I want to tell you a small part of my experience of writing Angel Thieves. To a certain extent, all of my books feel a bit slippery as they come into being, but this one was like trying to walk a dozen cats on the ends of a dozen leashes. The various story lines kept getting tangled up and twisted. There were moments when I just wanted to toss it all, for sure. And just when I thought I had it in place, it slipped away again.
In fact, the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) is basically draft #38 out of maybe 52 drafts? (I stopped counting a year ago). Anyways, I made substantial changes to the manuscript after the ARC came out, so if you happen to have one, use it to study and show how a book can change from one draft to another, especially when it comes to the ending.
There are over fifty-thousand words at play here. It took me three years to get those words all arranged in just the right way. And yet . . .
Yet . . .
There was one sentence that just kept eluding me. One critical sentence. Only three words long.
It first occurs on page 83 when my young protagonist Cade has just come face to face with his biological mother for the first time. At six years old, the trauma of it was overwhelming and Cade did the only thing he could think to do—ducked into the bathroom and locked the door.
Minutes later, he hears his dad Paul on the other side of the door, who tells him the best words ever: “I’ll always be right here.” Of course, those are perfect words to say to a kid who has just experienced a major moment in his life. They’re satisfying and comforting and all of that. They work well in that particular time and space.
But fast forward ten years and 213 pages. Now on page 296, Cade is sixteen, and he is the one who is in the position of being the comforter. I wanted him to say those exact best words ever, in an attempt to pull the story threads together. And while “I’ll always be right here,” suffices, it’s just not exactly right.
My friends, that sentence drove me nuts. I kept trying to massage it, to rub it into something more pliable and that suited both instances more fully. I could not figure it out. I kept changing it, kept trying other sentences, other words.
I knew what I wanted both Paul and Cade to express, I knew what their hearts had to say, but the way to say it kept slipping from my grasp. I can’t tell you how frustrating that was.
However, even more frustrating was the moment when I realized the exact right sentence, because by then it was too late. The book had already gone to the printer. I had this eureka moment, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.
The good news is that my wonderful editor, Caitlyn Dlouhy, was able to make the change for the audio edition (which is brilliantly read by my daughter-in-law Laurel Kathleen), and if the book is lucky enough to go to a second printing, then it’ll show up then. But if it doesn’t, I hope you’ll write it in on pages 83 and 296.
“There’s love enough.” This is what Paul should have said to Cade, which in turn Cade says to Zorra. “There’s love enough.”
In so many ways, I feel like that small, three-word sentence is what the entire book is about. It means that when love is present, it doesn’t take mountains of it to create a miracle. It doesn’t require quantification. Love is love is love. When it’s present, there’s enough. And that’s what matters.