Tom 2.0 (or 2.1, even)

Since I talked about the sequel to BETWEEN ENZO & THE UNIVERSE last week, I thought it was appropriate to talk about other books and their sequels this week.

THE GRAVITY OF NOTHING is one of my new adult/literary fiction offerings. While the manuscript was written within 30 days during NaNoWriMo 2018, months and months of research and interviews and outlining came before that. The writing itself was a very quick process, but everything that came before it felt like torture.

To give some context, in case you haven’t read the book, GRAVITY is the story of two boys who met on the first day of summer camp. One of them was sexually assaulted. Here’s the actual blurb (minus the trigger warnings) to make this easier on all of us:

All stories start with “once upon a time” and end with “happily ever after.” Except for Tom’s. Tom’s story ends with “happily never after.”But a life is full of “once upon a times” because a life is full of stories. Everything in between the “once upon a times” is just details. Two boys met on a bus. Two boys went to summer camp. Two boys walked into the woods together. Two boys swam in the lake. One boy was assaulted. One boy was frozen with fear. One boy became overwhelmed by everything. One boy was dragged down by the gravity of nothing. This is a story of two boys. They met. They became best friends. And now one of them is dead. Over the course of this book, Tom tells a story to the other people in his therapy group. But, whose story is he telling?

I’ve gotten requests from several readers over the last (nearly) 2 years to write a sequel or “follow up” of some kind.

I’m very proud of this book. A lot of research, outlining, and care went into it. When I sat down with all of my notes in November 2018 to write it, it seemed to just flow from my fingers into my laptop.

It was also brutal as fuck to write. November 2018 was a pretty harsh month for my emotions and psyche.

While I felt honored to take the information dozens of people shared with me about substance abuse, suicide, suicidal ideation, mental health illness/disorders, therapy, sexual abuse, rape, and outpatient/inpatient mental health care and treatment and tell a story that needed to be told…I’ve never truly shaken the experience. Talking about these issues so candidly with others, writing the story of Tom and Dally (as stand-ins for all of the people who shared their experiences), has stayed with me.

I feel that the book contains some of my best prose, and I think I did well jumping around in time, giving the story a dream-like quality, and I think I did a good job with the unreliable narrator, Tom.

In fact, I think Tom is the reason so many people have asked for a sequel. So many readers became invested in knowing whether or not his life got better after the last page in the book.

Obviously, that makes me happy. If readers get invested in your characters, that’s a huge compliment to a writer.

However, I feel that the book is complete as is. When the reader turns the last page, they can easily decide for themselves what happens next with Tom. Maybe he gets better. Maybe he doesn’t. That’s totally up to the reader. Either interpretation is fine with me.

It kind of has to be because I don’t think I can get into that head space again. Well, I could. Don’t want to. Once was more than enough.

Like A SURPLUS OF LIGHT, THE GRAVITY OF NOTHING, to me, is a complete story as is, and took a particular head space to write. SURPLUS was a lot more fun, GRAVITY was more mentally and emotionally taxing. But, for better or for worse, I told everything about the characters’ stories I wanted to tell in those books.

Not every book needs a sequel–though I’m guilty of writing plenty of sequels, right?

I think knowing when to stop is one of the hardest skills to acquire and refine as a writer. Knowing when the story has been told just as it should be told, is difficult.

I’m getting better at that.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase