Over the past 30 days I've released two new books, and a third is available for pre-order. So I thought I'd give a little bit of "behind the scenes" about the stories themselves, starting with Evergreen.
Right now, and for the next 90 days or so, these are available exclusively on Kindle,
Evergreen is a standalone book that I wrote mostly while we were spending time in Manhattan. Jaylin Rowland has the ability to absorb the memories and personalty of anyone he touches skin-to-skin. For the next thirty minutes, he knows everything they know, and can do everything they can do. Pretty handy—but also kind of a burden.
As Jaylin (aka "Evergreen") uses his abilities to make something of a living for himself, and to stay off of the radar of anyone who might want to harm him, he finds himself tangled up in some heavy events. Now he has to use everything he's learned—and everything some of his permanently absorbed mental hitchhikers know—to stay alive and stay ahead of the trouble that nips at his heals.
I loved writing this story, because it pulled together some ideas I've had floating around in my head for years. The notion of absorbing knowledge by touch—sometimes referred to as "osmosis"—is something I've daydreamed about since I first heard the term in high school Chemistry class. What if you could just touch something, like a book, and know everything that was in it? And what if you could touch someone and know everything they know?
Over the years, that daydream went from the more juvenile uses I had for it at age 16 to more complex ideas. Practicality stepped in, forcing me to think of things like consequences and drawbacks. And decades of exposure to books, movies and TV and even real-world news pretty much trained me to believe that if someone did have an ability like this, there would be plenty of people looking to exploit it.
And then there were the voices
I have a confession to make: I hear voices.
None of them tell me to burn things. But they do chatter on about all sorts of ideas. Mostly they come to me in the form of dialogue—things a character might say in a given situation. I daydream sometimes about the weirdest stuff, and the "voices" in my head react to those scenarios. Sometimes these voices are characters from TV shows or movies or books I've loved. More often they're characters of my own, saying the kind of stuff they'd say in one of my books.
It can get a little noisy in my head as I roll through tons of potential responses to any given scenario. But in the end, what I really end up with is the kind of dialogue that populates everything I write. I have characters that are fully fleshed out and real. Pretty handy, for an author.
Also pretty handy for understanding how a character like Evergreen might go about his day-to-day life. Even though he's a bit isolated, he still has plenty of company. That has to color his worldview. It has to make some things easier and some things more difficult.
I kind of imagine Jaylin's ability as being a super amped-up version of what I do each day. When I have little mental conversations with a fictional character in my head, they can go all over the place. Since I'm filling in the gaps of both sides of the conversation, I can more or less predict where it's going to end up (sometimes I surprise myself, though). But what would it be like if that other voice in my head was completely independent, with its own agenda and its own desires? How would I react to never really being alone, ever? How would I handle having voices in my head that might not like me much—that in fact might even hate me?
So ... lots of fertile ground for exploration here.
New York—it's like a character in the blah-blah-blah
Setting Evergreen in New York City was a no-brainer.
It was great to have some live, hands-on, practical experience with the city. I could draw inspiration from real-world locations I had actually experienced. But despite the fact that we tromped around Manhattan for a bit, I have to confess that most of what I envisioned was still peeled from TV and movies.
New York is the most "explored" city on the planet. You can't watch television or movies and not come to know New York on some level. It's just there—the prototypical city landscape that you think about whenever you think about city landscapes.
When I first started writing Evergreen, it was just prior to our trip, but I was already leveraging city landscapes in the story. I hadn't yet identified the city, but c'mon—it was New York. And one morning, sitting in the hotel's breakfast area with a plate of sausage and eggs and a cup of halfway decent coffee, my MacBook Air glowing gently before me, I realized that I was writing about this place. I was currently sitting in the city where my story was happening. I was writing about New York.
I wish I could say that changed everything, but it didn't. It just sort of ... solidified everything. I went from writing in vague, non-specific terms about "the city" to writing in some specifics about New York itself. I wrote about the streets I was seeing as we walked to the subway. I wrote about the people I was meeting as we bumped our way along the sidewalks. I wrote New York.
Why not leave?
Evergreen's link to that city gets more and more solid as the story moves along, and it took me a while to see why. After all, if you could accidentally absorb everything someone knew with just a casual brush of skin-to-skin contact, and that could sometimes be a huge burden to you, would you want to be in New York? Millions of people, sometimes crushed closely together? The chances of contact going up with every second you're outside?
And yet, Evergreen not only sticks around, he sort of insists on it.
And I think I've finally figured out why. It has to do with the nature of his abilities—or, rather, one particular side effect of them. The isolation.
The more Evergreen does what he does, the more isolated he becomes. Sure, he has his "mental companions," but he's also completely alone in the real world. His closest contacts are held at arms length, and put on a strict regimen of physical contact, after which they have to part company. He can't afford to permanently absorb just anyone's personality, after all. He has to be selective about that, or live with consequences no one would want.
So Evergreen has a sort of weird, sad dynamic at play, all the time. He's never truly alone, and yet he's completely isolated from other people. He keeps himself covered from head to toe to prevent making any real contact with anyone, he limits the number of contacts he can have even with someone he considers a friend, and he refuses to create any real long-term relationships. And yet, in his head he carries around a group of people who sometimes don't like him much.
Could anyone be more alone than this guy?
So of course he wants to live in one of the biggest, most populated cities in the world. It's the closest he's ever going to come to having real, human connections. He can observe life going on all around him. He can hide in plain sight. He can be a part of the crowd en masse, whereas he couldn't even approach them individually.
Evergreen is a book that explores a lot of interesting what-ifs. But to me, the most intriguing idea under the microscope is the question of what it means to truly be alone, or to truly know someone. It's the exploration of how you could become more and more isolated the more you actually learn about someone else.
That's sort of analogous to today's culture, and the pervasiveness of social media.
I know that I, for one, know a lot of people today in ways I never would have known them just 20 years ago. I have an intimate connection to people I've never even met "IRL." In essence, I have a ton of voices in my head—transmitted via Facebook and Twitter and text messages—who can influence how I think, and the decisions I make, and yet I may or may not have ever spoken to them in person. How weird is that?
Fifty years ago, that would have been the subject of science fiction.
To be honest, none of this was really at top of mind when I wrote Evergreen. But I can see those themes clearly, now that it's out. And if I ever write a sequel to this book, I may dive even deeper into some of these ideas, and see where they carry me.
Until then, I hope you'll read and enjoy Evergreen, and leave a review for it on Amazon and Goodreads! I need all the reviews I can get. And, honestly, I think that this is a great story that you'll love. So go. Read. Enjoy. Review.
I'll be right here, ready to be a voice in your head.