I recently wrote about my book, S.O.R. Losers, and how it was the fastest book I ever wrote: one day. Now I’ll write about Bright Shadow, which from the time I first started to write it, until publication day, required fourteen years.
I cannot recall what triggered me to start this book. I suspect I was reading fairy tales to my two older boys. It contains two aspects (common in fairy tales) that made it hard for me. It is a fantasy, and I had never written one before. It was also a fantasy which had, as its core, a dying gift of wishes, a kind of riddle.
The last wishes are here. They will bring thee long life if thou keep thyself from harm, but nothing for thyself. Use them well. Tell no one what thou has or before thy time, or all, both thee and they, shall be lost. For when the wishes are gone, so too shall thee be.
My heroine, Morwenna, is given this gift of a few wishes, but-ah ha!—she does not know it. However, her boyfriend—if you will—thinks he has the wishes and is forever getting into trouble, which forces Morwenna to use the wishes to save him. By so doing, she moves ever closer to her demise. It takes time-the plot-for her to understand what is happening, not just to the wishes, but to her.
Clever, yes? Alas, too clever by half. I loved the idea, its irony, its parable-like quality, its heroine. The problem was I couldn’t figure out how to put it all together. I would work on it, give it up, put it aside, work on other books, pick it up again, only to give up—but never completely. Back I’d go, while referring to this unending project as my “hobby.”
Somehow I figured it out. Fourteen years. In short (so to speak), beware of wishes: they can take a long, long time to come true.
Actually the book starts off with a riddle:
When bright, it’s dark, when darkest, it’s gone.
When gone for good, so are you.
What am I?
When dark, it’s bright, when brightest, it’s gone.
When gone for good, so will I be.
What am I?
But please don’t think I’m going to give you the answer here.