If the Writer Isn’t Having Fun, the Reader Probably Isn’t Having Fun
So . . . in 2003, JC and I launched a series staring a female vampire hunter—in a dark medieval fantasy setting—and the Noble Dead Saga was born. I’m the first drafter in our team, and I was having a blast. I “get” why readers enjoy stories about vampires and about vampire hunters, and I think as a result, the series did well.
About four years in—and four novels later—we had some other writers over for a dinner party, and one of them was a fairly bitter soul who’d taught creative writing for years and had not managed to land an agent or a publisher. When everyone at the party went outside to play croquet after dinner, I stayed in to wash the dishes, and this writer stayed behind to talk to me. I did feel bad for him. He really had hit that “bitter wall” of wondering if he’d ever find a publisher.
As I was loading the forks into the dishwasher, he said, “Well, I know that if I could just lower myself to writing a series about a vampire hunter, I could have a best selling series too.”
I’d just cooked this guy dinner.
However, I’m nice, and so I nodded sympathetically. But on the inside, I was thinking, “Yeah, baby, why don’t you try that and see what happens.”
If he’d tried to launch a series about a vampire hunter, it would have failed miserably because 1) he’d have hated doing it, 2) he wouldn’t have had any fun, and most of all, 3) because he didn’t remotely understand why people love those stories.
Fast forward a few years. The Noble Dead Saga was still doing fairly well, but JC had taken into it BIG epic fantasy, and I sort of missed the more emotionally intimate dark tales of the first three novels. Then . . . in a situation far too complicated to explain here, I was offered a chance to write an independent series based on a contemporary vampire novel I’d written back in grad school. My editor asked me, “Can you slant this into urban fantasy?” I answered, “Absolutely.”
I mean . . . how hard could it be to write urban fantasy? I didn’t know anything about urban fantasy or why readers enjoyed it, but I jumped in with both feet. Good God! What was I thinking? I was completely out of my element, and yet, I wrote four more books based on that early work from grad school. This was the Vampire Memories series. I had no business writing urban fantasy. I pulled the plug on that series myself—without waiting for my publisher to do it for me.
Then I started thinking about what I really wanted to do. I absolutely loved writing Sister of the Dead set in Droevinka, the land of Magiere’s birth, and I often thought that if I had the chance to write a new series, I’d go back there. I’m drawn to the medieval politics and the warlord princes. I love the heavy forests and cloudy skies and the traveling gypsies and superstitious villagers and the old stone castles. I mean . . . who doesn’t love traveling gypsies and old stone castles?
I also remembered how much I enjoyed working with main characters who begin to realize they have more power than they ever could have envisioned.
So, I sat down and wrote a proposal for a series called The Mist-Torn Witches about two sisters, Céline and Amelie Fawe, who start off in one of those grubby little villages in Droevinka, with Céline playing at being a “seer,” and soon, the sisters find themselves rushed into a rapid change of circumstance due to the ambitions of two of those warlord princes, and the sisters begin to discover a good deal more about themselves, their abilities, and their connections to the traveling gypsies . . .
Then I wrote the first three chapters, and I was just having a blast. I was having soooooooo much fun. I showed the proposal and sample chapters to my editor at Roc. She’s no hand-holder, and she pulls no punches, and after reading the submission, she nodded and said, “This is good.”
I’m now back to writing in a setting that I love, working on a series I find extremely fun, and as a result, I think the readers will have fun too.
Barb Hendee is the nationally best-selling co-author of the Noble Dead Saga (along with her husband J.C.). She is also the author of the Vampire Memories series and the newly launching Mist-Torn Witches series. She has a master’s degree in English and taught college for twelve years. She was born in the northwest, later migrated to Idaho and then Colorado, but she missed the rain and the moss too much and now lives just south of Portland, Oregon in the Willamette Valley with JC and their two yearling kitties, Ashes and Cinders. Visit her website at: http://www.barbhendee.org/