Not real things, mind you. In person, I'm a pacifist. But fictional things? I'll happily send wave after wave of troops toward certain death in Civilization, usually in the direction of my spouse Rob's cities.
Writing characters, though, is a little different from clicking a mouse on a unit and pushing them into battle. While there are certainly a lot of lighter moments and clever zingers in Stay Crazy, the central conflict is grim: an alien entity that is attempting to destroy the universe by sucking the life energy out of workers at a big-box store. When the victims are depleted, they commit suicide, bringing the world one step closer to annihilation.
Stay Crazy is also the story of a young woman haunted by her neurological issues. Em, our heroine, is faced with such an improbable situation – a second, helpful paranormal being contacting her via the RFID chips in frozen foods – that she's not sure whether or not she's falling back into illness. Like nearly all people with schizophrenia, Em is not violent, and I worked hard to tell her story respectfully and not buy into false stereotypes. (No "psycho-killers" in this book! Or any of my books, ever!)
Even though the two otherworldly beings in the book manifest mostly as disembodied voices, the self-inflicted human deaths are all too real. And it's all massively triggering for Em, who at the start of the book has just gotten out of a mental hospital. Because of the gravity of the overall situation, I didn't want the deaths in Stay Crazy to be mere cannon fodder, and I thought long and hard about the consequences for the plot. Who was this character in relation to Em? Would their death matter? Was I falling into any of the tropes I hate most as a reader? One important character in particular came in and out of my focus as a person to murder. I almost felt like I had them at the edge of a plank on a pirate ship, hovering between life and death, waiting to be rescued (or not!) by my keyboard strokes.
Ultimately, I won't be the final arbiter of those questions. Readers will. But I'd like to think that I took death seriously in Stay Crazy, the same way that I took Em's mental illness seriously, working hard to ensure I captured the nature of her struggle while still creating a compelling narrative.
As for the character I mentioned above? Did they live or die? I guess you'll just have to wait until August 16th to find out!
Erica L. Satifka is a writer and/or friendly artificial construct, forged in a heady mix of iced coffee and sarcasm. She enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Lightspeed, and Intergalactic Medicine Show, and her debut novel Stay Crazy will be released in August 2016 by Apex Publications. Originally from Pittsburgh, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats.
Preorder Stay Crazy at Apex Books.