Reflections on 19 Years and a Wild Dream Achieved

(Warning: I’m going to talk about myself in this post. A lot.)

This Saturday is a momentous day for me. Not only does it mark the publication of my sixth book, Mistress of Legend (Guinevere’s Tale Book 3), and a single-volume compendium of The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy, it is also the end of an era.

You see, 19 years ago Saturday is when I first heard Guinevere speak in my head. (Yeah, I’m one of those authors – wouldn’t have it any other way.) I tell the whole story in the Author’s Notes to Daughter of Destiny, the first book in the series, but for now suffice it to say she told me she wanted me to tell her story and that it would be unlike any written to date. I’ve always loved Arthurian legend, and Guinevere in particular, so I thought, “why not?”

That afternoon when I got home from school (I was a sophomore in college at the time), I sat down at the computer in my dad’s bedroom and began to type the words Guinevere was saying in my head: 

I am Guinevere.

I was once a queen, a lover, a wife, a mother, a priestess, and a friend. But all those roles are lost to me now; to history, I am simply a seductress, a misbegotten woman set astray by the evils of lust.

This is the image painted of me by subsequent generations, a story retold thousands of times. Yet, not one of those stories is correct. They were not there; they did not see through my eyes or feel my pain. My laughter was lost to them in the pages of history….

It goes on for a bit longer, but you get the idea. That prologue is mostly intact in the published version of Daughter of Destiny (though it was shortened a bit). I can’t tell you how many times I rewrote the first few chapters of the book (it was in the double digits for sure) as I learned to find my own voice as an author and developed a plot and style that was doing more than simply aping The Mists of Avalon (which was the book that inspired it). But somehow, Guinevere’s words remained.

(Some of you know this story, so feel free to skip down if you have heard it before.)

I never thought I would become a published author. For the next 10 years I played around with the book when I had free time from college, then grad school and my first two grownup jobs. But it was just a hobby.

Then in 2008 I started taking my writing seriously. The catalyst? Twilight. (Shut up.) By that time I was about halfway through what would become Daughter of Destiny and realized I had something worth reading on my hands. At this point, I still thought the book would be one doorstop of a volume (which is why I’m publishing the compendium). Upon researching the publishing industry, I realized it would have to be trilogy.

Fast forward another 10 years – past an agent, countless rejections (okay, I counted, it was like 40), three damn-near book deals with Big 5 publishers, self-publishing and three Book of the Year awards – and here we are, on the precipice of the final book being published. And I have to say I am very, very proud. It may have taken me two years to finish this book (much longer than I know my readers wanted to wait), but I think it was worth it.

I set out to give Guinevere back her voice and give her the fair shake I never thought she had from other authors (at least the ones I had read). In my mind, she was a full-fledged woman with hopes, dreams and desires, not the one-dimensional adulteress we usually see. In order to show that I set out to tell her whole life story, not just the part that involves Arthur. That meant dreaming up a youth for her in Daughter and imagining her heading into old age in Mistress of Legend. I feel like I’ve told the best possible story I could and did as much as possible to redeem her from the stain of sin past literature has laid upon her. 

Apparently others think so as well. I sent an ARC of Mistress to my friend and fellow author Tyler Tichelaar so he could review it on his website. He liked it so much, I ended up using the opening of the review as a blurb on the cover. But the part that brought tears to my eyes was this line: “She has given back to Guinevere, an often overlooked and derided figure, her dignity and endowed her with a true personality.” Mission accomplished.

Completing a trilogy is no small feat. There were years upon years where I wondered if I could do it and feared I could not. I remember burning with jealousy the day one of my friends completed her first series. But now all I feel is tremendous accomplishment and pride. I want to jump up and down and yell “I did it!  I did it! I did it! I did it!” 

More than that, I feel like each book on the series got better as I grew as a writer. One of my biggest fears was that my story would end up like so many other trilogies and peter out or go totally off track in the last book. (Breaking Dawn, anyone?) In fact, I feel like this is the strongest book in the series, and early reviews are indicating the same.

Now I face for the first time in nearly two decades a future without Guinevere. (Well, not totally. She’ll be one of the point of view characters in Isolde’s story whenever I get around to writing that.) I will  be forever grateful for all she as done for me. She was meant to get me started in my career, and I know she will gracefully cede the stage to the characters who come next. I just hope this trilogy is repayment enough.

