Last month I did the first part of this post, which explained why I compared my books to certain Disney Princess movies. It wasn’t a final definition so much as a first step towards outlining some basic identity for the books. The first step of many, I hope! These are really tiny ideas, but that’s how babies learn to walk—they are small and they start moving. There are so many books I broke the post into 2 parts. Here’s the first post if you missed it. This one continues with the next five books:
And there will be more updates.
Those who have read a number of the monthly posts that delve deeper into the characters in each of my books already know that the first of these posts started way back in February. But what’s true about these characters is that there are so many of them, with interlocking little relationships over the (now 10!) books, that discussing just a few of them is like scratching the surface of one of those gift cards where you peel off the silver to see the redemption code. But—well, if you’ve ever owned a gift card and I have to say they are one of my favorite things—after all that scratching you find something you really want to see!
Anyway, the two characters highlighted for Victoria: A Tale of Spain today are the protagonist, this brave young girl who’s sort of a classic heroine in a picturesque setting like 1600s Spain. And of course the villain, King Felipe, who is set against her, and who grew from the idea of a similar character in “Millhaven Castle.” Like Lord Timson, he summons a girl to his castle to protect his throne and plans to set her up. And like Lord Timson he has his work cut out for him.
Victoria is the next-to-youngest of 6 daughters of a Spanish duke. It’s a family very, very much full of girls under the semi-watchful eye of their parents. One sister has run off to get married and the oldest sister kind of has a supervisory position at times. So it’s a bit reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice in terms of the family dynamic and this dynamic is extremely important to Victoria. It's her family that’s in danger and she’s the one who ends up finding a solution. She’s an innocent, spunky girl who proves pretty resourceful when this situation opens up in front of her.
King Felipe is the villain with a 100% chance of failure. And what’s fun about him is that he’s like a real person who's quite insecure. He’s not particularly handsome or interesting although he was born in high circles of life and he’s actually very aware of it. His hysteria over some long-buried factoid about the throne comes from his lack of confidence as a person and whether he deserves what he has. He’s also bad at scheming—fortunately for Victoria and her sisters. But he’s a really funny character and makes the plot zip along once he shows up halfway through.
And there will be more updates.
I enjoyed working on the MerrySummer stories this year and it took just as much effort to revise and republish an older book as it would to create a new one. The fun of exploring a whole new world of ideas wasn't there like it is with something being discovered for the first time. However, I cut a lot of fluff from “Movies at the Beach” and tweaked “Sarcophagus” and “A Matter of Life and Hair” to make them more generalized satires instead of referring to specific works as they had in a few places. "Movies at the Beach" was really a short story concept and it shrank naturally as I fitted it for the anthology--long ago I had tried unsuccessfully to lengthen it into a standalone. Reworking also requires some creative effort, since it's impossible to remove a sentence without thinking of something to replace it and next thing you know you're rewriting. Channeling this creative effort into MerrySummer made me look forward even more to brainstorming new projects next year.
Writing is in some ways my entire life—not excluding more important concepts like religion or giving too much priority to something transient like the effect of a fictionalized world on an audience’s mind. But it is something I focus on all the time, with this desire to bring these imagined places before people’s attention until they respond to them, until they feel—“Yes, that’s real. That interests me because the concepts are just a reflection of what I see around me or what I’d like to see around me in the case of something fantastical or out-there.” So I guess I began to lament that MerrySummer hadn’t made it into a formal state quite a few years before. Because I was torn between on the one hand thinking—“I suddenly realize these stories have got to be there too,” and then thinking—“But that will delay the other things I’m working on by another year at least.”
However, the great thing about telling stories, and the rewarding thing about it, is that they exist for a reason. Every story ever written, not that anyone could possibly keep track of how many there have been, was based on an audience's need at one time. Maybe the need for that story didn’t last very long, like even less than a year or just a few months or so. But while it was there, the story existed for a reason. Some stories, of course, catch a nerve in audiences that makes them last much longer because they express a greater or longer-lasting need. So getting a perspective on all stories as a really vital form of expression, I look at MerrySummer not as yet another older story—or set of little stories in this case, but they string together-- I’ve polished up a bit while there are so many other ideas waiting. You have to think—“It meets a need right now. It has a reason to be out there.” And then I feel very proud of it.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
I write stories about human emotions--about the journey of life. Every step of it can be meaningfully great or simply terrible and you can only reach the end after experiencing many kinds of things that make you grow. Emotional travels are the travels of life and the road of living is not one planned out in notebooks or organized in Scrivener. It is felt in love, hope, and fear and developed through an understanding of why humans go through these. And, on top of that, my stories are adventure stories. History, fantasy, and daily modern situations are all adventures as long as you don't know for sure what's going to happen when you wake up each day. Because that would be like repeating the same day over and over again and who wants to do that?
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