Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why I Wrote My PitchWars Novel

It's all over.

I've submitted my PitchWars entry and now I can do nothing but wait for the agent round to determine my fate.


In the meantime, I've decided to participate in this little game everyone else is playing and tell you all about why I wrote my PitchWars novel.

Back in 2012, I got the idea to tell fairy tales from the villains' perspective, but not in a way that I had seen before. I'd seen retellings in which the villain tells the story, remaining truly evil, losing in the end, making for a very dark and sinister story. I'd seen versions of the story in which the villain just narrates the hero's story, again losing at the end, remaining evil throughout and just really giving us an outsider's opinion on the whole thing.

I didn't want to do that.

I wanted to know why these people (women, usually) would do something so terrible. What makes a woman want to kill her stepdaughter? What makes a woman want to abuse, neglect, and treat her stepdaughter as a slave? What makes a woman curse a young girl into eternal sleep?

Yes. I know. We had the old answers: jealousy, grief, vengeance.

But those answers are so overly simplistic and just... evil. 

And a villain is a hero in his own eyes, right? I mean, every "evil" character thinks what they're doing is right, or they're justified in doing the wrong thing. I wanted to find those justifications.

The benefits of telling the stories this way ended up being plentiful. First, these became adult stories. The mistreated princesses in our favorite fairy tales are young, lending themselves to YA or even MG retellings. But the villains are adults, with an adult voice and adult perspective and adult problems (a fifteen-year-old princess isn't likely to know the pain of losing a child or a marriage falling apart).

Second, these stories remained inherently feminine. The villains are so often women; stepmothers, usually. These are women fighting against other women, without it devolving into petty soap operas.

Third, I had to dig deep. For a woman to be willing to kill (or try to kill) a young girl? There has to be a good reason, there has to be more to the story than you ever knew or expected. These women are fighting for more than just their own pride, and I love that I get to make such complex motivations come to life.

And so, SANDS OF IMMORTALITY was born (well... first was a Snow White story, and then Sleeping Beauty, and then that Sleeping Beauty story took on a life of its own and became SANDS OF IMMORTALITY).

During the process of querying my first novel, the Snow White retelling, I had an agent tell me he loved the book. Just... could I rewrite it to be less feminine and more like Game of Thrones, please?

I will not. I will not remove the femininity from my story. I will not make my story into one full of gory violence and graphic sex. (Martin is incredibly talented, and there is a place for that kind of fantasy, and I love it, but it is not my story to tell and I won't force myself to tell it.) 

That's why I keep writing these stories. That's why I wrote this one the way I did. Because these stories have another side to them; a side that's more mature, more complex, and more interesting than we ever imagined, and it's time these women had a chance to shine in their own right, for better or worse.