So, I thought I would sit down and talk a little about my writing and publishing history for those who are interested. I’ve been writing since I can remember–always with the intention of being published–although I only got serious about learning the business side of things and perfecting the craft of writing in my mid-20s.
I’ve always loved research, so I did a ton of online research in addition to reading and writing a ton over those next few years. I was super excited that urban fantasy, one of my absolute favorite genres, became popular around that time. I completed my first book as an adult (I finished a few terrible ones as a teen), something that made me extremely proud. I queried that witchy book with a few agents and one publisher–Harlequin’s former Luna line–but quickly realized that the book in question wasn’t quite strong enough to publish.
I decided to focus on the next book, Where Angels Fear. The idea for that one came from two things: Seeing an ad for a psychic detective show and deciding I wanted to write about supernatural creatures that were rarely (at that time) used in urban fantasy and paranormal romance. That time I chose angels and demons. Most books then featured vampires, shifters, and witches.
I’m the kind of writer who really needs to have the perfect (or at least perfect-for-now) first line before I can start. My subconscious mind was kind enough to place that perfect first line into my brain via a dream: “He called himself an angel, but I had my doubts.” And with that, I was off and running!
Many experienced writers talk about that click when you find your voice as a writer. Making the switch from third person with the witchy book to first person with the psychic and angel book made a HUGE difference for me. I FINALLY understood what everyone meant about “finding your writing voice.” And it was glorious. 🙂
When the time came, I queried that book a little more widely with agents. I got a few requests for partials, but nothing came of it, so I did what I’d done before: moved on to the next book.
Again, I wanted to use paranormal beings that weren’t (at that time) popular subjects. That time around I went with human elementals named after fantasy creatures, but who did not themselves shift shapes. This became the first book in my Untamed Elements series. My “perfect-for-now” line (which ultimately changed but at least got me started) was “I died for the first time that night.” And with that, my skeptical Phoenix Cass leaped off the page and was thrust quite literally into the fire!
I again queried that book a little more widely and had even more interest from agents. Requests for both partial and full material, as a matter of fact. I could feel how much I’d grown as a writer and knew I was almost there.
And then I wrote the book that changed everything. It actually started as a different character’s story. A then-popular UF/PR LiveJournal blog called Fangs, Fur, and Fey ran a contest where writers could submit a first page. I’d been toying with writing something featuring another supernatural species that hadn’t been used much–Furies. (No, not furries…and yes, I’ve had people mistake the two. Nothing against furries, but that would be a WHOLE different kind of book!)
I love taking things from mythology and putting my own unique spin on them. In that story, I asked myself a couple questions: What if Furies and Harpies–who share some similarities–were two sides of one coin? What if a Fury who lost control of the supernatural rage fueling her magic turned into a Harpy; a much more terrifying and out-of-control version of a Fury?
The best stories seem to come when you do the worst things possible to your characters. In the first page I wrote for the contest, I featured a young teen who wants nothing more than to be like her Fury aunts–one living and one dead–and then she does become like them. Except that now her mortal mother blames the living Fury for the death of the other aunt and hates all Furies. So Cori, the young Fury, has to hide the fact she’s becoming exactly what her beloved mother abhors.
I made it to the second round of that contest and expanded that page to a chapter. It got a lot of great feedback. That was extremely encouraging for my budding writer self. Later, however, I found myself much more fascinated by the story behind how the dead aunt died and its effect on the surviving Fury aunt. And then the perfect first line jumped into my head.
“Something seemed fishy about the corpse stretched out on the sand, and it wasn’t the heavy odor of Boston Harbor hanging in the predawn air.”
And my writing life took an amazing turn for the better after I finished that book. Something I’ll dive into more deeply in the next post.