There are stories that come to you complete, and there are stories that you have no idea are there until they play themselves out. "Into the Desolation" was definitely one of the latter.
I started off in third person past tense, as I usually do, and I thought the story was going to be all about the Imogene character and her adventures in the Time Wastes. Gus was just a tool, a point-of-view for the reader to see Imogene. But then his voice began to take over, and I realized the story would be better told with his vocabulary and rhythm, and that was first person present tense. I'm not a fan of present-tense stories, but for Gus, it just worked.
I still thought getting into the Time Wastes would be just the first part of the story, and then something would happen. But as I went about motivating Gus to go--as I remembered what it was like to grow up in a small town and imagined how it would feel if a smart kid like Gus stayed--I realized he was subconsciously aching for Imogene to convince him to go. He was a blister waiting to be popped. But I honestly didn't realize what the trigger would be until she asked him, "What makes you think I want to come back?"
I have a friend who lost a child. I've seen how that pain continues to haunt her. But what binds Imogene is the what frees Gus. I wonder what adventures they will have together in the Time Wastes? And how will they grow?