Two weeks ago, I finished writing my first novel.
So that’s it, I can officially say I’ve done it, I’m not a quitter. A smidge under two-and-a-half years (2 years, 4 months, and 21ish days, to be exact), from the first typed word (‘Bye’, if you’re curious) to the last (‘Man’, again for you curious types) and I’m still in bloody love with it. Sure, after a few edits and several read-throughs, it might lose some of that lovely new-car-smell, but right now I’m in that honeymoon period, and we’re very very much still in love.
Through Bended Grass is the story of Rowan Hayes, a young mother searching desperately for her son, violently stolen from her home by his Fey father. Dragged halfway across the globe, she is forced to the gritty streets and wondrous countryside of modern day Ireland, but soon finds herself embroiled in the mysterious, bastardized world of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Fey folk of ancient legend, and exposed to a host of dangerous characters she thought only Fairy Tale. Rowan soon learns that her halfbreed son is purported to be the lynchpin in a mysterious war engulfing the Fey world, and threatening to spill into hers. Travelling through both our world and the alien landscape of the Fey, Rowan must face challenges both physical and spiritual to have any hope of ever seeing her son again.
Perhaps, though, it’s easier to sum Through Bended Grass up with my submission to agent Colleen Lindsay’s ‘Query in 140 Characters or Less’ contest, in which I was selected runner-up out of over 300 entries:
LABYRINTH – (David Bowie and Muppets) + Fey mythology x The dirty streets of Ireland = THROUGH BENDED GRASS, a 90k contemporary Fantasy.
I tend to think of Through Bended Grass (when I’m thinking highly of myself, and feel like an ego-stroke) as Tad Williams’ The War of the Flowers meets Mark Chadbourn’s The Age of Misrule by way of Neil Gaiman. I know, I know, setting the bar a little high, and if I become half the author those three are I’ll be lucky, but I wear those influences very clearly on my sleeve. They’ve been there since the beginning (well, except Chadbourn, I came to him late; but we must’ve been drinking from the same well, give some of the similar themes and mythology we work with) and their work made an indelible mark on Through Bended Grass.
It may be a total cliche, but Through Bended Grass started life on a slow, summer afternoon while I was bored at work. At the time, I was working on outlining a huge Epic Fantasy trilogy, but knew somewhere deep down that I wasn’t ready to write it yet, that it was too big a story for me to tell before I better understood how to craft a novel. I still want to tell that story, even now, but at the time I needed something smaller, something more intimate. That boggy summer afternoon, I was shooting the shit over IM with Shawn Speakman, blogger at Suvudu and an aspiring author like myself, and he mentioned that he was flirting around with an idea of writing an Urban Fantasy. My head was deep in my Epic Fantasy trilogy, but I mentioned that an Urban or Contemporary Fantasy was something I also wanted to tackle some day. I didn’t know anything about it, just that it would be set in Ireland, a country I’m familiar with and love dearly.
I spent the rest of that afternoon brushing up on Irish and Celtic mythology, diving deeper into the lore than I ever had in the past, and all of a sudden the story started forming in a nebulous, parasitic way in my mind. I had to get those ideas written down on paper, so I started jotting down random notes, not even plot, just random titbits of character and story, the nuts and bolts that would later be used to construct the plot. And then I just didn’t stop. I outlined rather heavily before really beginning to write, which is an important part of the process for me, and started blogging about my experiences writing the novel. Mightier than the Sword may have tuckered out, but my passion for Rowan Hayes’ story never did. A little over two years and 98k words later, I had a draft of a novel.
The story I leave behind is one that greatly reflects my value of family, and also my love of discovery and travel. Ostensibly, Rowan’s journey is a mad race to find her son, but it is also one of self-discovery and, well, discovering the world around her by being able to look at it in a way she never has before. The journey, as they say, is more important than the destination. As with any story, Through Bended Grass grew greatly in the telling, and even I was surprised at some of the places the tale took our heroine. Perhaps most surprising, though, were the characters that jumped to the fore, supposed secondary characters that took on a life of their own and proved, in the end, vital to Rowan’s story. They’re all a reflection of a different piece of my personality, and damn if I won’t miss ’em now that they’re gone.
What next? Edits. Then a bit of editing. Then, once that’s wrapped up, I’ll move on to doing edits. No, seriously, though, I plan to have a solid manuscript in hand by Spring of 2010, after I’ve spent some time away from the novel and received feedback from several of my early readers; after that it’s time to struggle with the dreaded query letter, then to the slush pile, where I’ll join the legion of other aspiring writers, hoping to catch the eye of an agent or editor.
I don’t like to use A Dribble of Ink as a sounding board for myself as an aspiring writer, so you may not hear much more about Through Bended Grass until I have major news on it (like finding that aforementioned agent/editor/schmuck-who-I’ve-coerced-into-publishing-my-novel). But if you’re interested in keeping track of the progress on my novel, and my unending attempt to become a published writer, you can always visit my other blog, Mightier than the Sword, which I promise will see more activity now that the novel’s finished.
Writing Through Bended Grass has been an experience that will leave a mark on me for the rest of my life. I always wondered whether I could write a novel, and now, looking back, it’s almost hard to believe that I did. It’s my baby, and it’ll be bloody hard to let her go, but man am I excited to set her free, toss her into to the wild where maybe, just maybe, she might bring someone just a small bit of the enjoyment and comfort she brought me. Then, it’s on to the next novel.