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A letter from the author to the reader

Dear reader,

This book was a rollercoaster ride from start to finish.

Of course, writing a novel is always an emotional experience. You find yourself crying along with your characters, shaking your fist in anger at your villains, and grinning from ear to ear without even realizing it. You alternate between extreme high and lows; some days, you feel like you’re the best writer on the planet, but other days, you genuinely believe that you’ll never, ever publish anything you can be proud of. Needless to say, neither is particularly true.

But when I say the time I spent writing this book was a chaotic whirlwind, I mean it in the most literal way possible. As a member of Generation Z who graduated from high school in 2020, I wrote this book during what might be the strangest years of my life.

The premise first came to me during my junior year of high school, when I read Hamlet for my AP Literature class. I already had many, many, (and I cannot stress this enough) many future project ideas lined up, but I knew immediately that HamLIT had to move to the top of the list. It felt natural to me, like an old friend. At the same time, it was also fresh—I knew it couldn’t wait. But even from the beginning, it was a turbulent process. I began working on the novel in earnest during my senior year of high school while simultaneously trying to balance college applications, anxiety-induced meltdowns, and the looming shadow of senioritis. I kept writing, one chapter at a time, through the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.

And then COVID-19 happened.

For so long, I had been counting down the days until I could get out of my small New Hampshire town and move to New York City. But COVID-19 knocked all of that off the rails. One day, I was getting ready for my last swim meet as a senior in high school, the next I was indefinitely indoors, unable to go back to swim practice for an uncertain amount of time. I took my last high school exams in the most anticlimactic way possible, said goodbye to my teachers over Zoom, and joined my university’s Class of ’24 group chat. I attended my virtual graduation ceremony and gave a speech from the floor of my bedroom.

I can’t remember a single thing I said in that speech. My mind has erased the memory, just as it’s erased all the tears I know I must have shed and all the fear I must have felt. Aside from a few key memories, those spring and summer months were a blur.

My university promised me housing for the fall, then took it away at the last minute. I remember hearing the news and sitting at my dining room table for two hours, watching the group chat blow up as I realized that I was about to spend yet another year in New Hampshire. And that’s exactly what happened. My freshman year fall and spring took place entirely at home.

I did my best to adapt. I cleaned up my desk and did almost all of my freshman year schoolwork there. I made lots of online friends. I attended church services on Zoom. I finished TV shows and started new ones. I enjoyed the beauty of New Hampshire in the summer, autumn, winter, and spring. I had fits of anxiety and meltdowns. I cried so, so many times.

But I was okay. Lucky, even. I was able to stay safe and healthy through it all. I knew many who were not so fortunate.

And I kept working on HamLIT. I hadn’t finished my first draft until June of 2020, and after that, I spent more than a year editing it. In the meantime, I finished up both my debut novel, The Dead Travel Fast, and my freshman year of college. There were periods of time when I worked on it every day and periods of time when I didn’t even touch it. Such is the life of an author trying to be a student at the same time.

I’ve changed a lot since I first started writing HamLIT. What with COVID-19 and college, new friendships and a whole lot of extra family time I didn’t expect to have, I’ve changed. And yet, at my core, I feel like I’m still the same person I’ve always been. In fact, maybe nowadays I feel I have more freedom to be myself than ever before. HamLIT is much the same. Yes, it’s been through a gazillion read-throughs, edits, and discussions. The finished version is, of course, a huge improvement on the first draft. But in the end, it’s still the same story that’s always been—a story about a young person who wants to find himself, in spite of all the external and internal disasters that threaten to shatter his understanding of his own identity. Much like I did while writing, Harry witnesses the world around him coming apart. He witnesses crazier things than he ever could have imagined. It almost breaks him. Still, he makes it out not only with his life, but also with something he’s never really had before—an inkling of who he is. He may or may not have found himself in the end. But he’s ready to at least try.

I can’t a think of a story more well-suited to the last two years of my life than HamLIT. And I hope with all of my heart that it can mean as much to my readers as it does to me.

Love,

Allegra

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