Discussion Questions - and Answers! - from Something Beautiful
I’m doing something a little different today! Every so often, I’m going to snag a Monday post to talk about Something Beautiful, my upcoming YA contemporary release! I’ve got a little over two months to go, and my ARCs are out in the world, so I thought I better get started!
In the back of the book, there are five discussion questions—these should be present in every version of the book. I’m truly hoping to hear from readers—my email address is listed and everything. But as a starting point, I’m going to answer the five questions myself. I’d really love to hear your answers too!
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
1. What would you say the main theme of this book is?
Friendship and love. It’s funny, because if you had asked me this question a year or two ago, I probably would have either said depression or sexuality. I found that going through the editing process has helped me understand my own book better, in addition to the education I’ve received by other amazing authors and book bloggers on Twitter. Depression and sexuality are aspects of this book, but they aren’t the main theme. The book is about Declan and Cordelia and their strange, special, complicated friendship throughout their lives, without a shadow of a doubt.
2. Who is the protagonist? Who is the antagonist?
In my head, this book has two protagonists: Cordelia and Declan. Neither can be relegated to a supporting role. As for an antagonist? I don’t think there is one—that is to say, there is no separate person who fills the antagonist role. I think Cordelia and Declan are their own antagonists. Everyone has demons.
3. What do you think about Declan and Cordelia’s friendship/relationship? Does it seem healthy to you?
Cordelia and Declan’s relationship is… complicated. It’s more than a friendship, but oftentimes less than a relationship. But is it healthy? I think you could argue either way. At some points in the book, each is exactly what the other needs. At other points, they are chaotic and codependent and destructive. I tried to write them in a way that would ring true to the complicated histories than many of us have with our friends. Friendships are never static, after all.
4. Depression and mental illness are important topics throughout Something Beautiful. How do they color the relationship between Cordelia and Declan?
One of the things I really wanted to do in this book was approach the topic of mental illness with a frankness that it is rarely gifted. Many people—myself included—deal with depression and anxiety on a daily basis. It’s real and it is everywhere. What I wanted to show was that people can live through it and with it and be wonderful and whole individuals. Everyone has points where they feel like breaking, and getting help is healthy and helpful. If you are suffering and need help, know that I am always available to talk, even if your mental illness manifests in a different way than mine—which is a lot like Cordelia’s.
To answer the actual question here: I think mental illness colors Cordelia and Declan’s relationship in a way that sets them apart from others. It’s part of their bond. Declan has spent a lot of his life saving Cordelia—whether she needed it or not. A lot of that, in their high school years, is tied to her mental illness. I wrote this book long before I read the Throne of Glass series, but in reading that series, I found some similarities between Cordelia and Declan and the relationship between Aelin and Rowan. They are each other’s carranam—they communicate on another plane entirely. I see that in Cordelia and Declan as well, and a lot of that stems back to Cord’s initial bouts with mental illness in high school.
On a different note entirely, I’m not sure whether it’s fate or coincidence that carranam is derived from a Gaelic phrase. <3
5. Both Cordelia and Declan carry a lot of guilt with them throughout their lives. How do you think that affects their relationship as adults?
This was a very difficult question for me to ask, because I’m not sure I entirely know the answers that readers will give me. Cordelia carries guilt about Declan from when they were in high school, and about Adam. I think these things affect her ability to be intimate with Declan later on, which is why their miscommunication is so vast at one point in the book. And Declan… Declan’s guilt is all-encompassing, at times. Coming to terms and accepting who he is and who he has been hurts him, because he knows that he has hurt Cordelia. But I like to think that the guilt that he carries makes him care for her differently. More. It makes him want to make up for lost time. I think a lot of that is what drove him back to her again and again.
Now, I want it to be known that there are likely other answers to these questions, and I want to hear what you think! I may have written these characters, but that doesn’t mean they don’t continue to surprise me. I have more questions floating around in my brain that I’ll answer in bonus posts later on.
And the last thing—send me questions! You can either ask them on my Tumblr, or you can use the contact form on this website, or you have my email address: aghansonauthor (at) gmail (dot) com. I can’t wait to hear from you.