Warning: this could have some quasi-spoilers.
The Stalker was, to me, a physical embodiment of PTSD. You see, this actually started as a project in therapy, and it’s also the thing that made me pay closer attention to my subconscious. The first variation of the book was a short story about somebody very tired, and beat down, trying to come home but they can’t because of a monster waiting for them at their door.
My PTSD, once I was honorably discharged from the military, was this giant, foreboding blackness that just hung over me. Like a wet blanket that just dampened my mood, weighed on me, and eventually just turned me into a recluse. I made the Stalker so gruesome because of what I struggled with—it felt just violent, a violent force inside of me. That can manifest itself in a lot of ways. Originally none of my coping mechanisms were ideal; hell, they weren’t even good. This monster I had concocted kept me away from the people I knew and loved, or at least kept the version of me I wanted to try and find again away from them.
The isolation of the character is important not only to the story, but me as well. Janzen and I weren’t meant to be solitary creatures, we thrive in social settings and the truth was once we were torn from our tribes we couldn’t really exist with any kind of success in the world. Once I lost my platoon, the military structure I had come to rely and really depend on, I just drifted aimlessly away.
The disconnect from the world in the novel is pity, shame, and the grief of loss. For me as a person it was the same. While I didn’t have to face down a mythical monster with ferocious teeth, in a lot of the ways the enemy I fought was more insidious. It was me.
Friends that didn’t quit is what gave me the opportunity to get help, seek therapy, and find purpose again. I wanted to take my protagonist on a similar path, to insinuate these amazing people had kept themselves in his orbit as best as possible, to show that while it wouldn’t be clean or neat or perfect… He could stumble his way back into the world he’d left, the world that for better or worse he loved and belonged to. It’s an intimate journey for me, and while I wrote the book to be fun and engaging I hope some of that resonates. I hope people can see that staring down monsters is frightening as fuck, but not impossible, especially with the right help.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide please reach out, the national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255.