Dangerous to Heal is a book that evolved over a decade, first as an idea and a few pages when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in eSwatini, then as a shakily held together manuscript, and finally as a published book.
I’d like to use this FAQ list to share more about the book’s journey and what I was thinking while writing and revising it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where did you get the idea for the book?
The initial idea–of Yaniqui and Hloban–has lived in my head for a very long time. I can’t say when I first thought about their dynamic and they didn’t have those names until I started writing. Adam was early on as well, to provide a counterbalance to the duo.
D-68 came to me fullly formed in a dream. Most of his scenes from before he meets the Earthlings for the first time are directly from the dream.
The rest of the cast developed on their own as I wrote.
How long did it take you to write this?
A decade from the first pages to publication. I wrote the first pages (now long edited out) in 2013. I wrote most of it in 2017 and 2018, then rewrote it in 2021 and edited it in 2022.
Is this a sequel to your first book?
No. It’s Over or It’s Eden is a stand-alone book. Dangerous to Heal is book 1 of The Displacement Duology. Book 2 will come out in late 2023 and finish the series.
Why is it called “Dangerous to Heal”?
This book started as “A Place in the Universe”. I knew it was about a woman who was displaced and struggling to find her home. I came to find the working title was too vague.
Yaniqui’s story is really about the dangers life presents her while she’s simply trying to take care of herself and make the world around her better. But the more she heals others, the more dangerous things become for her as others want her gift for themselves.
Thus, it’s dangerous to heal.
“Displacement duology” encompasses the fact that all six POV characters are facing some kind of displacement, transition, or transient experience.
Why did you split the story into two books?
Back when it was “A Place in the Universe”, it was all one book, about 104k words, I think. I loved the characters and story and the first third was very strong, but it took me time to realize how I was rushing the middle and ending. I had this inkling that all of the characters moved too quickly to where they needed to be for the last scenes, but I couldn’t justify adding more to the word count.
I plodded a head for awhile and eventually put the book aside to work on It’s Over or It’s Eden. Arwen and Marah’s story in It’s Over or It’s Eden poured out of me relatively effortlessly (I can say that now, ha!) and working on the project helped shift my perspective. It took 80k words to tell the story of two characters, why was I expecting the story of six point-of-view characters to fit under 110k?
Once I resolved to split the book in half, the restructure took place quite intuitively and I had a lot of extra space in the second, forthcoming book to develop the plot and characters so they were ready for the final sequence.
How did you create the character names?
In many different ways.
One character is named after a reader who won a named-character contest (Hello, Brian Deyo!).
Hloban is a name I made up, but the “Hl” letter combination is used in a lot of Swazi names. I think it’s a beautiful sound. I felt it was a way for me to pay respect to a place that influenced so much of my writing. It’s also unusual to many English-speaking Americans, my primary audience, so I know many readers have been curious about this.
Adam I chose because that name makes many of us think of stories about an original man and the Adam in my book is in an unusual position, half Wea Saavian, half Earthling. He has to chart his own course.
Ippa and Yaniqui I made up based on sounds I liked.
Lozen is named after an historical Apache woman and warrior. Though the Lozen in my book comes from a different tribe, I thought her mother and aunt would want to bless the baby with power.
As for D-68, that’s not his real name but one pushed onto him by Earthling officials.
Was there a reason behind choosing the settings for the different planets?
Agricultural Planet 4,278, where Yaniqui starts her journey is a labor planet. The people who live and work there feel trapped by debt, overworked by company owners. I knew I wanted Yaniqui to be in a fantastical, but realistic setting. I asked myself what would space be like if capitalism–one of the social systems that threatens Yanqui’s safety–ran free? It would probably look a lot like 4,278.
D-68’s desert setting came within the dream. I absolutely loved designing Ippa’s hardnosed, highbrow university.
As for what we see of Earth, I relocated the capitol to Wisconsin, where I’m from, because of the rising seas we would see at this time. It seemed like a great spot because of the fresh water source of the great lakes. I pictured government officials deciding to centrally locate the capitol after decades of coastal disasters.
The Catchment came quite organically. It’s based off of spaces I’ve seen in Haiti, eSwatini, and the U.S., places where unwanted peoples are shunted away to by the government.
Is this a romance?
No, but it has romantic themes. Even though it’s about two characters who were supposed to live their lives together, it’s equally about what holds them apart and the tension that ensues. Dangerous to Heal doesn’t meet many of the genre expectations of a typical romance reader but, like life, relationships are a big focus of the story. I would liken it to The Vanished Birds or Mexican Gothic in that way.
Where can I get this book?
You can find signed copies on my website. The book is available as an e-book, soft cover, and hard cover from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Bookshop, Kobo, Target, and more. You can also request it from your local library.
How do you write?