About Sonny/Santino

I have spent the past week and a half trying to compile some sort of response to everything that has come out recently with Sonny/Santino Hassell. Trying to understand what to say or how to say it has consumed me and still, nothing seems right. I’m exhausted.

I know people have a lot of questions but unfortunately, I don’t know that I have the answers anyone needs. I was blindsided by all of this. I met Sonny when I was 19 years old and in college, and at this point we’ve both known each other almost half our lives. I truly believed he existed, because I had no reason to believe otherwise. Having to rewrite that history in my own mind has been, to say the least, a feat.

I have a much longer post which talks more at length about various aspects, but I know a lot of people don’t want to read anything that’s too long or involved. So if you only wonder about what I think regarding the three main questions:

Unfortunately yes, Sonny/Santino does not seem to exist, although who exactly was talking/writing all those years I have no idea. I don’t know if it was one or both of them. I suspect only they know. They (or someone) did write the series with me, though, and we did spend a ton of hours on it. That, at least, I can verify is not a lie.

As for whether anyone actually has liver cancer or other health concerns, I honestly have no idea. All the information I was given was under the auspices of believing Sonny existed, and was always framed as Sonny’s story. At this point, I can’t say what I’ve been told was true or not, or maybe even somewhere in between.

Regarding bullying/abusive behavior, the only thing I’ve read myself is the confessions posted on the #SHConfessions thread on Twitter (https://twitter.com/sweetsakuradoll). If you scroll down, the screenshots are of the confessions themselves. I didn’t know about any of this happening, and to know it was occurring horrifies me. But if you ask me if I think you should believe those confessions, yes, I do. I’m very sorry to have to say that, because that means so much pain has been happening for so long, but despite not having had any knowledge of those situations occurring, I have many reasons to believe what they’re saying is true. The biggest reason is because when I ran across it, I was startled to see that parts of their stories were like reading something I had written myself.

If you want more information on any of this, you can read my much longer post. You can find it to read online or download in pdf at http://aisylum.com/statement_2018_Ais.pdf. Some friends recommended I pdf it instead of putting it as a blog post for ease of reading.

Part of the reason I couldn’t seem to get anything coherent out faster than a week and a half is I have nearly 16 years of knowledge I’ve had to undo in the course of a few days. It’s been surreal and so confusing and it brought up all sorts of things from the past I hadn’t thought about in years. Frankly, things I didn’t really want to have to think about again. I found old journal entries that reminded me of how unstable I was at different times, how unhappy I was, how often I doubted myself in big and small ways. There were so many things I never planned to talk about publicly, simply because I didn’t want to hurt anyone, and I thought that if I talked about all those difficult times, that was exactly what I would be doing.

Additionally, it’s extremely stressful to me to talk about anything I hadn’t planned to share publicly. Writing this, and especially posting it, is difficult. The way I cope is through humor and avoidance. Avoidance won out for years, and right now it’s fighting a hard battle once again. If I disappear for a bit or suddenly start talking excitedly about things I love, I’m not trying to be rude and it isn’t because none of this affects me or I don’t care. It’s quite the opposite. It’s simply me maintaining my internal balance through the coping mechanisms I’ve developed over the years.

Please know the reason I’m saying any of this isn’t to make any of this about me, it’s simply that I feel like I need to apologize for being unable to get something out sooner, and the only way I know how to do that fairly is to explain why it took so long.

I want to sincerely thank everyone who supported me both publicly and privately since this all came out. I greatly appreciate it; you are the reason I could get anything out even this soon, because you told me it was okay to take my time. Thank you so much for your understanding. I can’t tell you enough how much it meant and continues to means to me.

I’m so sorry to anyone who has been hurt in any of this. I wish I had known, I wish I could have helped, I wish I had been capable of somehow stopping anything. I talk more about it in the longer post but I’ve felt guilty since all of this broke, feeling like somehow this has to be my responsibility because I knew Sonny for longest online. Somehow, I need to take on this responsibility, find a way to help, find a way to make up for it to others. But I have to be fair to myself in a way that’s always been incredibly difficult for me. I have to acknowledge that I’m not responsible for the actions of others, especially when I didn’t know about it and never would have condoned it. I tried helping so many times over the years, and I was usually so unsuccessful. I thought I was trying to help a friend who was a victim of bullying and harassment, who was caught in endless self-destructive cycles he couldn’t seem to escape. It turns out a lot of what I was told was at the very least misrepresentative, and in some cases possibly outright lies.

I’m very sorry to everyone who is disappointed by this news, who believed in Sonny like I did and now has to question so much. I can’t speak for him (or, I guess, them); I don’t know what was going on all this time, or why. I don’t hate him/them, because it’s just too much energy for me, because at this point I just feel more tired than anything, because I would rather continue to try to put positive into the world to counteract any negative, but I understand that others will feel differently, and I understand that they may feel so with varying intensity.

I feel incredible sympathy for anyone who has been negatively affected by any of this. I truly hope you have been able to reach out to your support systems, and I hope you have gotten the support you need from them.

