From concept to page

Happy summer solstice! Tonight there will also be a full Strawberry Moon (Rose Moon in the Myre lexicon), so it seemed fitting to make a post about how I came to write The Soft Fall.

Unlike some authors, the concept for TSF didn’t come to me in a dream, lucid or otherwise; in a sudden burst of inspiration; or even with the simple desire to write a novel. It began, first and foremost, with an affinity for the mythological figure of Diana the Huntress.

Diana

In childhood, I received my first crash course in Greco-Roman mythology from a set of audio tapes. The stories were simplistic, interspersed with lute melodies, and very dry. But I always found myself wanting more details instead of these bare-boned narratives. I wanted to know why the gods behaved the way they did, because they always made terribly mortal mistakes. So I imagined, what if they were, in fact, mortals who were only venerated as gods? What if I could expand on these simple stories by retelling them in some way?

I wouldn’t begin writing about Diana until midway through high school, and only then did I have a partially formed idea of what the story could be. I’d wanted to be a writer since a grade school class project in which we were given blank hardbound books to write in and illustrate. After that I started typing chapter books on MS-DOS and printing them out. None of them survive because my teenage self looked upon them in mortification, like artists often do with their past work.

I was a pretty quiet kid who spent a lot of time in her imagination, but when I wasn’t inside making stories, I was playing in the wooded area across the street with the neighbor kids. We’d build makeshift stone bridges across the creek, flower crowns out of honeysuckles and clover, fairy castles out of twigs and leaves. Naturally, I felt a strong connection with Diana, goddess of animals and wild woods.

My favorite animal came to be the wolf. My mother had always been a strong supporter of reintroducing gray wolves to the wild, which is a heated and controversial debate among Oregonians. Growing up, I remember photographs of wolves adorning the walls, a knitted blanket with soft wolf faces, wolf magnets stuck to the fridge. I may have been well-versed in fairy tales, but I never feared the big bad wolf, and imagined a happy ending for him too.

So the two stories were married. When I envisioned a story for my Dianna, it made sense to associate her with wolves, being a goddess of the moon and daughter of the she-wolf Leto. In college, I began outlining and penning The Soft Fall with abandon.

I had a direction, but I also had a purpose — I saw Diana as a product of her time. In traditional mythology, she is a virgin goddess sworn never to marry. She turns a man into a stag just for looking at her naked! And she was a protector of women and childbirth, which was appealing to me as a feminist. And yet, as a feminist, I couldn’t help but envision her potential value for modern feminism. What if, instead of deciding to abstain from desire, Diana’s journey was one of self-discovery and growth? What if I explored the social consequences of womanhood through her eyes, in an oppressive and theocratic society? And then, what if she shattered that barrier, came into her own, and changed the course of an empire?

This is when the vision really coalesced. After college, newly married and settled into an apartment across the country, I spent a year in semi-isolation finishing the first draft. There were no distractions, and I had no full-time job. It was just me and my computer and my stack of notebooks, and my wonderful husband whose undying support for my dream of writing pushed me to the finish line.

At the end of this summer, we will be traveling to France and Italy (which I can still hardly believe) and hopefully be fortunate enough to see some of the ancient sites in Rome influenced by the mythology of Romulus and Remus, as well as the goddess Diana herself: Lake Nemi, the town of Ariccia, and Palatine Hill, to name a few.

The story has come a long way since the first draft, and I feel especially grateful to those who have helped it come to life. I’ve had some incredibly positive reactions to the manuscript during this submission process, and I’m beyond thrilled to see where Dianna will lead me next.

DSC001699

More of my inspiration:

Ancient Rome research masterpost from my Tumblr, diannathehuntress

The Soft Fall: A Soundtrack compiled on 8tracks

The Soft Fall: Unofficial Book Trailer on YouTube

…And they lived happily ever after

Today marks the anniversary of the day when, 10 years ago, my high school sweetheart asked me to be his girlfriend. He was about to take his SAT that week, and I, in the smoothest fashion, gave him a kiss “for luck.”

