Patricia Burroughs loves dogs, books, movies, and football. A lifelong Anglophile, she treasures her frequent travels in the British Isles researching The Fury Triad, the epic fantasy that has taken over her life and heart. She is a Nicholl Fellow, a proud member of Book View Café, and a fifth-generation Texan. She and her high school sweetheart husband are living happily ever after in their hometown of Dallas, Texas.
I’d just been named a Finalist in a screenwriting competition so prestigious, my name was in “Variety” and “Hollywood Reporter” and I’d received over one hundred requests for my script from studios, producers, etc. Life was rocking, and I was in LA taking meetings. I drove onto the Sony lot, got escorted into an office and after exchanging greetings and accepting the obligatory bottle of water, sat down to talk about my script.
One of the producers asked, “So. Have you loved science fiction all your life?”
I must have looked gobsmacked. “Erm… no?”
They looked a bit surprised. “Well, how long have you been writing it?
Me: “I don’t write science fiction…?”
Inside my head: OMFG, my agent sent them somebody else’s script!
They looked gobsmacked. One of them held up my script. “‘Dreamers’ is science fiction.”
Me: “It is?”
Me: “Huh. I just thought it was a fun idea.”
Can you tell I was hell on wheels in meetings? Yeah, I knocked ’em out of the ballpark every damn time. Sigh.
But you see, this is the story of my career from my very first published novel through all the scripts, and finally, the story of This Crumbling Pageant.
For better or worse, I don’t think in genres. I think in terms of, “Wouldn’t it be cool/horrifying/amazing if THIS happened?” I do this without considering this genre or that, which means eventually the stories are difficult to label, place and sell. (I’m hell on agents, too. Just ask them.) It’s something I can’t change, because these stories are the part of the process that feeds me, that gives me joy in the day-in and day-out effort of putting words onto the page.
None of us really know, after all, what the market will do. We’ve all seen those game-changing stories, the ones that break the rules, create new sub-genres, and seem so obvious in hindsight. They very likely weren’t obvious, though, to the writer, when he or she started out. It is more likely that there were well-meaning friends along the way who read their first drafts and thought they’d possibly lost their minds.
I got lucky this time, though. The publishing and reading worlds have shifted to a place where crossing genres isn’t the problem it once was. And even more luckily, I found a publisher that loved the story whether it could be wedged into a neat little genre slot or not. Story Spring Publishing is making it available in hardcover, trade and digital simultaneously, they love and believe in it so strongly.
At the beginning of the book Persephone Fury is on the brink of womanhood, cursed since birth with Shadow magic and about to enter a world of Dark intrigue where she is a powerful weapon and many seek to possess and control her.
“Aha!” my friends declared gleefully. “You’re writing a YA fantasy. Those are so hot right now.”
But I wasn’t, because despite the fact that Persephone was the perfect age for a YA fantasy, the plot didn’t lend itself to YA. She isn’t surrounded by same-aged characters battling to save the world. Her love interest isn’t even similarly aged, as plot details demanded he must be much older.
“A love interest? Oh, you’re writing a romance!” my friends declared. “Romantic fantasy is so hot right now!”
Alas, no, I wasn’t writing a romance. Again, that pesky plot didn’t fit the parameters. The story I wanted to tell was epic fantasy.
At this point my helpful friends were getting a bit frustrated with me. “Then change it.”
This may sound incredibly bossy and pushy, but it was really smart advice. I knew that. The problem is, just as I have a history of ignoring genres, I also have a history of going in the teeth of really smart advice and writing my own damned story the way I want to, no matter how much smarter I’d be to try to fit into the ‘hot’ genre, or any genre at all.
And that’s how I ended up with a true epic-length trilogy at a time when publishers were shrinking from no-names with epic-length trilogies. The production costs are immense for an epic-length book, and to commit to three of them from someone who is new to the genre? A risk they were unlikely to take.
The good news for me is that This Crumbling Pageant truly does fit into the epic fantasy genre, whether or not it was the ‘smartest’ (ie most potentially lucrative) genre for me to target. This time at least I managed to land smack dab in the center of a genre I love.
It is a dark epic fantasy that will appeal to many YA readers but isn’t a YA fantasy.
It is a dark epic fantasy that will appeal to many romance readers but isn’t a romance.
This Crumbling Pageant is a dark epic fantasy that follows the path of “a girly-girl with cojones”(as one reader delightfully described her) as she traverses magical Court intrigues, sacrificing all the things dear to her in order to save those she loves more than life itself.
Getting back to that Finalist script that got me all the attention, “Dreamers” did not win. However, the following year I became the only person in the history of the competition to return as a Finalist with an entirely different script, and that year “Redemption” won. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences awarded me a $30,000 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting.
For the record, “Redemption” was an adaptation of my first published novel, a novel with a plot that more experienced writers had cautioned me away from because of all the things I was ‘doing wrong’ and that weren’t allowed in romance at the time.
When you’re writing, follow your passion where it leads you. We cannot predict the marketplace, and we cannot even guarantee that if we jump on a trend, we’ll do well enough to pay the light bill, much less have anything left over for savings. Since there are no guarantees, why not do what you, and only you, can write? Yes, it may be a little more difficult to break through that market wall, to get your book in front of others (and heaven knows, I have experienced that difficulty). In the long run, though, we only have so much time to spend writing, so little time on earth—why not take a chance, do that which is unique to us, which gives our dreams a voice.
Everyone’s got to believe in something, you know. It might as well be happy endings… and for me, writing where my passion leads me is the happiest ending of all.
I have nothing but thanks and kind wishes for the great people at Magical Words as I complete my month here. May you and all your readers write with passion and find all the happy endings this writing life can supply!