It's been a long road to get here. Tashué and I are glad you're joining us.
I make no secret of the fact that I've been with Tashué Blackwood a long time.
He and I have been through a lot together. He first walked into my stories when he was 18, and I was 14. (I know, a bit of an age gap, but I was in a hurry to grow up.) He was everything I wasn't. Everything I wished I was. Confident, independent, charming. Unflinching and unafraid.
He gave me the courage to be more fully myself.
When life threw me some curveballs, he gave me a safe way to process some of my pains.
He got a lot of words over the years. Some short stories, some attempts at novels (don't ask for them; they've gone the way of the 3 1/2 inch floppy disc, I'm afraid). I learnt a lot about writing while trying to tell his various stories. But he was always in a contemporary setting, always in "our" world.
Fantasy, on the other hand, was my first love as a reader. I can't recall what my first fantasy book was because I've just always read it. My mother read Anne McCaffery; my father read Tad Williams and Robert Jordan. They met at a D&D game. The first writer that was mine (that neither of them introduced me to) was David Gemmell. I saw Stormrider in a bookstore, and it was love at first sight, but my grandmother wouldn't buy it for me because it was still in trade paperback size. "Try one of his other books," she said, "one of the smaller ones. See if you like it first." So I picked up Midnight Falcon instead, and Bane the Bastard is the story that made me want to be a writer, rather than writing being a hobby I sometimes dabbled in.
So there it was. For years and years, Tashué Blackwood and the genre of fantasy were at war. Historical fiction tried to come and be a contender for a while, but The Research defeated me. Tashué would give me an idea, and I'd go off and work on that for a while... but then I'd get stuck. Lose interest. Fantasy would whisper in my ear, hey, what about...? Okay, fantasy. I trust you. I'd write some books, but they weren't ever good enough because I hadn't learnt the power of revisions yet. Tashué would get impatient in the background. I'd miss him. I'd go back to him for a while because he's just that irresistible.
And then, in my early twenties, he gave me the cop novels. Hunting down a serial killer who murdered children. Infiltrating a human trafficking organization. And, look, they were BAD, but I think that's the moment when the world at large was really starting to leak into my writing.
As I do, I got stuck on the third book in that series, and fantasy once again lured me away.
Enter the North Star.
I wanted to tell a "Rise of the Farm Boy" type story, where the clueless boy goes off to topple the evil empire, as per the predictions of a prophecy. I know, I know, it's been done a few times. But my twist on the trope was that the farm boy wasn't The One. The One was, in fact, the cute girl that he was falling in love with. Bronwynn was destined to be the North Star, and Logan was destined to continue the fight after she was gone, in her name.
AND I GOT STUCK.
(This is where revision really comes into focus as something I needed to figure out. I would write a while, maybe a few chapters, maybe enough for a whole book. Then I would decide something was missing. I went in the wrong direction. It wasn't dark enough; this wasn't set up well enough; I think I did the wrong thing here; this character gets lost, this other character is GREAT and I need to go add them into the beginning. And then I would scrap everything and start again, and again, and again, until I was so hopelessly lost that I didn't think I'd ever write a whole book again. I'm not smart enough, I decided, to write a book With Politics™.)
So Tashué started tugging on me, as he does when I spend too much time away from him. But I really liked the world I'd built for Bronwynn and Logan. I wasn't ready to leave it yet. Though I couldn't seem to make the plot work, I had put a lot of time into figuring out my magic system. How it worked. What it cost to the people who used it. I really wanted to spend more time with it. But I really missed Tashué.
"Hey, Tashué, what do you think of jumping into this fantasy world I built?"
"I dunno... Does this mean I have to give up my car?"
"Yeah, honey, I think it does. But hear me out. I think this just might work."
Spoiler: we made it work.