One of the most common questions any writer gets is, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ I often say, ‘From the idea tree in my backyard.’ Another writer says blithely that they come from a radio station in the Twilight Zone playing through the metal fillings in his teeth. In reality, of course, ideas come from everywhere and it’s hard to trace the exact path that leads to a story.
But there are exceptions.
The origin of a story
In 2002, I attended the World Fantasy convention in Minneapolis. I did the usual things one does on such occasions, even met at least one author whom I fangirled with abandon (and I don’t regret a moment of it…). In between all the Being at a Major Con moments, I attended a bunch of panels – one of which happened to be on YA.
Now, this was not the park I played in, at least I hadn’t until that day – but the panel included several people whose work I liked and admired, and so I thought I’d come and hear what they had to say. One of the panelists was unilateral literal treasure that is Jane Yolen.
She was being everything I had expected of her – erudite and funny and wise – until someone in the back of the room lifted a hand and asked some question or other about Harry Potter. And Jane Yolen heaved a deep sigh and said, “I wonder how long it would be before that particular elephant walked into the room…”
Now, you must remember this was 2002. The Young Adult genre almost literally WAS Harry Potter – it was that, and then there was a whole bunch of vacuum below it until you even hit any other titles at all. But for some reason Jane Yolen’s remark flipped a switch in my brain.
I heard very little of the rest of that panel – because I was already lost in my own little world. Inside my head, I was writing the story not of the ‘Boy Who Lived’ but of the ‘Girl Who Couldn’t’. She was a Double Seventh, the much lauded and eagerly anticipated seventh child of two seventh children, the most magical of the magical, the greatest magic wielder of them all. But my girl… couldn’t do ANYTHING. It isn’t that she was doing magic badly. It was that apparently she could do no magic at all.
In despair, her parents sent her to a special school – a school for magical dims like herself, the flotsam and jetsam of the magical society, all the misfit kids. It was colloquially known as the ‘Last DItch School for the Incurably Incompetent.’
That’s a helluva blow to a magical career, dead before it began.
But then… but then… things started happening for my girl.
My little Thea, as American as Harry is English, finds friends, finds a purpose, and begins to find a place in her world.
The evolution of a story
In the end she discovers it wasn’t that she was not magical at all – it was that her greatest magic had been hidden because if it had been revealed too early, it might have cost her her life. Instead of being a magical dud, my heroine is a real wizard. She gathers up amazing characters in her wake – a magic user from the dawn of history who introduces her to an array of creatures from North American mythology; one of those, Coyote himself, becomes a huge part of her life (not always a good one…); and she learns the finer points of her magnificent Elemental magic from the only Quad-Element Mage in human history, the man known as the Wizard of the West, Nikola Tesla himself.
Thea is asked to do hard things that nearly destroy her, but instead make her stronger; she makes mistakes, but learns from them; and in the end her powers are the thing that may have begun all of human magic at the dawn of time.
I told Thea’s story in a trilogy called WORLDWEAVERS. Thea was introduced in the first book entitled ‘The Gift of the Unmage’. Two books followed, ‘Spellspam’, and ‘Cybermage’. This story did not come easily, nor was it predictable even to me when I was writing it. Thea was a gift. So were all the people who came with her.
The trilogy was published by HarperCollins a few years after that momentous inspirational panel. HarperCollins did a fabulous job and the covers were fantastic.
The books first came out in hardcover and then went on to paperback editions… well. that was the plan anyway. The books were published right smack in the middle of what the publishing industry still refers to as the Bloodbath of 2008.
I lost two editors and three or four publicity people in quick order. The third book in the trilogy never even saw a paperback edition – because by that time there was simply nobody left who even knew what these things were, never mind had any interest in promoting or publicizing them. In spite of their fantastic reviews, in spite of a genuinely warm reception by those readers who did find the books (a bookseller once blurted to me, about this series, “You write books for the people who love to read!”)… the trilogy shimmered briefly, and then faded away.
The rights eventually came back to me.
I went with a small startup press to reissue the books in paperback, and by this time there was Book 4, “Dawn of Magic”, which brought all the events of the story to a conclusion as well as circling them to the very beginning – I am actually fiercely fond of “Dawn of Magic”, it really has some amazing stuff in it – but alas this was a small startup press and once again the books, although they did acquire audio editions here, languished again.
The rights came back to me … again.
I am now going to reissue the books, properly, with the cover art they deserve. It will not surprise you to learn that good art comes at a PRICE. I have several quotes in hand. The lowest starts at $2000.
I am going to need some help and started a fundraiser on Facebook. Some people have donated on PayPal, and others by joining my Patreon.
If you would like to help bring back the books that VOYA said were fit for those facing Harry Potter withdrawal, I would be extremely grateful.