That’s what prompted it, really. I like to pride myself on that fact, because I’m a classic introvert who prefers not to make the first move. Not in this case. That move was mine.

This memory probably wouldn’t seem significant if I failed to mention that we’ve consequently spent these past 10 years madly in love, he eventually also asked me to marry him, and we had a decidedly perfect fairy tale wedding. We wrote our own vows. I threw the bouquet backwards into the hollow of a light fixture like an intentional trick shot. There were fat little polymer clay birds on the cake.

But no good fairy tale begins without darkness, and that’s why I call him my sunshine.

You could say that luck worked out for us both. “Lucky” is a term we collectively tend to ascribe to these uncommonly fortuitous situations, but that’s only part of the story. Devotion, passion, a willingness to grow up and grow together, and casually flipping off any “obstacle” like temporary long distance also worked out for us.

People have also said, “Wow, that’s so rare.” And they’re not wrong. I’ve heard young love is a flint and tinder that strikes only fleeting sparks, that the flames that do burn die fast.

Yet here we are.

There’s a fictional trope called insta-love, in which a romantic relationship between characters begins with “love at first sight” or some melodramatic variation thereof. They just met, but their destinies are intertwined! They must be together forever! They would die for each other! (Romeo & Juliet come to mind as the ultimate paragon of insta-love, but guys, I’m pretty sure Shakespeare had the jump on us all by satirizing the trope before the term ever officially existed, as Shakespeare was wont to do.)

The trope is considered unrealistic, for good reason. But if my 10-year relationship is also considered rare — really just another word for “unrealistic” — where does that leave me? Do I exist in some unseen plane of reality far from the mortal coil? Am I a robot? EXPLAIN PLEASE.

The problem is, readers are quick to stick the “insta-love” label on fictional relationships even when they’re not — they’re just perceived as unrealistic, like mine. Sometimes, the problem is our inability to consider the possible. We cannot move beyond our own limited definitions of love to understand the many, many kinds of love that we haven’t experienced or witnessed firsthand.

Next time you pull the “insta-love” card, ask yourself why. Is it because the characters are underdeveloped? Is there little basis for romantic attraction? Is it because Love Interest A compares the eyes of Love Interest B, upon their very first meeting, to microcosms of untouched galaxies within which (s)he must spend eternity exploring?

Or is it because you’re seeing what you want to see, and refuse to accept the alternative: that these characters actually have every reason to fall in love?

Maybe dating culture is partly to blame for our skepticism. Some people seeking partnerships can go about looking for them in the wrong ways. They look for the “right” kind of man, the “ideal” kind of woman. Active dating is inherently a process of judging, classifying, scrutinizing. One might seek commonalities in a potential partner above all else, when maybe someone with entirely divergent interests would be much better for that particular person.

There is too much focus on finding a partner with qualities that seemingly align with our requirements, when focusing on an alignment of goals will be more beneficial in the long run. We ask, “What kind of person are you? What can you do for me?” Not, “What are our needs, desires, and goals? Can they coexist and function well together?”

People are never static and always imperfect. The truest kind of bond does not come from meeting someone so great, you hope they never change. It is not about possession or manipulation. It is looking at the one you love and saying, “I love you for all that you are and all that you have been. I understand you, and I am recognizing you. And you will change, and I will love you then, too.”

It is strange, transcendent, and yes, rare. So it can be difficult to write convincingly.

In my novel, there’s a couple of characters who become romantically involved under dire circumstances: they’re going to die, and there’s nothing they can do about it. They haven’t known each other personally very long, but they decide they are, really and truly, in love. They don’t claim the extreme that they would die for each other — but they’ll die with each other, because at least they’ll be beside someone they love and care about deeply.

Conveying a real and powerful relationship is a challenge, but that’s the kind of love story I’m interested in telling. It’s the kind, after all, I’m living.