AfterwordThis story, as I've stated several times, took the better part of four months to write and I'm serious about blaming it all on Jo and Ryo -- not just for the inital inspiration, but for the trust they put in me to get it right, and their encouragement all the way through. I honestly had no idea what I was getting into when I started writing this; I just wanted to take Donna out of the place they'd left her, and get her back on the road to living again. (Given what Jo and Ryo have told me about how it all ended in their universe, I'm pretty grateful, and Donna damn well should be, too!) Using Dan Rydell as the catalyst was... I'm not sure where that came from, it just suddenly seemed like a good idea, and Jo and Ryo agreed. So suddenly Dan's in the middle of a fundraser when he spots this woman out on the balcony.... I never intended for it to turn into an epic, but the President and CJ and certainly Dan all had quite a lot to say and issues of their own to work out. :P
From the story came together in flashes of inspiration and hours of sweat. Entire chunks of dialogue (for sections two parts down the line from where I currently was) would hit me on the way to Subway for lunch, and I'd have to race back to the office and try to type in-between bites. The backstory -- the changes everyone had gone through in the two+ years between In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, the end of "Background", and when my story picks up -- mutated surprisingly little (and, if anything, the melodrama factor went *down*) from my initial ideas (starting from Jo and Ryo's plans, and mutating into my own beliefs in the strengths of the characters). Sam and Donna's relationship is as complicated to me as it hopefully is to you and I found out about it the same way you did, from CJ's off-hand comment in Donna's hotel room. Darryl also sprung full-blown into my brain, settling calmly behind Josh's desk and looking amused at me any time I tried not to like him.
That was the easy stuff, the fun stuff. Then there were the days spent staring at the screen, typing two sentences, deleting them, typing two more, and finally giving up, and the long El rides spent staring out the window, mentally trying on different bits of emotion and reactions for size. There were afternoons tracing through every Sports Night site on the web to confirm what little I remembered of Dan's backstory, and tracking down the jargon I needed to make the studio real. Val Kessler answered my cry for a nice hotel in New York, reminding me of The Plaza, but I had to hit about 15 trivia and tourism sites to find a bit of trivia for President Bartlet to offer Donna. Don't ask how much time went into stem cell research for a few lousy paragraphs, mostly typed out on my Palm Pilot as I sat on the floor at O'Hare International Airport with notes, magazines and print-outs spread all around me. There was an entire evening spent pacing around my apartment bouncing ideas off of Kiki, who listened patiently on the other end of the phone as we tried to figure out the why's and wherefore's of Donna and Dan's first kiss. Kiki did the hard work on that, then I got to spend a week trying to work all of that emotion and trauma into one scene.
And I'm not going to forget building the soundtrack any time soon -- standing at the front of a too-crowded club and hearing Eric Lowen sing a new song that just happened to be all about Donna's life, and leaning my head against the window of Tina's car in glazed-eyed exhaustion, then suddenly coming alert to the Semisonic lyrics on the radio. Kiki tolerated me as I ran through about five different titles (I'm still hacked off at Sary for beating me to 'A Late Thaw' < g >), many quotes (I was *determined* to work that Tara MacLean quote in!), and three or four 'theme songs' before winding up right back where I started, with Jann Arden's incredible 'Mend' (I fell in love with the lyrics long before the "Blood Red Cherry" album was released in the States, and just kept circling back to it).
Kiki the Amazing contributed one more important thing towards my sanity -- while beta reading Part 3: The Date, she was possessed by the spirits of Chris and Elliot, and contributed some of the most hilarious play-by-play and color commentary I've ever been privileged to read, giving me laughs when I desperately needed them. It's up here if you want to read it and trust me, you do.
Mend is the second or third longest story I've ever written -- by far the longest that didn't involve any form of action (sword fights, punchy-kicky stuff, what have you) or a real, true plot. Sustaining a character piece this long, without action for a distraction, isn't easy, but overall, I think I'm pleased with how it all turned out. Let me know what you think. (And before you ask, as I hope you will, there is the possibility of a sequel, when I've recovered from this and caught up on a few other things -- Cordelia Chase and Lindsey McDonald have a few things to talk to me about.)
The embryonic stem-cell research debate is currently ongoing, if in a different direction -- the NIH was doing a very nice end-run around the letter of the Public Health Service Act, and some conservatives (and the Pope) tried to put a halt to it. President Bush finally made up his mind on August 9, 2001, as I was finishing the rough draft of this story; his decision allows federal funding for existing and lab-created stem cells, but prohibiting funding for any further embryonic stem-cell extraction. Thanks a lot, Dubya. (Someone in a Chicago Tribune op-ed article compared embryonic stem-cell research to the Holocaust; doesn't his side automatically lose?) My exceptionally general overview is based on information and numbers from The Chicago Tribune, Newsweek and the Associated Press, and from the National Institutes of Health; anything I got wrong is obviously my fault again, not theirs.