I used to be absolutely terrified of zombies. I avoided any zombie story like the plague (lol get it). But in 2013, I had an emergency C-section with my oldest daughter, Aryn. After thirty hours of labor, a sweet, bespectacled doctor leaned down and brushed my sweaty hair out of my face and told me we needed to do a C-section. Aryn’s heartrate was dipping, and there wasn’t any time to lose.
I’ve had an anxiety disorder since I was twelve. I didn’t finish middle school because the panic attacks were so bad. I’ve done years of therapy and meds, and I actually have a pretty good handle on it, most times. But that C-Section was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. The meds didn’t work, and I could feel more than I should. The light was positioned so that I could see the reflection of them cutting me open. My daughter was purple and not moving when they pulled her out—I watched the nurse pick up my baby’s violet leg and let it flop down onto the surgical tray as she looked knowingly back at the doctor. Call the NICU.
Then, I heard them saying I was bleeding out, and they couldn’t get it to stop. I’m having a panic attack, I whispered, and then I passed out. I woke up fifteen minutes later in the recovery room. Aryn was next to me, getting her first bath. She was fine. Alive. So was I. But for years, I had nightmares that were filled with the sound of suctioning blood and the lifeless thwap of my daughter’s leg. The thought of having another baby—and possibly doing all of it again—was terrifying.
In early winter 2016, I got pregnant with my son, Liam. And I knew that I’d have to face my fears, again. The thought of staring down another labor would make me short of breath.
One night, I was flipping through Netflix and saw The Walking Dead. I paused. Do you think I’d like this? I asked my husband. He popped his head from around the kitchen to see what I was talking about. He looked at me, and then back to the screen. Over and over as he tried to process my question.
Um, yes. I think you’d love it. But you’ve always said zombies were off limits. Usually, they were. But I needed something that would force me to face my fears. I fell hard, devouring several seasons within weeks. And after watching the characters I loved so much face their fears, I found myself ready for mine.
I turned to the blank page and decided to look at all the things that scared me, as well as all the things that inspired me. I was raised in a fundamentalist church where women weren’t allowed to speak in the assembly. I learned to bite my tongue when the church boys said vile things to me, believing that that was what I was supposed to do. But as I grew older, I found myself entranced and inspired by women who changed the world by not falling line—Boudica, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc. Simone Segouin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Annie Lumpkin, the Women’s Protection Units fighting IS in Syria…the list went on and on. I started speaking up. I realized that the Bible is full of women who didn’t fall in line—from Tamar to Deborah to Lydia. The text I was bound with slowly became what also freed me.
Years later, I found a book on women and piracy and read the story of Anne de Graaf and was totally in awe. I wanted to write a story about a girl—not the coolest girl or the prettiest girl or the smartest girl. Not the most talented girl or the bravest girl—just a girl who chose to fight.
This book was born of that thought: What if a scared, unspecial person had to save the world? What if they weren’t sure they were ready?
This book is my love letter to unruly, un-special women rising to the challenge and facing their fears.