Today on the blog we have a guest post from Kristy Evangelista. Kristy wrote “No Shit” for Defying Doomsday, about a Brisbane woman with Crohn’s disease who survives an extremely deadly pandemic. There will be a follow-up story in Rebuilding Tomorrow, thematically titled “Merry Shitmas”. I’ll let Kristy tell you more about them, and the experience of writing them.
“No Shit”, the original story I wrote for Defying Doomsday, is a story that holds a special place in my heart. Not only was it the first story I ever wrote as an adult, it was also my very first publication — those of you who have any experience in the author business know how lucky I was to get this kind of validation so early on in my writing career.
It is a deeply personal story, because it is based on experience. Writing honestly about something as embarrassing as Crohn’s disease was more difficult than I expected. There was at least one line which I thought wastoo honest, and I see sawed back and forth about whether to include it. I did, in the end, but when the story was accepted, I still thought seriously about publishing under an assumed name (people I work with might read it after all!). Then I realised what message this could send to everyone else with a bowel condition; that there is something shameful about it, which of course there isn’t.
I was also uncertain how other people with Crohn’s disease might feel about my story, given that everyone’s experience is different. On this front, at least, I feel like I did OK — an excerpt of the story was published by the Crohn’s and Colitis Australia newsletter, and I have been told by other Crohnies that they could really relate to my character’s experiences.
My sequel story, “Merry Shitmas”, continues about six months after Jane and Sam settled in Brisbane with the few other plague survivors they were able to find. In an apocalypse such as mine, this is probably the golden age; the petrol hasn’t gone bad yet, there is lots of food available for those that are left, and the masses of dead have largely decomposed and are no longer stinking up the place. But it certainly doesn’t feel that way to Jane, especially when she discovers another plague survivor has taken their own life.
In my original story, Jane dealt with a flare of her condition; In the sequel she struggles with the side effects of her medication. Those of you who have ever taken steroids know they can often feel worse than living with disease, and Jane definitely struggles with the changes prednisolone makes to her mood and mental state. As I’m writing this blog post, I realise how heavy and intense it all sounds — a sure fire way to scare some readers away! — but like the original story, the dark elements are balanced Jane’s sense of humour, and the wonderful rapport that exists between her and Sam.
Both “No Shit” and “Merry Shitmas” were written pre-COVID. It is an interesting to read a plague story now that we all have some first hand experience with a deadly infectious virus. Certainly, if this type of apocalypse were to happen now, the protagonists would be making COVID19 comparisons constantly! So in that respect my stories are already a little dated. But some elements stand up, and were even a little prophetic, such as Jane’s decision to fill an entire truck with toilet paper! Of course, we all know now that it is very anti-social to hoard toilet paper in a crisis — but Jane has IBS, so I think we can give her a pass.
I’m really proud to be part of both Defying Doomsday and Rebuilding Tomorrow, which show that just because you have a missing limb, or autism, or messed up bowels, it doesn’t mean you can’t kick ass when you need to. I’m also really glad that Twelfth Planet Press allowed me to publish my stories under their original titles — I thought for sure that they would ask me to change them, which would have made me sad, because I think they capture the personality of the main character, her condition, and the tone of the narrative perfectly.
I like to think that maybe one day someone will read my stories, have a laugh, and feel slightly less embarrassed the next time they have to explain to someone what Crohn’s disease is.