So what is INDIGO about? This is a question I am getting a lot lately, and it is difficult for me to answer. INDIGO is about Corrine Harlowe, who is seventeen and has just lost her sister in a terrible accident. And Corrine has something going on, something that lights up, churning, surging, coming to life just beneath her rib cage. A power. A life force all its own. Corrine knows it killed her little sister.
But did it? Could this indigo touch be something else entirely? A gift somehow?
This is the basis of the book, the teaser, a quick version of the back-cover copy. But for me, the book is about so many other things. When I write a book, I often start with the hook, like the above copy. Sure. But soon into the brainstorming process, I need to discover what this character is really about.
What kind of journey is she taking emotionally? What is at the crux of this girl, her problems, her life?
So, very quickly, I knew that Corrine and her story would have deep, personal themes, about life and love and loss. About the guilt and responsibility we feel when tragedy strikes, especially to those who we feel protective over, whether it’s our children or our siblings or friends.
INDIGO is about learning how contrary the world is, scary and random, dangerous and dark, how the worst can and does happen to people who don’t deserve it. Yet, they still go on.
Many of them eventually prosper and truly live. Maybe even finding a new, tenuous happiness. Whether it’s the neighbor next door who lost his wife to breast cancer, or the friend struggling against addiction, or the child at school with a terminal disease, we know tragedy. Maybe only from far away.
But some of us know it up close.
And I wanted to write about that. Because I have three beautiful, healthy children, but also, next month marks the nine-year anniversary of my triplets’ birth. They were born prematurely, and although the odds were better than this, both the boys, Ben and Calvin, died within days.
No one should have to bury a child.
Ben had big hands and feet like a puppy dog and a nose like my father’s. Calvin had short buzz-cut hair, and I held them both in my arms as they died. I could do nothing to stop it.
It was unbelievable to me, this dark open maw of grief swallowing me whole. At their funeral, when I walked into the church, and I saw the casket they shared, and my knees buckled.
I don’t think I believed it was real until that moment. I think I was hoping it was all a nightmare, something I could wake up from.
Anyway, of course we figured God – or karma, the universe -- would let our tiny Annika make it, even if our boys were really, truly gone.
Of course, she would get to be our miracle baby. We read to her, sang to her, held her, and watched as she grew stronger in the NICU, even breathing on her own. She had a personality, crying and letting the nurses know when she didn’t like something. She loved her pacifier. She even rubbed the crown of her head like my oldest daughter when she was tired.
But eventually, after weeks of improvement, Annika contracted an infection her underdeveloped immune system couldn’t fight off.
She joined her brothers in heaven, giving us one last gift before she left us. She opened her eyes for the first time, and she looked at us, and she smiled. She was brave and feisty, comforting us in that beautiful, terrible moment.
The time right after her death was black with grief. The heaviness so hard on my heart, I literally felt like I could not draw a big enough breath.
I absolutely drowned in guilt. Had I overdone it while pregnant? Had I not washed the breast-pump well enough and had it given Annika the germs she couldn’t fight off? I went down the, “What if…?” road all the time.
My body failed them. I failed them. They were gone.
My point is this: How do you come back from that?
You don’t, I figured. For a very long time, I just knew I had to endure -- for my older daughter who was alive and needed me.
But people do come back from horrible situations. People are resilient, and as I was writing Corrine’s story, I thought about this a lot. How do we ever get over such tragedy and loss?
How can we move on after a broken heart?
Nine years later, my heart is mended, not whole exactly, but mended. My babies will never be forgotten, but I have healed. I am able to enjoy and fully engage in my life with my three beautiful children. And when I think back to how we ever recovered, well, it’s a miracle really. Neighbors, family, so many people surrounded us with whatever they could: kind words, meals, an ear.
In Corrine’s story, there are many other things at work as well: this strange otherworldly indigo touch, sixth senses, physio-electricity, auras. All kinds of cool sci-fi, speculative stuff that I love to write about.
But the most important thing in Corrine’s story, and my story, and anyone’s who's endured such terrible loss and then found their way out the other side, is this: the magic of the human heart.
Our minds know absolutely, logically that we cannot move on from such a deep, personal loss, but our hearts... They are resilient. And within each of us, in our hearts, buried deep, is a stubborn, tiny egg of hope that will eventually crack open without reason, without cultivation, searching out the good in this world.
Maybe someone reading this needs to hear that. To know that I was once there. I get it.
And I know you won’t really believe what I’m saying, and that’s okay. Just hold on. Don't give up. Things will get better. Your mind may not believe me, but your heart, inside, it already fluttered its wings.