In a word: it’s done. A New Day, which is the first book in my Strike Force superhero romance/urban fantasy series, is finished, all but a few loose ends and a bit of polishing.
It was a crazy process, just getting to this point.
It all started so simply. I love superheroes. I love comic books. I love romance.
I write stuff.
I wanted to write a series that had the same feeling I get from my favorite comics, that over-the-top, exciting, fun experience that you get when reading a really great comic book. Plenty of outrageous badassery mixed in with a really strong romance plot, because everything is better with romance.
I had just the chracter for it, too. Somewhere around the writing of HOME, a character popped into my mind. I wrote a whole backstory for her, what she did, who she loved, how she became who she’d become. She was my Captain America. My Superman, my Captain Marvel.
And after I finished Shadow Sworn, I finally had the time to sit down and write her story. And I did. I got through a complete (though thin) draft of the first Strike Force book, and started rough work on the second… and I hated it. It was missing something. I didn’t care what happened to my main character, Jolene, and that is the death knell of any story. I mean, seriously. I wrote five books about Molly Brooks and I still want to write her so badly I can practically taste it. One book of my original version of Jolene Faraday, and I was ready to bury her for good. Ugh.
So I took a few days off. I did a lot of staring at the ceiling, lots of stressing out over that panic I think every author gets when we’re sure we have no idea what we’re doing anymore.
I spent a lot of time in my office, reading the draft and wondering where it went wrong. Why I didn’t care about a character who was, really, everything I’d said I wanted her to be.
And I realized, during one of those writing/not writing sessions, that although I love Captain America, and I think Superman is great… I can’t really identify with either of them. Even Captain Marvel, if we want to put a female face to it: I love her, but I can’t relate.
Once I knew that, it was like a floodgate opened. I had the name. I knew this character was a Jolene, but she, who she really was, was buried under all this bullshit of what I thought I wanted her to be.
That sounds really flaky, but it’s my truth. Just as we come up with all of these “I should be this thing/this way/better/etc.” often impossible ideals for ourselves, (and so often those ideals are damaging us much more than improving us) the same can be true for the chracters we write. Jolene is Jolene. I was trying to make her something else.
The Jolene that eventually emerged, once I stopped being stupid, is the Jolene she always should have been. I don’t write perfect characters. I don’t write characters who know what they’re doing. I’m starting to realize that, as a writer, I have certain themes that I gravitate toward, and Jolene in her original, forced, incarnation was just wrong for me.
This book is nothing like I imagined it would be. But it is everyting it should be, and I’m so happy with the way it came together.
Maybe this is a good sign. I’ve written before about the process I took to finally getting to the book that ended up being Lost Girl, and the winding path that led me to Molly Brooks. Eunomia was easier, only because once she appeared on the page, I felt like I knew her. Sophie was a lot like E in this way. Jolene, though… I had to work to find her, just as I had to work to find Molly, and since the moment I figured her out, writing has been a blast. And I have a story here that I can’t stop thinking about, rather than running from it the second I shut down Scrivener, relieved to not have to think about it until my next writing session. That’s a sucky way for a writer to feel, and that’s been most of my writing time since I finished Shadow Sworn back in July.
You guys will meet Jolene next month, when the first Strike Force novel, A New Day, comes out. In between now and then, there will be snippets, blog posts, play lists, and other fun stuff to introduce you to the world of Strike Force. I can’t wait to introduce you to Jolene, in all her messed up, imperfect, confused, contrary badassery. I love her dearly, and I hope you’ll love her, too.
Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend.