As I wait for proofs of the When Life Was Still trilogy that I’ve finished writing, I find myself thinking a lot about the meaning of my words. The past five years, I have been so focused on selecting words for my narrators Ellen, Greta, and Amy that I haven’t put much thought into what I have to say outside of the context of my novels. Now that I’ve stepped out of my imaginary world, the inner voice of self-doubt has been asking why I poured so much of my time and energy into this writing project. When I tried to come up with an answer, I realized that it was a journey I needed to take.
Obviously, my characters’ words are my written words. But I have discovered during this writing process that the women in my fictional stories are more brave than I am in real life. They have allowed me to put words in their mouths that I feel I can’t actually say. When I consider why I find it so necessary to edit my own words in my non-fictional existence, I think it’s because I don’t want to risk offending or embarrassing the people around me. Though I believe that no writer creates in a vacuum and every writer must borrow from personal experience, this trilogy is a work of fiction. While I wrote my rough drafts, even though my characters started out as mash-ups of myself and people I have encountered that had familiar experiences in settings I have visited, Ellen, Greta, and Amy eventually developed personalities of their own. They told me who they were and where they wanted to go on their pages. They told me where they wanted to end up in their stories. I quickly discovered that Ellen, Greta, and Amy were much more courageous in their pursuit of having a voice that is heard than I am.
While I reflect and wait for their words to become available to the public, I realize that I have been inspired by Ellen, Greta, and Amy to use the voice they have helped me find during the writing of their stories. I intend to use the When Life Was Still trilogy as a platform from which I will continue sharing thoughts about politics, religion, and society. These thoughts will emerge in the form of fictional spin-offs and sequels. Most importantly, these thoughts will also be delivered in my own voice in the form of essays and public presentations. I believe that using my true voice to help make life a better place for others is worth risking a possible negative reaction from some people in my life. It is my hope that the When Life Was Still trilogy inspires other people to also use their voice to move life in a beautiful direction.
—Julie A. Ryan
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