When writing a book, I like to take real situations and give them a fantasy twist to explore them. For example, in Empath I used a giant fire-breathing dragon to dive deep into anxiety and mental health. In my new urban fantasy trilogy, Demon Spring, I wanted to write a story about someone who chose to stay in a relationship, and then chose to break free.

Warning: Slight spoilers about the Resurgence, the first Demon Spring book.

Playing with Reality

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I centered my demonic lore around a few different myths, including the seven deadly sins. For Bael, the original athtar demon, I gave him the sin of pride. Then I turned him into an actual narcissist with a personality disorder and turned it up to eleven.

The sad part about Bael is although he says and does a lot of crazy shit, much of what comes out of his mouth is textbook narcissistic abuser. He’s a master gaslighter. He gives and then withholds love at a whim. He’s obsessed with the love others give him, and does what he can to maintain that adoration. Up to and including making Anya do unspeakable things to prove that she loves him.

In the book, Anya is not blameless but she’s not fully culpable. But she carries the dual weights of blame for what she’s done, and the fear if she doesn’t do it, Bael will hurt her (or worse). She’s so grateful to him for rescuing her that she lets him get away with literal murder.

Living in Hell

For most of the first book, Anya is on the run from Bael, telling Jack if he finds her, it will be “bad.” We find out, of course, that she’s been Bael’s lover for several millennia, a legendary bloodthirsty monster that killed without remorse. She’s been cursed to repent, and that’s why she’s acting so crazy.

Believable, until we see a little behind the curtain about how Bael really is. His relief quickly turns into accusation, and then into rage. Anya, on the other hand, isn’t without reproach. She willingly returns to him, because even after everything, she still loves him. It’s a cycle anyone who’s ever loved an abused victim understands all too well.

Breaking Free

For Anya, the curse is almost a get-out-of-jail-free card. She tells Jack that she feels no different after Bael removes her talisman. She still feels the weight of every life she took. Because of that, she can justify running from Bael again in her own mind. She’s not running from him because she wants to (because she fears him), she’s running because of the curse. Problem solved, no hard decisions necessary.

In the second book, we peel more from the onion that is her past, and see the true depths of abuse Bael put her through. Yet she continues to make excuses for his behavior, even to Jack. Part of her loyalty is that Bael saved her when she was a child. She’s the only love she’s ever known. Part of it is fear of Bael’s power–she’s seen his temper, and she’s afraid to raise it. But the largest part of her reticence is due to her own lack of self-worth. She doesn’t believe she’s worthy of being treated kindly.

The good news is, she does eventually get there. The bad news is, it takes her nearly an entire trilogy to get there. But as anyone who’s ever loved someone in the midst of this cycle, you know it’s not something that’s easily resolved.

If you or someone you love is in trouble, know there’s help. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline (1-800-799-7233) is available 24/7 to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence. Please know that help is out there, and you don’t have to suffer alone.

Resurgence, the first book in the Demon Spring trilogy, is an urban fantasy novel.Buy the first book in the Demon Spring trilogy

Demon hunter Jack Grenard’s life changed three years ago when his wife was brutally murdered by the very demons he’d been hunting. At the urging of his partner Cam Macarro, he’s starting a new life in Atlanta, hoping he’ll find the man he used to be. But on a routine hunt, they come across a new type of demon–one that saves instead of kills.

Meanwhile, demons across Atlanta are preparing for the quadrennial uprising of their Underworld brethren. Worse yet, there’s a rumor the so-called king of the demons, Bael, will appear for the first time in over a century. Jack and Cam must uncover the truth about the mystery woman before all hell–literally–breaks loose.

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