“Phoenix” is an odd story. Odd in the sense that it came from more than one place, unlike most of my short stories. It started several years ago, when I wrote a story about a teenage hustler named Gabriel. Gabriel came from the Aware novels, and that story was my way of understanding his history. Unlike “Sea Glass,” the story wasn’t one that worked well on its own, so I set it aside.
Then, last year, I spent a lot of time thinking about hope. There were all sorts of reasons for that, ranging from the state of the world to my own history of depression to the sorts of stories I kept writing. Somewhere along the way, one line got stuck in my head: The thing about stories is they’ve got to have hope.
So I had that line, and Gabriel, and that first story, and then Tucker came along. Convention with young adult fiction says it doesn’t include a middle-aged narrator, but that’s where things went with Tucker. For “Phoenix” to have hope, there needed to be the understanding that Tucker survived everything, and thrived.
Still, it wasn’t yet a story. Not until Kelsey happened by. I can’t tell you where she came from, because I don’t know. Some characters just drift into your head and take root there like dandelions. Kelsey’s one of them.
So “Phoenix” rose from the bones of an old story and the meeting of three characters.