The Songstress Journey
Oct 7th, 2019
I started writing The Songstress in the summer of 2015. It is a very surreal feeling having the book completed and to be waiting for publication.
I had grown up with this imaginary world in my mind - it’s where I played; where I created; where I told stories. As I got older, I attempted to write some of these stories, but for various reasons, they all ended in false starts.
I think I was too close to the story. There was an author insert - the character role that I filled as a kid - and this made it difficult to write the stories, as I couldn’t distance myself from the character.
I had written short stories in the past, but I still felt I needed more writing experience. I was plotting a new short story based on the tale of Diaochan from Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The goal was to write an expanded telling of her tale. It would be something written simply for fun and would never be published.
As I was plotting my short story, my head buzzed with ideas so much that I knew such a short format couldn’t contain the story. It would need to be a full-length novel.
I transitioned from plotting a short story to a novel. Doing so, I realized my imaginary world - the story I had been telling myself since I was 8 years old - would fit into my plot.
I already had a nation based on a hodgepodge of Chinese and Japanese culture. And better yet, I had a primary protagonist, Kari, who was already primed for such a role. And thus the race was on.
Of course, after four and a half years, it was more marathon than a race.
I wanted to take this basic idea and make it my own. It took a lot of tweaks in the plot to make it fit in with my world and where I knew the series story would eventually go. This allowed me to extend my inspiration beyond the tales of Diaochan. I had recently finished reading “Gaddafi’s Harem” by Annick Cojean concerning the true story of a young woman forced into Gaddafi’s private harem, and this provided large amounts of inspiration for the horror and severity of the harem. I also drew inspiration from “One Thousand and One Nights,” specifically the framing device where Scheherazade uses story telling to delay her execution.
I always knew how Kari would enter the wider world of my series, and at what point in her life she would be at. Now I was getting a chance to elaborate on her backstory and craft her into the hero she would become.
I had so much fun exploring this new chapter in Kari’s life, and it helped me fix the hiccups in my storytelling. It took me a year to complete the first draft. I have spent the rest of the time editing the manuscript.
My first draft was 64,000 words long, which is a short first draft. However, I focused so heavily on side stories, the complete manuscript felt like nothing but a collection of side quests. It didn’t work. After I edited the first draft, I had trimmed the manuscript down to only 40,000 words. Over the next few years of editing, I ended with a completed manuscript of 98,000 words and a story that is better than I ever imagined it could have been.
My editor is magic. Cynthia Shepp helped turn the manuscript into something that is beyond belief. Now I am just waiting on my cover from Gwenn Danae Schley (which the concept images are amazing) and the book will be ready for publication.
It is both terrifying and exciting. I cannot wait to share my story, to share Kari’s story with the world.