Why I wrote War of the Seasons & Happy Birthday Will, TK8432

I sometimes get asked why I wrote War of the Seasons: The Human. Today seemed like an appropriate day to answer that question.

If you own a copy of my book and you look at the dedication you’ll see it’s “For Will.”

Who was Will?

William Harrell Snell was born on March 26, 1990 and died in a car accident on Aug 4, 2008.

This was the memorial I wrote about Will a week after he died:

I first met Will in the Spring of 2003. I was walking down Elm St in Swansboro, NC. I was looking for a place to rent, since my apartment in New Bern was in the ghetto and there had been a drive-by shooting, and Ron (who was currently stationed in Pensacola, FL) was not comfortable with me living there alone any more.

I stopped at a home (204 Elm st) that had a man working on a bike outside. His name was Jimmy, and I asked him if there were any homes for rent in the area. He said he didn’t know, so called for his wife, Beth to come out side and answer. Beth came out, and we were introduced, and was very shortly followed by a young, gangly looking boy. That was Will. ☺

We talked and socialized, and I met Laura too (her daughter) & Beth took my name and number, and said she’d call if she thought of anything. Well, she called not 30 minutes later and said she couldn’t bare to think of me living all alone in the ghetto, and would I like to move in with she and her son Will? (her daughter was at school, and her husband lived in their home in Columbia, SC, and Beth was renting that house since she was an activated Naval reservist).

Of course I said yes! Living in a charming 100 year old home, on the water in Swansboro, NC with a sweet woman and her adorable son was about a million times better then living alone in the ghetto. I started moving my things in the next day.

Will and I clicked instantly. He was so much like my little brother Brent! Tall, gangly, full of energy, and just PURE FUN! He bounded around the house and would do silly things like stick his hand or foot right in my face and say “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you!” He was so exasperating and annoying, yet impossible not to love and adore and laugh around. He ALWAYS made you feel good. We had a routine we used to do, we would pretend to be “Stewart” & his mother from “Mad TV” and it was hilarious! Maybe just for us, but we loved it. He was sooooo hilarious and soooooo annoying, yet that was all that made Will so very WILL.

He was also immediately drawn to my Star Wars costumes and my new Star Wars friends and started wanting to hang out with all of us, so of course I brought him to Fan Force meetings and events. We went our very first convention, IQM2, together and our jaws dropped when we saw all the amazing costumes and Stormtrooper armor, etc. We were dressed as Jedi, so had a blast pretending to fight with the Stormtroopers etc. Will was a natural with a double bladed light saber. ☺

By the end of the convention everyone was in love with Will, to include Richard Leparmentier & Nalini Krishan (Admiral Motti & Barris Offee from Star Wars). How could you not be?

A few months later Beth had to move back to South Carolina, but Will wanted to stay in Swansboro to finish up his last year of Middle School. At this point Ron had moved up from Pensacola and we were living together again, so we just looked at each other pointedly, clearly thinking the same thing. We offered to Beth that Will could live with us if he wanted to. I have no idea what possessed her to allow it, or what possessed us to ask for an energetic 13 year old boy (Will has accurately been described as 50 lbs of cat crammed into a 20 lbs bag), but I will be forever grateful that she did.

Will got a kick out it saying that he was like Dick Grayson (Robin) our “Ward” which obviously pleased Ron because that meant he was Batman. I guess that means I was Alfred. Except for the whole cooking and cleaning thing.

So, we became Will’s legal guardians for the next year, and WOW was that a roller coaster! I’m not going to pretend that things were perfect, because they weren’t. Will was a handful, and I am not known for my patience, but thankfully Ron was a perfect adoptive father for Will. He played with Will, was a great example for Will, loved Will, and above all had infinite patience. So ultimately our very unlikely family ended up working out quite well for all parties involved I think.

Will moved back in with his family at the end of the school year, and we were both sad and glad to see him go. Sad because we were going to miss him dearly, but glad because we were ready to let our relationship morph yet again. First he was like my little brother, then like my son, and now it was time to be friends.

Even though Will had moved back to South Carolina, we still got to see him all the time. He spent nearly every single Christmas with us (except last year (2007) since we were both deployed), nearly every Spring Break, a few weeks every summer, and of course there was Dragon*Con.

I have so many favorite memories of Will from the last few years, because every single time we’d get together he was entertaining and fun. I can’t even begin to list them all.

The thing to remember about Will was that he was fun, he LIVED and he was beautiful.

I think my very favorite memory of me and Will was from a couple months ago (2008) when he came up to visit Ron & I just prior to his 18th birthday. I’d been home from Iraq for about 2 weeks, and was on leave. We were sitting on my mom’s bed in the living room (we were refinishing the floors in her room), and I had my guitar, and he started picking out songs for me to play on my guitar, and we both sang together, badly, at the tops of our lungs. I think the dogs started to howl when we were yodeling along to The Cranberries. ☺ We sang Amy Winehouse, and he loved her music so much that he took my CD home with him. ☺

The last time we saw Will was two days before he died. We happened to be in Greenville, SC last weekend, and so Ron picked him up on Thursday night and took him on a “Mandate” to eat at Chophouse 47 and then to see “The Dark Knight” which William loved and immediately raved about. I arrived Friday night, and had Will come by my friend Jess’s house to meet us for a brunch that she made.

