My second book is in stores now. Just typing that sentence is incredibly surreal. If you asked me ten years ago what I thought my chances were of ever becoming a published author I would have told you zero. Sure, I loved storytelling but writing a book just seemed far too big a project for a lazy so and so like myself. I hadn’t taken a single step in that direction and didn’t plan to. I guess, sometimes the path finds you.
At the moment, Winter’s Light is hovering in the Top 50 of iTunes. It’s been in that vicinity since last week when it was released, peaking at number 10 a couple of times. The fact that’s it’s been there for so long, rather than dropping off after a day or two, is very encouraging. It demonstrates there’s an interest out there for Winter’s story. As an author that’s all I could ever ask. I may never do Twilight numbers but as long as there’s some kind of readership out there for my books it means I’m doing something right.
In fact, I think I do a number of things right in Winter’s Light. It’s not the great work of speculative fiction I hope I still have inside me but I’m getting closer. The writing is stronger and so is the storytelling. It lacks the neatness of Winter’s Shadow but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Winter’s Shadow was my first book and as such I freely admit to not having a clue what I was doing. To stave off panic attacks, I created a detailed chapter by chapter outline. I also researched the genre I was writing in – reading the Twilight series, Lauren Kate’s books and anything else I could get my hands on. Other authors had already traversed similar territory so it seemed foolish not to use them as a guide.
This doesn’t mean I ever copied their plot mechanizations (I may be a hack, but I’m not a plagiarist) but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t aware of the paranormal genre conventions. I knew the beats and strived to hit them, sometimes going against my storytelling instincts to do so. Winter’s Shadow is the best book I could have written at the time and I’m immensely proud it, but if I was to write it again the story would probably be much different. Less beholden to the genre. Much stranger.
Which brings me to Winter’s Light. It’s a strange book and I love it for its strangeness. Part of the reason for this strangeness is probably because I didn’t outline. Not because I wanted to experiment with my writing process – I simply ran out of time. I had a deadline, and, as I’d already spent the advance money, no option but to meet it. The book was finished in three frenzied months, which left little opportunity for me to second guess myself, and even less time to plan. At first this was terrifying – imagine setting off for a destination with no map and absolutely know idea of what direction to take – but during the writing something interesting happened. The characters began talking to me. Winter, Jasmine and Sam knew where they wanted to go; I just had to follow. Instead of imposing a storyline based on genre conventions and pre-existing narrative paradigms, I let the characters dictate the direction to take.
Where we ended up together was unexpected, but ultimately incredibly satisfying. It wasn’t the path I thought I was going to take but that’s okay. Sometimes the path finds you.