Two years ago today, I started writing Sacred Blood. I’d just finished Twilight and New Moon, and was reading Eclipse, and was pretty dismayed that someone as controlling, stalkerish, and emotionally abusive as Edward was being held up as the ideal man. This was before Christian Grey was unleashed on the world to make Edward look like a puppy dog…. The tipping point in Eclipse was Edward disabling Bella’s truck to keep her from seeing another friend.
Well, we’ve all heard the saying that if you don’t like something, try doing it yourself, or shut up. Since I was, and still am, fortunate enough to have the time to write. So I went to the store, got some notebooks, notecards, and a few other things, and started outlining a story I’d had kicking around in my head for a while. I was largely inspired by problems I had with the Twilight series, such as Bella adamantly clinging to a guy that few of us would want our friends to date in real life, and Edward’s controlling personality being seen as idea, and even the hand-waving of Jacob sexually assaulting Bella.
A mere 30 days later, I had the first draft finished. Before starting editing, I spent the next two months writing the first draft of the second book, and outlined most of the third. See, I really wanted these books to work together, and once one book is available, it’s locked in. While writing the second and outlining the third, elements of those books really needed the seeds to be planted in the first book. So, when I started editing, I worked those things in, as well as a couple name changes that became necessary after some twists later on.
Originally, Tristan’s family consisted of him, Emma, and Sunil, with the later two still married. But three didn’t work as the story progressed. So I wrote in Gabrielle. However that caused the problem if it seeming like two couples, and I didn’t want that, so in with Jesse, who was renamed Jareth. Well, once again, it would have seemed to be a trilogy of couples once Juliette was brought in. Six in the family didn’t feel right, so hello to William and Ash.
I like this group of seven, and as I developed them more, I liked them more. While Tristan’s French home is their home base, he’s definitely not the leader. That honor is split between Gabrielle and Sunil, both who are wiser and more level-headed than the hot-headed, sometimes overly-passionate Tristan who often fails to think things through very well. Sunil and his wife, Emma, who is his calming force due partly to her youthful enthusiasm, just plain work well together, and are an interracial couple, which I feel is an underrepresented pairing (and they won’t be the only atypical-for-fiction pairing). The back-end trio of William, Jareth, and Ash, all have very distinct personalities, sexualities, religions beliefs, and hobbies.
It’s with some sadness that I must admit they will not all live through the trilogy. When I first started Sacred Blood, it was going to be a stand-alone, and Tristan was going to die at the end.
Juliette’s thoughts are based largely on my own from a relationship I was in. That hasn’t been easy. I really like seeing how she’s developed from being meek and afraid, to finding her own strength. Each book covers a distinctly different time in her life. Afraid of her own shadow, submissive girl who was barely a woman, who found courage to take back her life. Forging her own career and supporting herself, and learning what she’s willing to sacrifice to get ahead, what she will not let go of, and what she’ll give up, without a second thought, for those she loves. Challenges of spreading her wings, becoming part of a family, learning how she fits in and finding her place, realizing what she wants a far as a family of her own, and what to do about the career she still wants. At times, I’d had one road in mind for her, only to find, when writing, that a different direction seemed right, and at times, I felt like she was telling me the story when a gate I hadn’t noticed would burst open, and when that would happen, I felt her story leaving my control, and I just went with it. This has been a lot of fun.
Now that I’m nearing the end of the last book’s third chapter, I’m dragging my heels. The release date was tentatively set for yesterday, but I’d rather take more time to do it right, and I’m still finding new scenes I feel need to be there. I’ve got extremely detailed backstories for all of the characters, even ones that seem minor, and in some cases, don’t even have names. I’ve got ideas for an expanded universe, including not only a book for each of the main eight detailing their younger lives, including Juliette before this trilogy starts, but a spin-off for middle-grade readers (saying how that would work would require giving away a major plot point), as well as historical trilogies with Tristan’s family making background cameos when they’re still human. They’re from such different eras and cultures that I think a lot of doors are open here.
Over the last two years, I’ve not only created characters and a story I love, but have met many awesome friends who’ve inspired me, and have learned a lot more about writing. I won’t even pretend to be among the best yet. There’s still much to learn, and taking the opinion of having mastered something one can not truly master leads to complacency, and with complacency comes an end to improvement. I’ve had some critical reviews, mostly posted as rude, personally attacking comments, about how my writing isn’t up to the level of, for instance J.K. Rowling or Stephen King (to which I roll my eyes and think, “Duh, I know that, which is why I’m actively striving to improve’), but also a lot more great comments, including from a couple women who looked critically at their relationships, and escaped abuse, and one from a man who didn’t understand before why many victims stay in abuse, who finally started to understand. Those are the comments that matter most.
Tonight I may open a bottle of wine, toast to two years, and continue writing. I’ve only just begun.