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

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