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.

The concept for the novel began, first and foremost, with 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, mere mortals who were only venerated as gods? What if I could expand on these stories by adapting them into a diverse, complex narrative?

I was a quiet kid who spent a lot of time in her imagination, but when I wasn’t inside writing, I was playing in the woods across the street where I grew up. I’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.

Wolves are my favorite animals. My mother had always been a strong supporter of reintroducing gray wolves to the wild, a heated and controversial debate among Oregonians. 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.

When I began writing about Diana the Huntress in my youth (Dianna Aergyris, in my retelling), it made sense to associate her with wolves, being a goddess of the moon and daughter of the she-wolf Leto. The very foundation of Rome was built upon the mythology of Romulus and Remus, twin brothers raised by a she-wolf. My reimagining of the mythos would also include lycanthropy. In college, I began outlining and penning THE SOFT FALL with abandon.

In traditional mythology, Diana is a virgin goddess sworn never to marry. She turns a man into a stag just for looking at her naked! She was a protector of women and childbirth, which was an appealing characterization to me as a feminist. I couldn’t help but envision her potential value for modern feminism. What if her journey was one of self-discovery and growth — a bildungsroman? What if I explored the social consequences of womanhood through her eyes, in an oppressive and theocratic society? What if she shattered that barrier, came into her own, and changed the course of an empire’s history? What if she fell in love?

This is when the novel really coalesced. After college, newly married and settled into an apartment across the country, I spent a year finishing the first draft (with my wonderful husband, and first reader and editor, cheering me on).

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, thesoftfall

The Soft Fall: A Soundtrack compiled on 8tracks

The Soft Fall: Unofficial Book Trailer on YouTube

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…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.