Two years ago today, I released a little passion project called Empath. Nicknamed the “anxiety dragon” book, Empath was less about “what’s popular” and more about pouring my loneliness and ache for home into something else so it would leave me. I’d become overwhelmed with my anxiety, which flares and spirals like a dragon in my mind. I wanted to write the things I could never say to my ex because I was too scared to. To write the things I could never say period because I was too scared to.
And that’s how that little dragon book came to be.
Trudging through the Pain
I hated writing Empath. To be fair, I was pretty unhappy at that point. It was the last quarter of 2014, and I had made the decision to move to Pensacola, but unable to do so for another eight months. I had grad school to pay back, a house to sell, and a career to relocate. There was still a question if this craziness was going to actually happen.
And life in DC was miserable. People often wonder why I have such bad things to say about the city, but in truth, it left a sour taste in my mouth. Every morning, I’d hop on the metro to a job I hated and hold my breath as the train would pass by my ex’s house. Would today be the day I ran into him? Was he still with his new girlfriend? Would they already be engaged? There was no escaping this morning and afternoon ritual.
There was also this crushing loneliness. Most of my friends had abandoned me in DC after I’d gone through my quarter-life crisis. The rest of my support system was a thousand miles away, and I couldn’t get there.
And the cherry on top was how this book screwed with my mental health. Forcing myself to write scenes where Lauren couldn’t breathe would trigger my own sympathetic response. Chronicling her musings about her ex (taken from my own memories), would leave me exhausted and miserable. In order to write her pain, I had to experience it.
What I Needed
Way back before the quarter life crisis, I refused to admit there was a problem in my life. I avoid pain and misery like the plague, and to accept this new reality would hurt like a son of a bitch. Although I’d gone to therapy, which lead to the rediscovery of writing as my self-care, I still hadn’t dealt with my pain. Writing Empath was spending three grueling months underwater in my grief and misery. And when I reached the end, I was clean.
Does all this pain and misery result in a bestselling book? Not really. Empath sells maybe 1-2 eBooks per quarter, although it does very well at conventions (people like the dragon).
But it gets the most feedback. I received a five-page fan letter from a girl who was so moved by the book, she bought two more copies to share with the troubled girls she mentors. For a book that was written so closely to my own unique experience, it’s strangely a universal story. In some way, that makes those with whom it resonates feel a little less alone.
I like to think everything happens for a reason. Had I not gotten this urge to write a book about my pain and misery, I might still be holding onto it. Changing location doesn’t solve a problem, although it can aid the solution. Because I’d written Empath, I was ready to move on, for real. When I arrived in Pensacola, I was ready to live a beautiful life. And life really is beautiful.
So happy book birthday, my little book. Here’s to many more years of breaking feels–and slaying fears.
Slay Your Fears with Empath
After a mysterious voice promises an easy out to her problems, Lauren finds herself in a fantasy world with magical powers. Just one problem: There’s a dragon that might want to eat her.
From bestselling author S. Usher Evans comes a unique take about a real-world girl transported to a fantasy land and faced with a dragon that just might be the manifestation of her mental illness. Empath has “broken the feels” of readers around the world and helped them slay their own fears.
“I think we should just cut our losses and move on.”
If you ask Lauren Dailey, things are totally fine after the breakup. She doesn’t care that all her friends are getting engaged and moving on with their lives when all her dreams went up in smoke. She’s not crying herself to sleep every night. Everything is A-OK.
That is, until a mysterious voice promises an easy out to all her problems, and she wakes up in a fantasy world with the powers of an empath.
Without a way home, Lauren embraces her new life. There’s a village full of interesting characters, including Cefin, a handsome young man who’s everything a fantasy hero should be. She’s getting the hang of doing laundry in the river. And when she uses her empath powers, she’s temporarily distracted from the sadness that followed her from California and crops up at the most inconvenient times.
Still, there’s one large, dragon-shaped problem: The Anghenfil lives in the mountains nearby, and some say he’s got a taste for empaths. And Lauren’s afraid it might just be that mysterious voice tempting her deeper into her own darkness.
Empath will transport readers to a new world, while remaining firmly rooted in the realities of dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Recommended for readers who need help overcoming their own dragons.
This is a stand-alone novel. Content warnings for suicide, substance abuse, and adult situations.
Praise for Empath
★★★★★ “A pint of ice cream for your soul.” – Erin Sky, author of The Wendy
★★★★ “A brilliant allegory” – Elizabeth F., Goodreads Reviewer
★★★★★ “As someone who faces anxiety on a daily basis, this book spoke to me.” – Katrina M., Goodreads Reviewer
★★★★★ “Empath is encouragement to accept your whole self and move forward into great adventure.” – Sierra D., Goodreads Reviewer