As for In the Company of Shadows, if you were someone who loved it and now can’t stand to think of it, as exceedingly sad as it will make me to know that all of this has affected something you loved, I want you to know that I understand. I don’t want anyone to be hurt further than has already happened. Thank you for the time and energy you put into your love of it in the past, and I hope you can find something to balance this heartbreak so you can feel empowered moving forward. If you are someone who can still love the series despite all this in the background, then please know, for whatever it’s worth, I myself continue to love ICoS, I continue to love the world, the characters, the story. Thank you for your kindness and patience, and thank you for continuing to believe in the story despite everything else that has happened. If you continue to have questions about the series, what the characters might think/do, feel free to ask me any time. I’m still happy to discuss the series if anyone needs it, I just might not be able to answer some questions related to characters which are not mine.

I’m very sorry, regardless, that any of this had to be a discussion point at all.

I wish Sonny (whoever it was) had told me the truth from the start, or told me at any point along the way, because maybe some of this could have been avoided. Instead, I truly believed in him right up into Friday March 9, and had to learn the truth when he posted it online. I can’t say I’m sorry I believed in a friend of 15 years, because I don’t think that’s inherently a bad thing. But I am sorry I didn’t know, because maybe, somehow, I could have helped everyone.

If you never read anything else from me, because you’re too raw from all of this, I understand. Please, then, let these be my last words to you: please take care of yourself, and please don’t let the actions of others cause you to stop believing in other people. Or yourself.

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9 thoughts on “About Sonny/Santino

  1. Kari March 22, 2018 / 7:16 pm

    Love you, Ais! I’m sorry you have to deal with this bullsh#t. You are so talented and so kind. Just know that me and your other friends love and support you. ❤

  2. Mel Leach March 22, 2018 / 7:24 pm

    I think ICoS is still an awesome story. Sonny actually made a comment on one of my reviews a few years ago that inadvertently revealed that you wrote my favorite character. So you should still take pride in a story well-told. I don’t know Sonny and never interacted with him/them and I find his/their behavior beyond abhorrent, but that’s on him/them, not you. You put a lot of heart and soul into ICoS, don’t let Sonny rob any pride or feeling of accomplishment that you take away from that. I will simply choose to believe that it was a great story because of what you put into it.

  3. Erica Fisher March 23, 2018 / 12:11 am

    Hi I am Erica we to you. I wanted to let you know that YOU DID NOT DESERVE THIS. THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. You are stonger than you think you are.
    Thank you for giving your readers world and characters that can take them out if themselves and reality for a little while to help them breathe.
    If you ever feel like you have no one to turn to IM me on facebook or email me . I can be your ear or shoulder or sounding board. We need more people like you who cares and is kind in this world.

  4. Demetrius March 23, 2018 / 10:00 am

    Old time ICOS reader here. I’ve been thinking about how you were all through this, and I wish you well. Take care and all my best to you.

  5. Brin Guivera March 23, 2018 / 1:59 pm

    My heart hurts reading your post (and your longer post in particular). I am just so sad for everyone who has been affected. Thank you for sharing your story – I know opening up can’t have been an easy thing to do. It’s very brave of you to share your experience.

    Absolutely none of this was your fault in any way. From what i have read of other people’s accounts, Sonny seemed to be good at deflecting everything back at other people and owning none of the responsibility. Some people are good at making others feel like they are in the wrong at all times – that’s what makes them so dangerous. 😦

    I joined the fandom for ICoS rather late but it was very important to me (it got me through a really rough time in my life) and I have always gravitated more to your characters, Boyd in particular. I know this may not mean much but I will always love your writing and I hope to read more of it some day.

  6. thelearnedone March 23, 2018 / 2:31 pm

    Your post makes me both sad and angry. I am sad that you felt you had to apologize to ANYone. And I’m angry at anyone who felt they were owed an apology from you. I can’t even wrap my mind around how someone could pseudo-boycott ICoS and/or YOUR writing because of their feelings about another author you co-wrote with. It’s insane. I mean, dramatic much??

    And may anyone who continues to create negativity surrounding this incident be Blessed to receive what they put out.

    You just keep doing you, Sister. The readers will come. I found you. Others will, too.
    (Now get back to writing, please. Thank you.)

  7. joa June 15, 2018 / 11:54 am

    Hi, I feel terrible reading about what happened and that it’s affected you so much. I hope you can pick yourself up again after this debacle and continue writing new great works. But as a huge ICoS fan I’m also selfishly hoping that you’ll continue editing/writing new books for the series. Would this still be something you’ll work on alone or not at all after this whole saga?

    • Ais June 15, 2018 / 9:51 pm

      I don’t know about any future ICoS content in terms of continuing the story, because of various reasons, however I still love ICoS so I’m still answering ICoS questions whenever people ask, and on tumblr I just released a previously unreleased sex scene we had written and removed from 1/27. Someone asked if I would share it so I was like, sure 🙂 Also I still plan to finish the back stories of Julian Files and Domino. And I still love Boyd, ICoS, all of the characters/world/etc, so there’s always the possibility they could pop up sometime, somewhere, somehow 🙂 I just don’t have any plans currently to write the sequel alone or anything like that. For that, I guess we’ll have to see what the future holds. Either way, thank you for reading ICoS and reaching out! ❤ Despite everything, I still am SO happy I had the opportunity to work on ICoS because it meant amazing people like you came into my life, and it meant I got to work on something I loved and was able to actually finish. Sorry I don't have a better answer regarding future ICoS books but at least know that I still love ICoS so I'm definitely not abandoning it or the world or the people who love it too 🙂

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