As I said in my previous post, my journey into writing has taken me by surprise. What’s been utterly fascinating to me is how consumed I’ve become with the characters—what happens to them, how they grow and what they say. Even though I’m the writer, a story can take on a life of its own, and even I am sometimes unaware of the deeper reasons behind the direction things take.

In my book, The Yellow Girl, Danni’s story loosely follows that of a college friend of mine whose fiancé had been her brother’s childhood friend. He’d moved away but had kept in touch over the years, until eventually they met again and fell in love. Something about her story always captivated me! One November evening I started writing it. But as I did, a darker edge began to emerge that was entirely mine. There was another story I wanted to tell, apparently. One that was closer to my own heart.

I guess what I’m talking about is the nature of inspiration. I wanted to write about romance, but not only that. Because romance is about me-and-you and all those deliciously wonderful feelings that swirl around that discovery. There are lots of books about that, and I love reading them. I’ve starred in my own love story as well (still ongoing!) but I wanted to write about a more difficult journey (and I know something about that, too).

Because what if the you of me-and-you is broken, so much so that you’re pushing me away and I can see that the path you’re choosing is one of self-destruction. If it’s only romance, we break. But if it’s love, then something deeper might happen that’s not about me at all. It’s about me choosing you, choosing to love you completely separate from what’s happening to me. It becomes about pursuit, confrontation, nurture, encouragement, championing, risk—all of these and more, despite the cost to self, without any assurance of reward. This is an expensive place where romance comes to the end of itself and something of deep friendship and what the Greeks called ‘agape’ begins. It’s unconditional, and it’s all about you.

I wanted to write a story about the power of that kind of love, what it costs a man to rise to it, and what it brings about in the broken young woman who becomes the object of it. I wanted to ask, “Who would you be, if you were loved, like that?” (And I would tell you that you are, but that is a different story, for a different day.)

Danni’s journey, at its heart, is one in which a girl who’s been made to feel powerless learns that she has something to give, that she has a voice, and that she herself is worth saving. In fighting for her own heart, she realizes that she, in turn, can save others. Her crushing circumstances become a crucible of sorts, altering her to the core, revealing an extraordinary capacity to love—even sacrificially—with surprising results.

And yes, there is also romance, desperate and consuming, held in secret promise when all hope is lost.

I think the inner journey can be just as terrifying as the extreme, suspense-filled circumstances we love to read about in thrillers. Danni has to face both (because I am the cruel demigod in charge of her wretched fate, muahaha). But then, aren’t the victories we finally win in the shrouded realms of our own souls all the sweeter because they’re truly ours? They can’t be taken from us by the curve balls (even devastation) life throws our way.

Forgiveness. Release. Acceptance. Trust. These we keep. These we get to live from.

Having been down this road personally, it’s not just fiction to demand that Danni face the darkness in her own heart before she waltzes into her (hopefully) happily ever after. But in walking with Danni on her journey, I inadvertently walked farther on mine. I would be exceedingly glad if, in some small way, it did the same for someone else.

This is why I am writing.