As soon as I walked in the door he picked me up and swung me around and around and around yelling “Janine Janine Janine I missed you!” Then chastised me for being late. Then promptly ordered me to make him a “Joker” costume from “The Dark Knight.” When I replied that there would be tons of Jokers at Dragon*Con, he said he didn’t care, that he wanted the costume for when he became a “Psychotic killer.” Only William. ☺

We spent a great afternoon together swimming in Jess’s pool & soaking in her hot tub, and just bantering and being silly (ie, he tried to get Jess to plot with him to off Ron & me so that they could have our motorcycles). Eventually he had to go, so he gave us all hugs goodbye, and then causally called over his shoulder, “see you at Dragon*Con. I love you guys.”


The last few days have been both the worst and the best of my life. The worst because I have never felt pain & sorrow & anger like this before. I know Will is in a much better place right now, but I won’t lie… I’m mad that he left us. I really am. I miss him. There is a hole in my heart, and I feel like It will always be there. It will heal eventually, but there will be a scar. You don’t love someone like that without there being a mark left on you permanently when they leave.

But Will wouldn’t want me to be sad. He never wanted anyone to be sad. It broke his heart. So from here on out I will try to be happy.

It was the best because I never realized just how many people Will touched and knew. Everyone who met him loved him. It was impossible not to.

And of course, we could have not got through this without Albin and Kathy. Not only did they call all our friends, arrange for Stormtroopers at Will’s memorial, and create his slide show (that involved lots of picture scanning) but they also stayed with his family through the night until Ron and I arrived. Then they took Ron back to their house to sleep (I’d slept in the car) and made him sleep in their own bed while they took the couch! They also provided a safe haven for us when we just needed a place to get away. They fed us, made us laugh, let us cry, and basically loaned us their strength through this trying time. They were a miracle. They were our heroes.

We had lots of heroes that weekend.

Jess & Laura, who only met Will for a few hours on Saturday, rose to the occasion. Jess helped us pack up Will’s art & belongings from his house & bring it back down to his mother’s home, and then stayed with us for the rest of the week, acting as a calming presence, constantly worried about us. Laura had the hard task of going to Will’s college and picking up his art work from there and then videoing his entire memorial service. Not something any of us had the capability or strength to do.

Amber, who has spent several Christmases with Will, and was grieving, donated her beach house to Will’s mother as a place for her to escape for a few weeks.

Of course all of you who wore tye-dye (or something in honor of Will), all of you who called (K-T, Jenn & Rob, Bryan, Bryan, Brent, my parents, Rich, Amber, April, Yvette… I know I’m forgetting some people, please forgive me), all of you who emailed, all of you who attended the service, all of you… Heroes in our book. Thank you.

Then there were all the Stormtroopers and Biker Scouts (all 8 of them) who stood honor guard at the memorial for Will. 4 of them never even knew Will and felt it was an honor to do so. They stood in their hot armor for at least two hours. Albin, Cheralyn, Cami, Todd, Brian, Andy, Ken and Dave. They also brought R2-KT along, who was placed at the very front of the chapel, right next to Will.

This is significant because of the relationship that Katie Johnson and Will had, but I’ll just quote Al here rather then explain myself:

“William was an incredible young soul – at the age of 15 he volunteered to visit Katie while she was bed-ridden and they quickly hit it off as friends. Will earned a place in Katie’s heart when she dared him to take some of her yucky medicine – and he did. He stayed by her side and read to her, watched t.v. with her, and was there only days before she passed to present her with her Honorary Membership in the Legion. I cannot over emphasize the depth of this young man’s soul, who we will miss terribly in the Carolina Garrison.”

As for how we are doing, well, Ron and I are taking turns breaking down. Ron said some beautiful words at the celebration for Will, and made everyone in the audience both laugh and cry in turns. I think he said something along the lines of “When I first met Will, he annoyed the hell out of me. I’m pretty sure he’s up there annoying the hell out of God now too. Will was… beautiful.” And he truly was.

As for me, aside from a bit of a break down when my father called (there was something about hearing my daddy’s voice), I was all business until Friday morning at the gravesite. At that point, it was so sudden, so final. Will is gone. I’ll never have him stick his foot in my face while I’m driving and say “I’m not touching you”. I’ll never have him order me to make him another costume again… I’ll never make him another costume again. He’ll never steal my CD’s & T-shirts again. He’ll never call Ron “Tubby” again. He’ll never pick me up and swing me around in his arms again….

At least, not here on Earth, because I fully believe that we will all see Will again. I firmly believe that when I die, Will’s going to be up in heaven & when I show up he’ll pick me up and swing me around and around and around and yell “Janine Janine Janine I missed you!” Then chastise me for being late. Then promptly order me to make him a costume.

I miss you my brother, my son, my friend, my Will.

It’s been almost 4 years since Will died, and now I mostly think about him with smiles and laughter. That said, I had a very hard time coping with losing Will, so a few months following his passing I wrote a story about a girl who lost her family and what she went through to try to get through that loss.

The first draft of The Human is VERY dark and angry, but it helped me heal. What was finally published is very different, much happier, and on the whole, a much better story. That said, I needed it – I needed to write the dark, angry stuff and get it out of my system to get at the happy story. And eventually The Human became its own story.

I still miss Will so very much, but when I think about him now it’s almost always with a smile.

I love you Will. Happy 22nd Birthday!