When I first wanted to introduce the Story Behind the Story post series, I was aware that sometimes the story itself springs forth in its entirety from a dream, a conversation, or even an image. And sometimes it comes from life, truly a “write what you know” situation. In Aedyn Brooks’s case, the story had its origins from a terrifying home life and learning how to cope with it. (I have to state at this point that I was the copy editor for this story, so I got to be an early observer of this fight of good against evil!)
What’s the theme behind your story?
We’re often told “write what you know” when you first start writing. There are many good reasons for this philosophy, but mostly because it’s easier to write about things you’re familiar with than those things you don’t know and require research.
I grew up in a very abusive home that not only spanned generations but held the belief that elders would always have the right to abuse younger generations. Most of my abusers are long dead. I never had a chance to have a critical conversation with them and ask them why me? Why did they feel they had the right to abuse me, and keep abusing me for most of my life? Out of the blue, about ten years ago, one of my abusers called me to tell me he was working through the 12-step substance abuse program and one of those steps is making amends with your past. He apologized and asked for my forgiveness. A lifetime of healing held in two little words: I’m sorry. He went on to explain how he’d been abused by other family members. Not that it excused his behavior, but sadly, it normalized it. He thought that was what was expected of him. Each generation continued this cycle—and my family wasn’t alone in this mentality or behavior. I found numerous news articles to validate that this is a silent, systemic issue throughout America, and possibly the world. I can’t say it loud enough that victims need to speak up and speak out—even through the threats. Abusers threaten, punish, and hurt their victims. It’s how they control them. It certainly was how I was controlled.
I can speak easily of the abuse I went through only because of the professional help I received. I’ll never be one hundred percent healed because we can’t change the past. What we can do is get to a place where the past doesn’t cripple daily function, dictate our future, and doesn’t limit our success.
What’s the logline?
Even the dead deserve justice.
What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you?
Other than abuse, I wanted to explore the issue of abandonment and how that can manifest in us as adults. My father was my only caregiver, having been abandoned by my mother when I was two weeks old. Unfortunately, he died in a logging accident when I was three. Children learn trust between the ages of three and four. My life was in incredible turmoil at that age and I still struggle with trust today, partly because abused children learn never to rely on others, and partly because where trust should have been developed in my brain, never happened. My older brother and I were passed around from relative to relative on my father’s side—each fighting for custody. For various reasons they were denied, but ultimately, my mother won custody. Why she fought for custody of us was never explained. Almost daily she mentioned how much she hated children, and we wore the brunt of her displeasure and anger.
In Dead Reckoning, part of Sojourner “Joni” Smith’s backstory is that she suffers a severe injury and has amnesia. She wonders if her family misses her and is left feeling abandoned when no one steps forward to claim her as a missing person. Though it doesn’t stop her from forming strong relationships that become like family because unlike me, she also doesn’t have the baggage in her past to taint her future. There are days I wished that for myself.
How did the original idea change as you went along?
When I write my rough drafts I throw in all the nitty-gritty evil details. In Dead Reckoning, I wrote Elsabeth’s rape scene by her family members, and a whole scene of how she died. I was able to put words to my own pain and that was cathartic for me to write. However, no one wants to read that in a romance. Also, it wasn’t needed to discuss the essence of what she’d suffered. I also didn’t want to trigger readers, given that one in four women have been raped in America. No one needs that when they’re reading for enjoyment.
How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?
My character development is a whole process in itself. I knew that I wanted to write Joni but finding her a comparable hero took a bit of work. I use astrology and tarot to give depth to my characters and then study negative and positive traits from there. I also study professions and see how that can taint and develop someone into who they are. I also love developing complex belief systems, family dynamics, etc. I do a ton of upfront work on my hero, heroines, and villains. Most of it’s never put on the page, but I feel I know my characters well by the time I write their story.
Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?
I cut the crap—or hope I did. LOL! One of the questions in my beta-reader list is there a scene that wasn’t needed? None of my previewers mentioned removing any scene or chapter. I worked five years at chiseling and molding this book into a capturing what was in my head and yet a page-turner for my reader. I really like to keep the reader experience in mind when I write.
Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?
If Theo James and Alexis Bledel played Zeke and Joni I’d be over the moon! Can we sign that contract today? I can picture SyFy Channel wanting to make my books into a mini-series. A girl’s gotta dream, right?
What else do you want readers to know?
One thing I probably could communicate better is that Dead Reckoning is a complete story in itself and it’s the first book in the Grave Intentions series. The second book, Ready or Not, brings in a resurrection angel to work with the new foundation that Joni and Zeke create at the end of book one. The third book, Devil’s Due, incorporates another key player needed for the foundation to gather key psychics and gifted beings to combat evil in the world. The fourth book, Sweet Revenge, was a purely indulgent book for me to write,, and I can hardly wait to share it with my readers. It’s a cross between the reality TV shows Amazing Race and Chopped. My fictional organization is Paranormal Intelligence Foundation. (Yes, I own the URL.) This foundation will go on to help people in future books in work.
Aedyn Brooks is an award-winning author who feeds her spreadsheet-addicted psyche by day (aka data-driven ninja), and crafts wicked paranormal romances at night.
After living most of her life in haunted houses, Aedyn decided to share her terrifying, and sometimes funny, experiences with ghosts by crafting Haunted Romances in her debut, Dead Reckoning, Grave Intentions series, which launched in November 2020. One thing Aedyn learned from an early age is that the dead can be your greatest ally, especially in your darkest hours.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest suburbia with a postage-stamp sized yard, with one of her three grown children. She enjoys spending time with family and babysitting her new granddaughter. Being a grandmother is the bestest ever!
You can also follow Aedyn on FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest (another slight addiction) @aedynbrooks, or sign up for her newsletter at aedynbrooks.com.