I said on Friday that I’d post an answer to Deltay‘s contest winning question, and I’m going to now! Even though I know I’ll have to be very careful with answer these questions until the book comes out, I will endeavor to make them as spoiler free as possible–promise.

Q #1: If you could meet any of the characters from All Unquiet Things, who would you want to meet and why?

The answer is, for me, at once impossible and impossibly easy: Neily. If you’d like to get a little taste of what Neily’s like, you can read an excerpt from All Unquiet Things here. That should give you a good idea of the kind of person we’re dealing with, although Neily is a complex, difficult, but lovable character (if I do say so myself), so what’s in that excerpt is just the tip of the iceberg.

Of all the characters in All Unquiet Things, Neily has been with me the longest. Carly has always been the centerpiece of this book, even in the first version, when she wasn’t dead (well, until the end; I read Looking for Alaska a couple of years ago, long after I’d scrapped the first version of AUT and moved on to this second version, and couldn’t believe some of the similarities, although they were all at the most basic, general level). But Neily has always been the heart of the story.

Though I wrote books before version 1 of All Unquiet Things, I consider Neily my ur character. The original. He’s the first person I ever truly invented. My friends and coworkers have been passing around an ARC of AUT, so I’ve been talking with people who know me about things I made up a lot recently, which is SO WEIRD but whatever. This weekend, I was over at my friend Eric’s house and he had just finished the novel right before I walked through the door.

I was in the kitchen making my “famous” taco dip (“famous” and not Famous because even though I think of it as one of my specialities, my friends insist they didn’t know I made it until last year; also, it’s a recipe I stole from my mom) and he came in and started talking to me about the book. He especially identified with Neily, which I loved hearing, and despite the fact that Neily can be prickly and stubborn, I think he’ll be the most popular of the three main characters in AUT. Because Neily is, in his own way, an Everyman.

When Neily first came into my head, I knew one thing about him: he was angry. At every step of the way, I’ve had to figure out why he was angry. The answer has changed at least three times, and I’ve always felt that he was justified in feeling that way (and I know readers will too, riiiiiiight about page 130). But Neily’s also a lot of other things. He’s good, in that solid, dependable way that lots of people are not. He’s smart, but he’s uncertain of himself. One of the things I love about Neily is that he’s so afraid to let people down. It’s not good for him, but it belies an unfailing urge to put the happiness of other people above his own, or if he cannot make them happy he at least refuses to be the cause of their unhappiness (as you can see in the excerpt, one of those people he cannot make happy is his father)–which is noble, if not exactly healthy.

Another thing I love about Neily is that he changes. There’s nothing I admire more than someone who can observe, learn, and then recalibrate based on what they’ve learned, EVEN IF what they’ve learned isn’t exactly true or at least isn’t universally applicable (what is?). I know I’m being vague here, because I really don’t want to ruin any of the story, even the emotional parts, or perhaps especially those.

So the short answer is: Neily. I would love to meet Neily. I’m a sane person, so I know he’s not real, but he feels real. And I’m not delusional enough to believe that there isn’t anything of me in him, or him in me. I feel like he is a product of things I’ve learned, and also that I’ve learned from him, if that makes any sense.

I’m loving this question thing already! I can’t wait till the book is out and people can weigh in with what they think.

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