Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Once Upon Stilettos Reread: Chapters Eleven through Thirteen

Now that I'm back from my trip and done with copyedits, back to the Once Upon Stilettos reread, with chapters 11-13.

The loss of Katie's magical immunity is a pretty big deal, and it was interesting trying to imagine the full impact. Emotionally and psychologically, she feels like she's lost the thing that made her special. At the beginning of the first book, she was on the verge of giving up on New York because she didn't feel like she had what it took to make it. She was so ordinary that she didn't stand out in any way. Then she learned that magic existed and that she wasn't at all magical. That was a flip on the standard fantasy story that's about discovering that magic exists and that you can use it. It was a real blow to learn that she wasn't magical, but then she learned that her very ordinariness was at such a level that it counted as special, so she was valuable in her own way. That gave her a big confidence boost. She had something rare that she could contribute. And now, just as she's gotten used to that, she's lost it. That could mean losing her job, since she got her job by being immune. If she loses her job, she could lose some of her friends. She also worries that her friendship/whatever relationship she has with Owen might not exist if she weren't immune.

Then there's the physical danger and sense of vulnerability. She's been able to see past the magic to spot threats, and now it's like being blind. She knows there are things out there, but now she can't spot them. I can imagine that would be terrifying.

At least one review of this book criticized Katie for not telling anyone about the immunity right away, but I thought that made sense for her as a character. She's got a stubborn streak that makes her want to figure it out for herself (gee, I wonder where that character trait came from). But also, there are all those very good reasons to keep it to herself until she knows more because she has a lot to lose. She doesn't know how the company will react if she's no longer immune, and she doesn't want to be cut off from the magical world now that she's truly normal again.

Owen and Katie spend a lot of time in this book walking to and from the subway station, but you should have seen the first draft. I ended up cutting a lot of those scenes, or else I added more action to them. It was tricky because that was their main time of interacting, so that's when all their good conversations took place. At the same time, I didn't want this to be a book about commuting.

The secret Santa as team-building/mole investigation is something I got from my days in corporate America. Well, not the mole investigation (that I know of). There's always that social butterfly in the office who thinks it will be really fun to have to buy something for a random co-worker you don't know very well and to receive a gift from a random co-worker who doesn't know you very well. Like we all need more candles (which seems to be the generic secret Santa gift). It can kind of work in a really small office, though that also opens things up to having to live with the ugliness later if someone gets it wrong. There's always the overachiever who goes over the spending limit and the slacker who forgets to do anything and comes up with something like the coupon book for favors at a later date that they hastily make on their computer that morning (but just try to redeem them and see what happens). It's worst when the slacker is the Santa for the overachiever, who ends up feeling ripped off. So, yeah, there's a lot of potential there if you're trying to depict (or create) tension within a company.

Then we have the scene that all the Katie and Owen shippers were waiting for: Ethan breaking up with Katie (and clearing the way for the one true pairing). I've never actually been on a break-up date (that I knew of -- there was one that I later realized was meant as a big send-off, but he didn't actually break up with me while on the date), but I've known people it happened to. I'm more likely to have guys just disappear on me right when I thought the relationship was going well, but apparently for the guys who do actually break up with a woman in person, it's a thing to do so in a public place so they can avoid a big scene and possibly soften the blow. It's particularly painful for Katie at this time because she's already reeling from losing her immunity and therefore her sense of specialness, and now she's getting dumped for being too normal.

My agent loved the line about even the evil magical creatures knowing not to mess with a woman who's just been dumped.

It's funny, even though I wrote the book, I get a little teary-eyed on Katie's behalf during this scene.

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