and to be the support rather than the leader of the charge. I’ve realized how ill-suited I am to speak to the issues and problems that are a life reality for others, and I humbly ask that those who feel I have misrepresented some aspect of what I have written, or have oversimplified or stereotyped a human being, please make me aware of this so I might grow as an author but more importantly as an empathetic and considerate human being.

Perhaps the most emotionally wrenching and painful thing of all; I’ve realized how paradoxically insignificant and significant we are. I’ve had to come to terms with the knowledge that while each of us is the main character of our own life story, and an important character to a few others, that in the grand arc of life we are very small. Few if any of us will be remembered by anyone but those we love and have been loved by. Every single person you pass on the street, who hands you a receipt in the grocery store, or even cuts you off on the road on the way to work, has a life as infinitely complex, painful, joyful, significant, and insignificant as your own. It’s changed the way I see the world, the way I see people, and the way I see myself.

This is why I chose to write the story from as many perspectives as I have. No one character has a corner on morality, on ethics, and on the whole story’s real events, much as is true of the real world. Each one’s life has been altered by many events that have shaped how they see the world and how they choose to live. Each has virtues and flaws, and there is something to learn from each. I hope you as the reader leave this book with more questions than answers, questions about how you choose to treat fellow human beings, about what the right response to injustice is, and about weighing the benefits and the dangers of taking action. None of my characters are meant to be a model to blindly follow. They are meant to be as human and flawed as the people you will meet every day, and treated as such, as friends rather than guides. I hope you will engage with them as people, and through this learn more about your engagement with the infinitely more complicated people you will meet in the real world. While it’s easy to understand a character when their thoughts and motives are provided in italic thoughts, people in the real world give no such assistance. It is up to you to decide how you will choose to treat them.

I was once told that every person is the protagonist of their own story of their life. I invite you to approach my work with this idea in mind, and see how each one of these people believe this of themselves, and how they are to be understood in this way. Each one, just like each person, is both intrinsically important to the plot, but also completely inessential. Without any one of them, the story could continue. But for it to be complete, it requires all of them.

I hope that falling in love with the characters in a book leaves you with more than an interest in the work itself, but with a changed perspective for the way you view humanity, even if that change is small. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. This book has been a journey of my own morals and ethics and faith, one that in continuing. I think that if we claim to have understood everything this side of eternity, it’s a lie, and we’re trying to tell someone else what to think. I only hope that this book can help expose you to the idea of trying to understand someone else’s story. By listening to so many perspectives and trying to understand them, I hope you are inspired to take the time to listen to why your friend has a different political stance, moral framework, or religious faith than you. And I hope you will always remember that you are part of the reason people’s tiny, momentary lives have meaning. Help make the vast insignificance a little more significant, and in turn remember that you too have importance. Every story needs every character to be told.

And don’t worry if the book makes you cry, a little or a lot, you’re in good company.


Heather Clark