From plotting to writing and publishing a novel, there is plenty of anxiety that authors face. And perhaps there is nothing more daunting then realizing that your story is just not working. Today Urban Fantasy author Piper Maitland explains how she decided to change up her newest book Hunting Daylight and why this required her to write without fear.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” This was a theme in Acquainted With the Night, my first vampire novel. The book ended with the main characters in turmoil: Caro, a half-vampire, was pregnant, and her unborn child was at the center of an eerie 8th century prophecy — not the sort of information a mother wants to hear. Her human lover, Jude, had become the one thing he hated: an immortal.
I opened the sequel, Hunting Daylight, with the birth of Caro and Jude’s daughter, Vivi, but the manuscript quickly went off the rails. I wasn’t feeling the magic. I always hate when that happens — my attic is a graveyard, filled with unpublished novels — but I’m a cheerful loser. I took a hard look at my two-book series. Ideally, each novel needed to be an independent, “stand-alone” book, with a unique voice, structure, tone, dilemmas, and themes. Both should build on the mythology and science of vampirism. Book one was somewhat plot-driven; Hunting Daylight would be character-driven, and the dark moments would be balanced with playfulness.
What had derailed the manuscript? Again, Emerson had the answer: “Always do what you are afraid to do.” But hadn’t I done that? The first 60 pages were action-packed — erupting volcanoes, a kidnapped infant, vampires in a rainforest, a quest for an 8th century vessel that held the secret to day-walking.
Action is a good thing, but only if it arises out of character. And I was forcing my people into safe bubbles. Caro wasn’t acting like a new mom. When my sons were three-months-old, I was a slob-in-sweatpants, preoccupied with vaccine schedules and when to introduce solid food. I quit using perfume and swabbed my pulse points with Baby Wipes. What about Caro? Had she left the maternity ward in a mini-skirt? Did she plan to breast feed? Was her love life interrupted at critical moments?
Caro set me straight: her boobs and hips were so big, they could apply for MasterCards. So I focused on Vivi’s past and future. At thirteen, she had pink hair, wore razor blade earrings, and was rebelling against her overprotective mother. Now I saw the problem: Vivi needed to be older, but this called for a different — and scary — timeline.
Taking Emerson’s words to heart, I leaped ahead three years, then I dropped Caro into a thorn tree and set the grass on fire. The book took off, vaulting ten years into the future. Did I have doubts? Yes. But if I didn’t take risks, I couldn’t expect Caro to deliver the goods.
Always do what you’re afraid to do. Because life is about the journey, not the destination.
This is true for writers. The manuscript cemetery in my attic proves that I don’t always make smart career choices, but I’m never sorry when I get it right for my characters. A book isn’t about my destination. It’s about the characters and their true paths—when they plunge ahead, I must tamp down my fear and step aside. And that’s when the magic happens.
Interested in learning more about Piper Maitland's newest release Haunting Daylight? They make sure to check out her Q&A tomorrow at scifichick.com. And you can follow the author on Twitter at @PiperMaitland.