As people have talked to me after reading my book, I’ve found that there are several common questions that I get asked a lot, many referring to the last chapter. I decided to explain myself a bit, so hopefully people can better understand the craziness that went on.

WARNING: major spoilers ahead! If you haven’t finished the first book, I would highly recommend not reading any farther. I hate accidentally reading spoilers, so I’m looking out for you—you have been warned.

It’s funny how not very many people liked Erika (which is totally cool. I didn’t like her at first either) but every person is always really sad when she dies. They would complain to me about her all while reading it, then once they finished would be all like “How could you kill Erika?” It makes me laugh 🙂

Surprisingly to me, one of the most common questions I get is this: is Erika really dead?

Yes, she is. No, she’s not coming back. I’m not always a huge fan of people who legitimately died, then ‘miraculously’ come back to life in a way that doesn’t really make sense. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Erika and I was so so so sad when I realized where her story ended. But she is dead. No, she’s not secretly infected, and no, nothing about her death was staged. Sorry.

The second question: did she really have to die?

Yes, she did. I didn’t write the epilogue for a very long time—I was in heavy denial—and it was extremely difficult to write. What’s interesting to me is that originally it wasn’t supposed to end that way. Actually, Erika wasn’t supposed to be in the story at all.

In the very very early development of the story, Erika didn’t exist. This was strictly a story about Sark and Arie, and how they went from sworn enemies to family. That was the basic idea. As the story progressed though, the negative Arie-Sark relationship developing, I started to realize that this wasn’t going to work. They hated each other. Arie was terrified of him, and he viewed her something close to an animal. There was no way they could ever reach the sibling relationship on their own; it just wasn’t going to happen. I needed someone to be the catalyst, an extra nobody, to come in for a chapter or two and initiate the change. I figured a pretty girl could get caught in the mix. She would get through to Sark’s deeply buried conscience, beginning his change, then leave the story. Arie would do the rest.

There are two reasons why that didn’t work. First of all, Arie wouldn’t stick around. Even if that really did work for Sark, Arie would never give him the chance to prove it, and there wasn’t a good probability that he would keep the good guy routine up. There was just too much bad blood between the two.

Second, Erika wouldn’t leave. Now this may sound crazy, but it always amazes me how fictional characters grow to have a mind of their own. Most of the time they’re the ones making their own decisions, and I’m just the one that writes it all down. Erika was stubborn. Once I wrote her in, she just wouldn’t leave, and I hated it. She obviously had a hidden agenda—an agenda she wasn’t sharing with me. It was frustrating to write when her character was in the scene. I could not figure out what she wanted or why she was there. If you read the first draft of Surviving on a Whisper (which nobody ever will) it’s full of a bunch of awkward scenes that don’t really make sense. I filled up the page just waiting for when I could finally be rid of Erika. She was annoying and nosy and just didn’t fit. But I was also curious. I knew that she worked for Dalton, but wasn’t sure what that really meant. What was her part in all of this? And was she really enough to change someone like Sark that thoroughly?

Needless to say, she drove me nuts. I finished the first draft, minus the epilogue, and sent it off to my editor hoping she could make something of it. The plot was great, she said, but Erika was a constant inconsistency. Why was she there, and why did she behave that way? It didn’t make sense, and I couldn’t explain it to her. I thought my story was doomed.

Then one day we were working together on editing chapter 10 (the chapter where Felix finds Arie in the library, nearly killing her) which was a mess. She made the comment that she’d love to see Arie completely lose it, and that would give the point in the story more depth (for chapter 10 and 11, the first draft is quite different than the final product). I took her brilliant advice and literally everything else fell into place. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. I can’t say too much about it now because a lot of that plays into the second book, but just know that chapters 10 and 11 were definite turning points.

Anyway, I discovered more about Erika and finally felt like I could successfully end my novel. But not only did Erika tell me more about herself, she told me that she couldn’t stay. I realized what would happen in the end: Erika would admit that she was acting the entire time, and turn both Sark and Arie over to Dalton before running off to live her life.

But something didn’t really add up. There are some things as an author that you just know about your story, and I knew that the epilogue would take place three months after the story ended. I just knew. That didn’t make sense. Why would Erika hide out with Sark and Arie for three months if she was just going to turn them in by the end?

Then it occurred to me: Erika stayed because she wanted to. She stayed because she loved Sark and Arie. She stayed because she was hiding too. The final piece of the puzzle was put into place and I saw the whole picture: Erika had to die. Sadly, I knew that that was how this was supposed to end.

Now, the third question I get is “does that make Erika a bad guy?”

Unfortunately, that’s a question you will have to answer for yourselves. Personally I say no. Like I said, a lot of this plays into the second book, so you might just have to wait and see. It turns out there was a whole other side to this story, Erika’s side, that Arie never got the chance to see. And it might just change everything.