For this week’s theme, the Debs are sharing the love and discussing five people without whom our books wouldn’t exist. I use “five” a little loosely — but here goes:
My family: I mean, this almost seems too easy, but I couldn’t start anywhere else. My parents have supported my dreams of writing for as long as I’ve had them. They knew I’d be good at it before I did. (My mother, in fact, warned me off of the alternate path of acting, somewhat ungently, when I was fifteen. I distinctly recall her saying, “You’re a good actress. You’re never gonna be a great actress.” Words to break a drama kid’s heart, but her point was that I did have it in me to be a great writer, and that was where I needed to focus my efforts. And y’know what? She was right. As usual.) My parents and sister are my biggest fans and constant cheerleaders. They’re the ones who’ve been there every time I’ve felt crushed by disappointment, and they’ve been there to celebrate every victory. When I landed my book deal, I think it’s possible that they were more excited than I was. I don’t know how I would’ve survived this tumultuous process of publishing without them.
John, my thaumaturgical adviser: John has been my best friend for positively ages now. He’s the person I can trust with absolutely anything, no matter how dramatic, ugly, or ridiculous it might be. He’s my grand vizier, the Tyrion to my Daenerys, the person I can always trust to tell me the absolute truth and give the advice that will be best for me — even if I don’t want to hear it at the time. And, most importantly as far as the Aven Cycle is concerned, he’s the person I bounce magical ideas off of. The Elemental system in From Unseen Fire is one that’s been many years in development — many more years than I’ve been writing the Aven Cycle — and without him, it would likely be a far less sensible thing. His thaumaturgical instincts are unerring, and he comes at the concepts from a different angle than I do, which means he can point out where I’ve got holes or contradictions. Since it’s super important to me that the rules of my fantasy world be both plausible and consistent, he’s been an invaluable help.
Julius Caesar: The man, the legend. Caesar is behind a lot of what happens in From Unseen Fire, directly and indirectly. My male protagonist, Sempronius Tarren, is my alt-universe’s Caesar analog. It’s not a direct correlation — his life is much different from Caesar’s, and so are some of his values (Sempronius is, if anything, to the left even of Caesar, who was a fairly radical figure in his time). Caesar’s ambition and exceptionalism definitely inspired Sempronius, though, as did the political machinations that swirled around him. There’s one moment in Caesar’s life in particular that spurred a “what if it went another way” consideration that’s turning into a plot point… but that would be telling. And telling something that won’t happen till the third book!
Disney princesses: I know princess culture can be ~controversial or whatever but come at me. I have loved Disney princesses for literally as long as I can remember, and they continue to be inspirations to me as an adult. From “no matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true” to “there’s been trials and tribulations, I’ve had my share; but I’ve climbed the mountain, I’ve crossed the river, and I’m almost there”, their words and songs are a lot of what keep me going through rejections, rewrites, and publishing’s glacial rate of progress. Princess movies are my happy place; they’re what I take refuge in when I’ve had a rough day. Haters to the left.
William Shakespeare: Not only do I owe this guy the job that kept a roof over my head while I was writing From Unseen Fire, I owe him so much in terms of how I think about language. I picked up Romeo and Juliet at the age of eleven and immediately fell in love; when I discovered Beatrice in Much Ado about Nothing the next year, there was really no turning back. It wasn’t until later, though, that I realized just how good with language he was. He had a great ear for speaking patterns, and he was a straight-up rhetorical genius. Studying him is how I got good at it and how I refined my own writing, particularly in dialogue.
There are a lot of other people who contributed, in some form or another, to this book — my agent and editors, many teachers over the years, and so many supportive friends. I’m so grateful to have had such a great tribe around me as I’ve chased this dream!