About the Author
J.L. Murray is the author of the Niki Slobodian series (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, The Devil Is a Gentleman, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, The Devil Was an Angel, and The Devil’s Backbone), The Thirteen series (Jenny Undead and Eat the Ones You Love), After the Fire, and the highly anticipated upcoming series Blood of Cain (Monstrous).
Murray is a firm believer that horror can be beautiful, and that good and evil are very far from black and white. She lives with her family in Eugene, Oregon and can be reached through her website at www.jlmurraywriter.com.
Her most recent book, Eat the Ones You Love, was released on July 25, 2015.
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A Letter to Myself
by JL Murray
The story of me is this: I am a writer. I’ve always been a writer, even before I was. And I’ve never wanted to be anything else. When I went to college, I studied things that would get me by so I could spend my nights writing.
When I met my husband, I hid writing from him like a secret. It was special and had always been only mine. He was a writer, too, and ran a newspaper, turning all the haggard small-town faces into stories, like Steinbeck on a weekly deadline.
“What do you want from life?” he asked me one night, booze-tired and happy.
My voice was soft as I answered. Not the fragile armor I was accustomed to, the girl that refused to bleed. I couldn’t look at him as I told my secret.
“I want to write a book,” I said simply.
He didn’t even sound surprised when he said, “Then you should write one.”
The events that passed were these: we got married, we had children, we found religion and lost it. We lost a business and lived in different states. We went to Ireland and England and drank tea on the seashore on the Isle of Wight. I went to school when I could, and we gave our kids the most delicious adventures. We lived on an island in the middle of the ocean where the people looked at us with suspicion and distrust. It was here on a beach that we watched our children splash in the water and felt the warm salty breeze ruffle our hair.
I was on a break from college and I had torn myself away from a book I was writing. Something silly and unkempt and not sophisticated in any way. But I loved it because it was mine.
“You’ve been working pretty hard on that book,” he said, watching the sparkle of the sun on the blue, blue water.
“I always do,” I said.
What he said to me was this: “Maybe you should take a year and see where the writing takes you.”
And I did. I finished the book I was writing on. Cried when I realized it couldn’t be saved. Then I wrote another one. It took me four months and it fell through my fingers onto the keyboard easily. It was simple and fun and exciting, and I gave it to my husband with shaking fingers and watched him out of the corner of my eye as he read.
He looked up at me halfway through, his expression inscrutable.
“Do you hate it?” I said, hoping my voice wasn’t all fish hooks and boiling oil, like I felt inside. I hoped that I was disinterested and offhand.
“You’re a writer.”
And then I knew I was.
I want to go back in time. I want to look my young self in the eye and hold my own hand. I want to turn that slip of a girl that no one looked at twice away from her school auction typewriter and speak to her like a friend she never had. I want to look at her small, wary face, her sharp eyes, her unflattering but sensible too-short hair. I want to talk to her and say the words to her she needs to hear to survive through youth. I want to say the words to her, because no one else can say them. No one else will for a very long time.
Here is what I want to say.
The things that I wish for you are this: tenacity, bravery, and strength. The desire to make the best thing, not the most admired thing. The will to keep going when you feel like you can’t. The unshakeable wisdom to know that what you’re doing is something special, something no one else can do, something fantastic. And fun. I wish for you to have fun and feel the passion in your heart expand when you write the words on the page, filling you up until it feels like you cannot possibly feel any more for these people that don’t exist; until you do.
I want you to feel and experience and love and hate, so you can look back on those things and know the taste of them. I want you to feel unashamed, though I know you won’t. I wish you didn’t have to feel desolate and alone for so many years, but you’ll be glad you did. Because you can’t write about desolation and loneliness until you’ve felt them, and you need that. The things I want for you are different than the things you need, and it’s important to know that. The things I want for you are freedom of spirit, joy, strength and love.
The things you need are heartbreak, isolation, and desperation.
Most importantly, the thing I want to say to you, to me, is this: I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you have to hurt, but it’s worth it. I’m sorry everything feels so close to the bone, but someday you’ll be glad. You’re lost in the world, and it hurts, but someday you’ll have books with your name on them. You’ll have a husband who looks at you with fascination every day and tells you what a wonder you are. You’ll have children that go to school and, with chests puffed out in pride, say, “my mom is a writer.” People will stop you in street and tell you that they read your books in a hospital, or in a hurricane, or when everything else was dark in their life, and they had hope. That is what I wish for you most of all, something that I know you will never lose. Hope. There is always hope. I wish for you to believe in hope above all else.
Because someday, you’ll have yourself. And it will be enough.