Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Fairy Tale Origin Story

One slight correction to the list of coming attractions: The audiobook for A Fairy Tale will actually be out one day before the text versions. We set the release date based on what they wanted, then they realized they always release on Tuesdays after we'd already set up the release date in all the systems and we couldn't change. So this may be the rare time that those who like audiobooks get a book first.

Meanwhile, the hardcover for Rebel Mechanics is already up for preorder at Amazon and B&N. There will be an e-book, but since it's so far out they don't have that up for preorder yet (I guess they don't have to worry about how many copies to print). I don't know how much pre-orders from consumers really matter (it's pre-orders from bookstores that are huge in letting a publisher know how well a book might do), but if you're planning to buy the hardcopy, pre-orders certainly wouldn't hurt in sending a signal to booksellers that there's demand for a book. If B&N sees that people are eager for it, they might be more willing to stock it in their physical stores.

I have been dragging all week, for some odd reason. I really had plans to start writing the new book this week, but I haven't had the brainpower (and I can't entirely blame the proofreading). Now I may just do a last burst of intense brainstorming and hold off until after Thanksgiving because stops and starts don't help matters. I can get my life sort of in order, do some resting and do enough thinking that I can't wait to write instead of feeling blank. And right now I feel very blank. The movie isn't yet playing in my head.

But with the first book coming out soon, maybe it will help if I talk about that one and start teasing it.

This was a very odd book for me. Normally, I'm pretty plot-centric as a writer. I may have ideas for one or two characters, but mostly I have a story concept and build the characters that are needed to play out that story. I do a lot of plotting ahead of time, and though there may be some adjusting along the way, the basic bones of the story are more or less the same.

This book started with a mental image. I'm not sure if it was in a dream or just something that popped into my head, but I had this very clear image of a very feminine woman walking a bulldog down a city street that looked a lot like the Upper West Side of New York, and then they vanished into a kind of mist. I knew there was a story in there, and I wanted to tell it, but this isn't my first attempt at teasing a story out of it. I originally had this odd concept of fairy tale characters being banished into our world, with the heroine an ER doctor who started seeing these cases of people who were considered crazy -- and yeah, a woman in modern  New York who thinks she's Red Riding Hood would seem crazy -- but when there's an epidemic of them? And meanwhile there's a kind of fairy tale playing out with her, as she's a proverbial "princess in a tower" -- the daughter of a wealthy and prominent person who defied her family to go to med school and work in a public hospital when they just wanted her to find a good husband and be a society wife. And her love interest was the only other doctor who agreed with her about the odd goings on, with him being the proverbial poor boy made good who could win the heart of a princess. But the story never came to life for me. I workshopped the idea in an online class, and it just felt like a class assignment, never like a real story, so it never got written, and I even mostly forgot about it.

Funny, though, just writing that description brought it all back, and now I've got that "ooh, idea!" tingle, so maybe I'll have to put it on my list. I will also point out that I was doing all this brainstorming and development in 2007, so I was thinking about fairy tale characters banished to our world long before the TV series Once Upon a Time.

Anyway, that mental image never went away, even as I worked on other things. The rejections I was getting at the time for other work were always along the lines of "we were hoping for something more like Enchanted, Inc.," so I figured I needed to come up with something that maybe had the elements people liked about that series but in a different series -- the mix of magic and the real world, the Southerner in New York, a touch of romance, some humor. And that was when a lot of idea fragments started colliding.

I'd done a lot of research about folklore related to the fairies for an earlier stalled idea (that I may yet write) about a kind of Indiana Jones about folklore -- a professor who studied the folklore but secretly knew that these creatures really existed and helped deal with the negative or destructive ones. I started thinking that this might provide a way to do a "portal" fantasy, which I've always loved the idea of, since in a lot of the folklore, the fae have their own realm. That would also give me a magical premise distinct from the magic corporation from Enchanted, Inc.

Meanwhile, I'd had a particular character living in my head since I was in high school, in search of a plot but never being quite the right fit for anything. I had a dream in which I was this person, having all kinds of crazy adventures. She was entirely unflappable while being this odd mix of sweet and snarky, and she was rather petite and dainty looking, so people underestimated her. This character starred in a lot of my daydreams over the years, and every time I got a story idea, I auditioned her. When I was brainstorming this idea, I finally had a role for her to play. She was perfect. However, her name had to change. The name was part of the dream -- Alex Drake. But then the writers of the TV show Ashes to Ashes used it and I had to come up with something else. Now she's Sophie Drake, and I think that actually is a better fit for the person she ended up becoming once she was in this story. Part of the development of this character was me being a bit snarky about the Generic Urban Fantasy Book Cover with the chick in black leather and tattoos and deliberately writing a heroine who could never be portrayed that way on the cover. But I still wanted her to be tough and strong, so I made her a ballerina. I'd been dancing about a year at that time and was realizing that although ballerinas look pretty and frail, they have to be incredibly strong, and they can take a lot of pain (this article sums it up nicely). I did end up with a cover that kind of spoofs the Generic Urban Fantasy Cover because you could possibly remove my pretty ballerina (and apparently the model for the painting is an actual dancer) and insert a tattooed chick in black leather and get something closer to the generic. But I like mine better.

So, that was the starting point. To Be Continued ...

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