Updated: Mar 28
I'm always happy to help get the word out about book debuts for other authors. Aria Blake is a lady whom i have the honor of calling friend. For some time she has been telling me about this amazing novel, sharing snippets of the process with me. I've Invited Aria to write about her journey of what brought her to write this book:
What is the meaning of life? Or better yet, what is the meaning of death?
This has always been the questions that pounded on the walls inside my head, It's also the question that sparked Dear Archie to life.
Before I tell you about the book, let me tell you about my personal journey with life and death.
Hey, my name is Aria. I'm an author of whatever jumps into my head, but I'm also just a small town girl with larger-than-life dreams and ambitions. Don't scroll, I'm not going into my entire life story, including mundane details that don't matter.
I'm going to tell you the parts that broke or made me.
Death is strange. That was my first thought when I buried a small hen in the garden. The poor baby was a victim of Spike, the neighbor's very intimidating dog. At four years old, I already knew that when someone passes, you hold a funeral- the glory of VCR Movies.
At four, my concept of death was simple; you die, but in my mind I thought that by some miracle you'd still be alive somewhere... right?
The first human death I experienced was my grandmother. I was seven at the time, and although I was crying, I still didn't grasp the severity of it all.
I didn't have time to learn slowly, take baby steps with death, because after Grandma people around me seemed to pass away every year or so.
I lost two friends in a car accident, two years later I lost another friend in a small quad bike accident. Was I sad that I couldn't play with these kids anymore? Yes. Did I finally grasp the concept of death? No.
I don't think I understood that concept until I was in Highschool and I lost another dear friend to an illness. Maybe my frontal lobe was developed enough to finally understand that I would never see him again. He made me afraid of death; he made me afraid of funerals... he almost made me afraid to live.
But like with so many things in life, I quickly recovered and although my heart still stung, I could breathe and go to school. I could live.
Adolescence brought with it a whole new set of Death. Almost like playing cards. You get death by illness, death by accident... but then you get death by suicide.
Death by suicide holds a different sting to it. Not saying that death in any other way is less severe, but it's one thing to lose someone by illness or accident and a whole other thing when death occurs by choice of the deceased.
Second year out of highschool, I got the news that my uncle shot himself. In that moment, I felt a whole different array of emotions than just sad. I was angry and confused. I felt useless, and no matter what I felt, there was nobody that could answer why I wouldn't see him anymore.
His death brought on more deaths... My grandfather on my father's side passed away because of cancer and although I grew up with these two men, I wasn't as close to them as others would presume. Yes, I loved them, but I healed rather quickly from the wounds.
I had an anchor in life back then. Big Grandad Kurt. When I say he was my everything, I mean it. I went over to his house every night. He'd offer me a glass of horrendous whiskey, and I'd take it with a smile as we started talking. We never talked about mundane things like the weather or other people... we had deep conversations about possibilities, theories and facts.
I grew extremely close to him, and it helped that we lived on the same farm. Not a day went by where I didn't talk to him. I'd be in my office thinking about some deep-rooted problem, and I never hesitated to pick up the phone and ask him for help or advice.
His death was different. I was told one morning while getting ready for work that "Oh, he passed in his sleep"- mind you my nine-year-old stepsister broke the news, and with my own past experiences, I knew that she wouldn't comprehend the severity of things.
It's a feeling one can't explain. You turn ice cold, then extremely hot, then you want to get rid of any contents in your stomach. I had to be the strong one, so somehow my brain hid the fact that he won't return. I organized as much as I could while my poor mother mourned the loss of her father.
His death was different because I only started mourning him six months after his death. In those six months I dreamt only about one thing- Whales. As the six months progressed the water in my dreams would become brighter. Then one night I dreamt of a payphone. It was ringing and when I picked it up, Big Grandad Kurt talked to me.
He told me not to wait for him, that he's not coming back. He told me he loved me. He told me to look after my family... and when I woke up; I got a notification on my phone it was his birthday.
Questions filled my mind. Was it really him? Is there a place after death? What is the meaning of life? Around this time I started writing letters to him, sobbing as I asked him all the questions my mind couldn't find the answers to.
Two years later, I got the idea for Dear Archie, but as life would have it, tragedy stuck again.
I lost my brother-in-law to suicide. His death is like Big Grandad Kurt's death... I'm still mourning. 18 November 2019 was a day that altered my life completely. We moved back to our family, we mourned, we made plans, and we mourned again.
With this death my emotions felt irrelevant, Vernon lost his brother. My in-laws lost their son. Where could I mourn? Where could I express all these emotions bubbling inside me?
I sat down and started writing Dear Archie. If only I knew back, then what an immensely difficult task it would be. I cried every second page. Sometimes I cried for the beauty of it all, but other times I'd cry because as Elle was mourning Archie. I didn't feel so alone.
Elle is me... Archie is life and death. I morphed all my deaths into one fictional character. Elle has my mindset, she's like my horcrux- a piece of me written down for eternity.
The book was also a great way to get to know myself. There was no plot when I started. As I wrote, the story just poured out of me along with all my emotions.
I wanted this book to be relatable, yet realistic. The relatability is the simple part... everyone has, in one point or another, experienced loss. I've had readers tell me they think Archie left her, that he just disappeared. Others tell me they think Archie died in an accident or from an illness, some even associate his death with the deaths they have experienced.
Although the book makes some cry, I've only gotten feedback about how it made people feel.
Feelings are important. Without feeling, where is our humanity?
Dear Archie is for everyone. This book is dedicated to every person who picks it up. It's meant to give you comfort, and sometimes the only comfort that makes us truly free is emotions.
Website - www.ariablake.com
Twitter - @AriaBlakeOffici
Facebook - @AriaBlakeofficia