I finished writing my 10th novel early this morning, but as I reflected on that all day, I found myself instead thinking about a boy wizard--the boy wizard, of course--and the fact that today was his birthday, and if it wasn't for him, I'm not sure I would have completed my 10th novel at all. Or perhaps I should say, if it wasn't for the indomitable J.K. Rowling--whose birthday is also July 31st--I wouldn't have completed my 10th novel. In fact, I'm not sure I would have written any of my novels, at least not with any measure of success, because it is one thing to be a writer, and it is another thing entirely to be a storyteller.
Everyone who loves Harry Potter loves the moment in book 1 when Hagrid proudly says, "Harry--yer a wizard." We've all endured Harry's misery at the hands of the Dursleys alongside him for a good portion of the story up to that point, and when it's revealed that Harry is special, and magical special, and not just magical special, but going-away-to-be-trained-at-a-magical-school, magical special, we the readers feel a collective relief for him. There is a sense of rightness about Harry's situation at that point in the story. Finally, all the dissonance in his life begins to resolve. Obviously there will still be many, many trials for our young wizard, but now Harry has a drive, a purpose, an identity.
For me, this was my realization that I was a storyteller. I always knew I was a writer. I'd been writing bits of things for years, going way back to my childhood--far younger even than Harry was when he received his first letter to Hogwarts--but writing and storytelling don't always line up. Many great writers are terrible storytellers, and many great storytellers are terrible writers. It is a select few who capture the magic of being able to do both, or at least, who capture the magic of storytelling well, and then harness the writing as a vehicle to tell their brilliant stories as they need to be told. When I was young, I didn't realize that learning to story-tell was something I had to do. I believed if I had a story in my head, I could write it, and it would make sense and capture people's hearts and imaginations, and wasn't that all there was to it? Obviously I was wrong, but I didn't know it, and if you don't know you are wrong about something, you can't begin to learn how to do it right.
There were many authors I admired when I was young (and of course still admire)--authors like Lewis and Tolkien--but it wasn't until J.K. Rowling came along and Harry entered my life that I realized storytelling was a discipline to be learned and harnessed as a skill if I wanted to succeed myself as an author. I knew I loved Harry, and I knew there were big, transcendent themes in the story, but lots of stories contain lovable characters and big themes without ever approaching the success and the widespread appeal of Harry Potter. And it really wasn't that Rowling wrote any better than any other writers out there. One could argue that her prose is not as good as many comparable works. So when I sat down to study the phenomenon that was Harry Potter, the conclusion I came to was that the secret must lie in Rowling's storytelling methods, and that if I wanted to truly ever approach mastery in my writing, then I must study not her prose or her themes, but how her stories are woven together.
My studies of Rowling's Harry Potter novels have led me down rabbit holes of literary alchemy and ring composition. They've led me away from Harry and back to ancient, classical, and medieval works, and back to modern favorites like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. They've helped me see patterns in films and TV storylines, and they've inspired me to always work harder, to always dig deeper, to never write lazy.
When I read Harry Potter for the first time as a teenager, I had no idea where it would take me. I had no idea that, almost twenty years later, I would teach writing seminars based on the storytelling methods J.K. Rowling used to write them, or that I would myself be the author of an award-winning six-book fantasy series that I wrote following her methods. I certainly couldn't have guessed that I would write 10 books in 9 years, but I'm thankful to be where I am, and I'm thankful for the epiphanies I've had from studying her work. I'm a novelist, a writer, but mostly, I'm a storyteller.
If you keep up with me at all, you know that, at the end of May, I left my 10-year (stable, wonderful, steady paycheck... *cue panic attack*)-teaching career to set off full time on this (not-so-stable, equally wonderful, life's passion) writing career. I meant to write an update blog one week in, and then two weeks in, and then a month in, and... well, you get the idea. But the reality is, I've just been too busy to take a breath, let alone blog about it! Flippancies aside, I'm actually not panicking at all. And perhaps that's just because I'm an unrelenting optimist (I am), or more likely because I've been hard at work on this authoring thing for many years, so making the leap into full time hasn't been that intimidating. It's just a matter of taking all the hard work I've cultivated over the last nine years I've been a writer and devoting 100% of my career energies into it rather than what's left over at the end of the day. So, for those of you who are not on my newsletter, here's a quick update of what the last month and a half (ish) has looked like for me:
-I started writing a new book this summer! HUNTER is a prequel to BREEDER, taking place about 200 years prior to the rest of the Breeder Cycle trilogy and set during the Great Incursion described in the series. Don't worry, I am still writing the final book in the series, CLONE, but I am now writing both books simultaneously.
-Most exciting of all, in June I was signed by Ben Grange of the L. Perkins Agency in New York City, so I now have representation. Ben and I have been hard at work on The Girl in the Sea to get it ready to pitch to bigger publishers, so between writing the two books and revising The Girl in the Sea, I have had a very busy writing month.
-In light of these exciting developments, I am amicably cutting ties with my longtime publisher, The Writer's Coffee Shop*. The change will be effective as of July 31st. What does this mean for purchasing my books? As of the end of this month, all retailers carrying my books will sell out whatever remaining stock they have, and that will be it! (until I sign a new book deal--but there could be a pretty significant delay until that happens.) SO, if you have been considering buying my books and don't want to wait an indefinite amount of time for shiny new editions, go to Amazon or my Books Page now to view purchase options! Don't miss out!
-Ben is also working with me on my backlist (all my currently published books) to try and find them a new publishing home.
-Sometime this summer, I will begin work on writing Season 2 of Cinderella for the Public Domain Universe podcast. I need to finish writing HUNTER first and make sure I'm well enough along in CLONE that I know I can get that book finished as well before I dive into the scripts for the PDU, though. With so many creative projects cooking, I can't let my brain get split into too many different directions! If you haven't listened to Season 1 yet, I would encourage you to check it out here.
-At the beginning of July, I received two more awards from Literary Classics International Book Awards for CRIMINAL: Gold for High School Science Fiction/Dystopian and Gold for College Science Fiction/Dystopian. Literary Classics followed up the awards by inviting me to speak at the Great American Book Festival this Labor Day Weekend in Rapid City, South Dakota. I'll be presenting on the topics of Social Media and Online Branding. So in late August I will be preparing that presentation, and I'm really looking forward to the trip and the event.
I think that about covers what I'm working on right now, and what I anticipate working on in the next couple months. I feel as though I hit the ground running as a full time author, and I'm excited to see where the rest of the year takes me. Please subscribe to my newsletter for monthly updates and check my News Page for links to announcements, events, and press releases. (Information on my awards can also be found on my Home Page.) And if you are an event coordinator or school administrator, please consider me for your speaking or workshop needs! Contact me for more information.
*I am so thankful for my time with TWCS Publishing House. Many young, fledgling authors find themselves--out of desperation and ignorance--with predatory vanity presses. That was never my experience with TWCS. TWCS was a fantastic, professional small press for me to get my start at. Not only did they publish my first eight (eight!) novels, but they helped and encouraged me through the process, they taught me so much about writing and storytelling, and they provided me with a publication family. I have made lifelong friends through working with them, and I would not be where I am today without them. Thank you, TWCS!
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