The Hardest Story I’ve Ever Written…
Have you ever attempted to write something that touches on a topic so important, so meaningful to so many people, that you’re terrified of… well, fucking it up?
I can’t begin to explain the doubt I felt when writing INKurable, the third story in the INKomplete series. My main character, Phee, is diagnosed with breast cancer earlier in the series and this story describes her journey as she comes to term with the illness and how it affects both her mind and body.
Cancer touches so many people’s lives that there is no doubt that at least one person reading about Phee’s journey will have a personal experience of their own, either through their own diagnosis or that of a loved one. The thought of getting it wrong, of not doing that journey justice, really did make writing this story so much more difficult than I thought it would be.
Firstly, there was more research involved for this than for anything else I’ve ever written—including my dissertation! If you get the technical details wrong on something like this then you lose the reader at page one. I’m not saying it’s perfect—it’s far from it, in fact—but I gave it my best shot and took a lot of time reading up on the details. I really wanted INKurable to be realistic.
But to be realistic, it wasn’t just the technical details that it was imperative I get right. The emotional impact of cancer—on both the patient and their friends and family—was also absolutely crucial to the story. I have to admit that more than once I thought about abandoning the theme after reading personal experiences in my research. Firstly, I wasn’t sure that an erotic romance was the right place to tackle something so emotional. Secondly, I wasn’t at all sure I could do it justice.
I’ve spoken in a previous blog about how I wanted each of the novellas in the INKomplete series to represent a different stage in life; young love, parenthood, deterioration of health, and grief. It didn’t feel right to skip a stage just because it was difficult. In fact, that felt like the right reason to write the story; because it was difficult. Life is difficult and you don’t get to hopscotch over the tough bits. People get cancer. It’s shitty but it happens.
In the end I decided to suck it up and go for it because, as Maya Angelou so beautifully puts it, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Phee’s story needed to be told. It was important for the series and I wanted to do it.
Even then my fear wasn’t over. In deciding to go ahead with the theme, I knew I would have to walk a fine line in balancing the romance element alongside the fight for survival. If there was too much romance, I ran the risk of Phee’s cancer becoming a flippant and unnecessary subplot. Too little and the story would become very gloomy indeed.
Whether or not I was successful is entirely up to the reader to decide. I’d like to think I got more right than wrong in INKurable, I’d like to think it’s relatable whilst still being a good erotic romance, and I’d like to think that Pete and Phee have the story they deserve. I’m so proud that not only did I give it a go, but that I finished with a story that’s in the ballpark of what I was going for. I feel like I can definitely chalk this up as a win… even if it was the hardest thing I’ve ever written!
Out of Print
As a sweet, sweet bonus, Mara is offering anyone who pre-orders INKapable (or any of the final three INKomplete titles) a chance to win this lovely necklace:
Click here now to get all the details and enter to win!
Mara Malins writes romantic fiction using words that your grandmother doesn’t know. An avid gamer, she battles spreadsheets by day and fiction by night. She lives in Manchester, England with her menagerie of three cats, two turtles, a social media loving partner, and a disobedient garden. If you want to know when her next fiction is released, or see thousands of pictures of her cats sleeping in a variety of different poses, find her on Twitter or Goodreads.