Author Commentary: Winter’s Shadow Chapter 8

by M.J. Hearle

Had he left the jacket on purpose?
Did he want to see her again or was it simply an accident?
These were weighty questions and would take some consideration.

After the previous two chapters relatively high cringe factor, reading Chapter 8 is a bit of a relief. It’s not a particularly dynamic chapter but it does the job of moving the story along in an economic and – dare I say? – elegant manner. I particularly like the ‘These were weighty questions…’ sentence in the first paragraph – a glimpse of Winter’s ironic self awareness or my own? Teenagers aren’t idiots. They usually know when they’re blowing an issue out of proportion and/or being obsessive. They just can’t help it. Come to think of it, neither can thirty-something year olds.

There was something different about Blake, something
beyond his startling beauty. A danger. A secret.

That’s a fine observation, Winter. He’s a soul sucking, inter-dimensional travelling, brother to homicidal monster, 110 year-old immortal. Proceed with caution.

Lucy was bent over the stove, stirring a
noxious-smelling broth in a large saucepan.

Lucy’s bad cooking is a kooky little quirk I used to define her character. It’s not really based on anyone I know. In fact, in this age of Masterchef I doubt anyone could be this completely clueless in the kitchen. My agent didn’t like this aspect to her character and urged me to tone it back. My publisher on the other hand thought it was cute. In the end, I deleted some references and left the rest. When torn between two conflicting viewpoints I try and find a middle ground.

The soup/stew/slime ran down her throat, leaving a bitter aftertaste.

A fun sentence. Usually I’m too insecure to take risks with my prose but for some reason this sentence always felt right with the forward slashes.

Winter chose her words carefully. Ever since their
parents’ death, Lucy had been protective of her.

Everybody responds differently to death – some people close-up like Winter, others become painfully open; walking wounds. Lucy unfortunately is the latter. I imagine she was a pretty cool chic prior to her parents death. The grief levelled her and she’s still in the process of rebuilding. The fact that Winter knows this and doesn’t just openly rebel is a testament to her maturity and compassion.

‘He was a stranger? Are you telling me you
got in a car with a strange man?’

This dialogue exchange works a helluva a lot better than the previous ones between Blake and Winter. It’s becoming clear to me now that I simply didn’t have a handle on Blake in the beginning. Lucy and Winter – no worries. Blake? He was still a stranger, I could see him but I couldn’t hear his voice. I wonder if through this commentary I’ll be able to pinpoint when he began to take on some substance? Stay tuned.

Lucy let go of her, eyes shining with tears.
Winter preferred her sister’s outrage to this.

Again, this feels like an authentic reaction. I know I’m very uncomfortable with open displays of grief. It doesn’t mean I’m not empathetic and I would never withhold comfort because of my squeamishness – it just doesn’t come naturally to me. I admire those courageous folk who proffer their shoulders without hesitation to those in need.  To my shame, I generally keep mine dry.

The same plainfaced girl she’d seen in the
mirror this morning stared back at her

Obviously, Winter couldn’t be the most beautiful girl in town. I wanted her to be identifiable and very few of us are supermodels. If you happen to be one of the beautiful people, more power to you. I just don’t think we can be friends. Lack of common ground and all that. One of the things that annoyed me about Twilight was Bella being described as a shy wallflower when, based on everyone else’s reaction, she was clearly the hottest girl in Forks. That whole ‘beautiful girl but doesn’t know it’ feels a little like pandering. Stephenie Meyer is pretty cute though so maybe she was just writing from experience.

Though she’d come very close to being killed today, that
particular momentous event wasn’t the one she now turned over
and over in her mind. It was Blake who occupied her thoughts.

One of the clearest memories from my teenage years is the all consuming power of a crush. I remember nearly drowning one day in the ocean during a particularly wild swell and as my life flashed before my eyes all I could think about was this girl at my school I liked. Not my friends or family. Not my potentially dashed dreams – a girl. A girl I barely knew. It’s irrational, illogical and ultimately true. Winter lying on her bed and staring wistfully up at the ceiling might be something of a cliched image but it feels right in that it’s precisely the sort of thing I would do if I’d come across someone who knocked my socks off.