By Amber Lough
We all have regrets. Some are small, such as eating that extra slice or two of pie. Some are medium, such as slipping $20 from our parents’ wallet. And some are gargantuan. I don’t need to list those for you, because those are the ones that never leave the echo chamber of your mind. Those are the ones that cycle, fore and back, in your consciousness. Rarely forgiven. Never forgotten.
I wrote The Blind Wish when I was going through a period of my life in which I was making one of those gargantuan mistakes. I will not say what that was, but I will admit that it affected how I wrote and the themes that weighed on me every day when I sat down to write. It filtered into my plotting, into my drafts, and like a virus, worked its way into each building block of that novel—each word.
To say writing that novel was “hard” is like saying that climbing Mt. Everest requires “a bit of extra mountain gear.” I was crackling along the edges and all I wanted was to give up. Give up the book, give up a writing career, give up my friends, family, and give up my life.
I was halfway through writing the first draft when I checked myself into a mental health hospital. And that was before I made my biggest regret. Or was it? Sometimes, when we look back at an awful decision, we wonder: which step was the wrong one? When did I cross that line? Was there a moment when I should have turned another way?
If I had a time machine, when would I go back and make that correction?
And if I did, would I have learned anything?
That’s one of the main themes in The Blind Wish, and it’s there for a reason. In both of my Jinni Wars books, one of the characters is impulsive. She acts before she thinks. She is self-centered. She is the darker part of us built for survival. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
Many reviewers commented on Zayele in The Fire Wish. They dislike her for what she did to Najwa. She’s a fault-filled character, and many readers don’t want to see the world through her lens. But she is real, because people are this way. And it has taken me nearly a lifetime to acknowledge that I am this way—sometimes—but it doesn’t describe all that I am. A person can be self-centered and impulsive, but it does not mean they are only self-centered. When that person’s survival is threatened, she will turn inward. She is the one who survives a desert island at the expense of others—and often realizes her mistake too late.
They say writing your second novel is much more difficult than writing the first. It was true for me for many reasons. I was no longer as naïve about writing careers, I had far less time to write it than the first book, and my own life was teetering on the edge of a cliff.
But I did it. And like Zayele in both of these books, I crawled out of my own self-made destruction. I crawled out by my own two hands (and a bit of help from my friends).
If you do read these books, think about your darker impulses. Think about how you have changed others’ lives with the choices—good, bad, and gray—that you have made. I think about these things every day when I see The Blind Wish’s cover on my phone screen. It’s a reminder of what I did, and how I survived.
And though my regrets are heavy, they make everything that is good shine brighter. They make me who I am, and at the moment, I can accept this. I may not like myself all the time, but I will use that bit of Zayele that I have in me to keep me alive when the days are dark. That part of me is selfish, but it will survive when the softer, kinder part of me—the Najwa part—wants to flee all that is hard and cold.
Amber Lough is the author of The Fire Wish. She is a lover of foreign words and cultures, nearly forgotten folktales, and groups of three. She spent much of her childhood in Japan and Bahrain. Later, she returned to the Middle East as an air force intelligence officer, deployed for eight months in Bagdhad. She lives in Germany with her scientist husband and two impish children. For a pronunciation guide, a cast of characters, and more, please visit www.amberlough.com. Follow Amber on Twitter at @amberlough.
The Blind Wish is available for purchase.