My first manuscript
No, not the first one I got published. The first I ever wrote. Back in the dim, dark nineties when no one had ever heard of paranormal romance or urban fantasy.
I read a lot of big fat fantasy, so that's what I tried to write. It was this rambling tale of a nun, who was also a doctor, who discovers that the gods she's worshipped all her life are actually a gang of demons intent on taking over the world. I was pretty clueless about worldbuilding at the time. I liked the idea of a four-month-long, dark winter, so I put it in the deep latitudes of the south. And I thought it'd be cool if, instead of swords and bows, they had flintlock pistols. So I shunted it out of the Middle Ages into a kind of quasi-Civil-War era. And the romantic hero was a rabid villain who did horrible things to innocent people for fun, until the heroine showed him the error of his ways by driving him insane (literally).
Yeah, it was terrible :) But I had a lot of fun. I revised it about a hundred times. Even submitted it a few places, to editors who sighed at how awful it was and patiently sent me form rejections.
But hey, you've got to start somewhere! And when I look at that manuscript now, the themes that pop out are surprising. Stuff that at the time, I didn't even really know I was writing about.
'Good' and 'evil' as fluid concepts that warp in the eye of the beholder. People who are one thing on the outside and quite another on the inside. Dual personalities, demonic possession, voices in your head, the war against the darkness within you.
Then again, maybe those themes aren't so surprising. I look at my published books, and I see the same things. I write charming demons, evil angels, 'good' as the lesser of two evils. And every single one of my books has characters with twin personalities or voices in their heads. For instance, Joey in POISON KISSED is a shape-shifter with a dark and hungry creature inside him, and Mina is possessed by her magical voice. And Ember, the heroine of my upcoming book BLOOD CURSED, is haunted by the apparition of the stronger, tougher, no-nonsense self she wishes she could be.
Seems I have some deep-seated need to write about insane people! But the idea that writers have a 'core story' – one they tell over and over again, in different forms – is well-known. Mine is 'the darkness within', and I embrace it. It pops up everywhere, whether I mean it to or not. And it started before I knew anything about writing or publishing, way back in that very first manuscript.
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