PS – If you want to catch up, Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen are only $0.99 for a limited time…

PPS – For those who know of my obsession with the band Kill Hannah, the reference in the title of this blog to “a wild dream achieved” comes from their song “Believer.” 

Second Book Publication – Excitement and Fears

Camelot's Queen eBook Cover LargeThis is a slightly modified version the blog I posted on my own web site on Tuesday when the book came out. I’m reusing it because it’s really the best expression of my emotions about this book.

My second book is out in the world! What a strange feeling for someone who was only first published on January 1. Before we get into my musings, here are the buy links for the Camelot’s Queen print (Amazon and Barnes and Noble) and ebook. Audio will be available in May.

amazon-logo-icon nook-icon-150x150 KoboIconWeb ibooks_icon book-button-smashwords-icon

Let me start by saying that Camelot’s Queen is the book I’m most proud of to date (and I’m including my two as-of-yet unreleased books in that statement). It is long, but I think it really shows what I can do as a writer and adds a lot to the collective Arthurian legend.

You would think I’d be less nervous than for the first one, but I’m actually more. I think it’s because I have no idea how people are going to take this book. I mean, I expected some push back on the first book because it’s a totally different Guinevere than people are used to, especially if they come at the books expecting the perfect, docile Guinevere of some stories. But since most authors haven’t explored her early life, I had some leeway.

I explained this in the author’s notes to Camelot’s Queen, but I wrote this book with no small amount of trepidation. This is the part of the story everyone knows and loves. Everyone has their own interpretation, vision, and expectations, so no matter what I do, I’m going to let someone down. I have made the choices I made for a reason, but I know they won’t sit well with everyone, especially given that Morgan’s role is different from what you would expect and I’ve given a completely different reason for Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot.

Not only that, this story delves into a few controversial and dark issues, including rape, physical and mental abuse, and PTSD. Guinevere’s kidnapping and rape is part of the canon of Arthurian legend. Just how badly she was abused (if at all) varies by the telling, but to leave this event out simply because it is distasteful would be disingenuous to both the tradition and to readers. I have done my best to treat these issues with respect and not use them simply as plot points but to show how they affected the characters’ lives and brought about change, as they do for victims in real life. However, I know some people will take me to task for it.

That being said, this isn’t a totally dark book. There are moments of happiness and scenes I truly cherish, especially with characters I invented. I look forward to all of you meeting Sobian, the pirate-turned-assassin-and-spy from Arthur’s past and Mayda and Elga, the Saxon sisters who will continue to cause trouble into book 3. I also can’t wait for you to get to some of my favorite scenes: there are three with Aggrivane that are close to my heart, I love the battles, and the Holy Grail was so much fun. I especially can’t wait for all of you to see the twists, especially the one with Morgan and Arthur and also the circumstances leading up to the end of the book.

I’m hoping and praying that readers who haven’t discovered the series yet start with the first book. You probably could read Camelot’s Queen on its own, but you will miss many of the relationships and motivations built up in the first book, which may lead to misunderstanding or frustration, and I want readers to have a pleasant reading experience. But that’s not up to me.

I’m going to take a deep breath now. My baby is in the world. She’s no longer mine; she belongs to the readers, too. I hope you all like her!

About Camelot’s Queen

History remembers Guinevere’s sin, but it was Arthur who transgressed first.

Forced into a marriage she neither anticipated nor desired, Guinevere finds herself High Queen, ruling and fighting alongside Arthur as they try to subdue the Saxons, Irish and Picts who threaten Britain from every direction. Though her heart still longs for her lost love, Guinevere slowly grows to care for her husband as they join together to defeat their enemies.

Meanwhile, within the walls of Camelot their closest allies plot against them. One schemes to make Guinevere his own, another seeks revenge for past transgressions, while a third fixes her eyes on the throne. When the unthinkable happens and Guinevere is feared dead, Arthur installs a new woman in her place, one who will poison his affections toward her, threatening Guinevere’s fragile sanity and eventually driving her into the arms of her champion.

Amid this tension a new challenge arises for the king and queen of Camelot: finding the Holy Grail, a sacred relic that promises lasting unity. But peace, as they will soon learn, can be just as dangerous as war. As the court begins to turn on itself, it becomes clear that the quest that was to be Arthur’s lasting legacy may end in the burning fires of condemnation.

This highly anticipated sequel to Daughter of Destiny proves there is much more to Guinevere’s story than her marriage and an affair. See the legend you think you know through her eyes and live the adventure of Camelot’s golden days yourself – but be prepared to suffer its downfall as well.