I read Stephen King’s On Writing much earlier this year, and it always struck me as odd that for quite a long time, King didn’t realize that he almost always wrote about himself. “Really?” I’d think. “You were writing about an alcoholic novelist at the time you were an alcoholic novelist and you didn’t make that connection?” I thought he must be lying, or that it must have been because of his previous coke addiction (I’ve never done coke, but I presume it’ll mess up your thinking process). Because every King book I’ve ever read has a protagonist that is either an alcoholic writer, or an English teacher who writes on the side (King was one before his success with Carrie), or just a plain old alcoholic.
Yet today as I look back through Riley Rewind Season 2’s first draft, I realize that I’m a complete hypocrite.
Not in such an obvious sense, though. I mean, Riley Rewind [Season 1] is about a girl who travels back in time to save a disturbed goth classmate from committing suicide. It didn’t take me long to figure out that that was me. Although, yes, I admit, it took me 3 months after finishing that story to see the very obvious connection there. That was me writing about saving my sister. That was me telling myself that in some story, any story, there was a way for Kristina to live on, even if it was just pretend. Even if it was just words on paper. In a way, I have realized that all of my writing is influenced by this intense desire to rewind time, walk into her room, and catch her hanging herself. To save her.
But I guess you never know how deeply your subconscious goes. For instance, these are the lines that one of Riley’s friends says to her when they argue about who is better; Batman or Superman? Riley takes the side of Batman (obviously biased, I apologize), but her friend debates that Superman is better, despite his rigid moral structure and supposed vanilla personality, because:
“But isn’t that [being “vanilla”] his whole appeal? Jerry Siegel loses his father to an armed gunman and creates America’s first bulletproof man. Superman was born out of tragedy; he’s the boy’s reincarnated father. With him, you always know he’s going to do the right thing, no matter what. Because that’s how Siegel saw his dad; a hero. He eternalized him, he made him invincible, and he made him pure of heart. I don’t know how it gets much more romantic than that. And you think Batman has more depth? Batman was manufactured specifically because everyone wanted to capitalize on the success of Superman. ” –from Riley Season 2
Isn’t that exactly what Riley is? Riley Brown, a girl with the ability to turn back time, is a character born out of the tragedy that is my sister. Actually, it’s pretty much every story I’ve ever written since her passing. It’s always redemption, saving a life, making up for a mistake, seeking forgiveness or closure, attempting to set things right, etc.
I lost my sister to suicide, and I can’t stop writing about it. I can’t stop hypothesizing how to fix it. I can’t stop my words from twisting and turning themselves into a played out wish; that the girl lives at the end. That somehow, in some way, the girl lives on.
And although Kristina Marie Akana died six years ago at the age of thirteen, she has been alive in every single one of my stories.
I think she will always be alive in my stories.
And I’m okay with that.