In honor of release day for “Impossible,” the third and final book in my “Piercing the Veil” trilogy (YAY!!), here’s a quick overview of my almost decade-long journey of writing this series.
In 2005 I started MySpace blogging (remember MySpace?! If you don’t, shut up. You’re making me feel old.) Most of my blogs analyzed the various forms of art and media that moved me, in an attempt to grasp what it was about them that made them seem transcendent. Examples:
In this process, I noticed that my favorite stories all shared archetypes and a certain story structure that went something like this: the underdog hero (often orphaned or otherwise on his own) turns out to be the subject of an age-old prophecy, and there’s an ancient evil who seeks to destroy him. A “mentor figure” teaches him who he is and how to harness his power. A few indispensable friends help him get where he’s going. The larger establishment tears him down, making him lose faith in who he is and why he’s here. The hero suffers the loss of his mentors, and it looks like he’s way outmatched. But ultimately, of course, he fulfills the prophecy, overcomes all odds and restores the world to its proper order. (And the peasants rejoice!)
- Examples: “Lord of the Rings,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Star Wars,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Karate Kid,” “The Matrix”… shoot, even “The Princess Bride,” to some extent.
As this trend took shape in my mind, so did the “Piercing the Veil” series, years before I actually wrote it. In fact, in about 2005 I wrote an entire novel—I think I called it “Shadowlands” or something like that. It revolved around a concept very similar to that of the penumbra, and the protagonist was a girl who was really good at sword fighting (which later evolved into Lily, obviously). Anyway, it sucked. I think it got lost somewhere in the ether two computers ago and I don’t even know where it is now. I might’ve lost it on purpose.
Around this time, I finally got over my “I only read REAL literature!” pride and decided to see what all the hype about Harry Potter was about. (Yes, yes, I know you were wondering when I was gonna mention HP!) I devoured the series whole in a matter of like two months. I LOVED it… but I was also inexplicably excited by it, because it conformed so exactly to the archetypes and story arc I’d begun to recognize years earlier.
I developed a theory: we love stories like those because they tell us something important, something we need to hear over and over again.
But it still wasn’t until November 2008, in the middle of a church conference, that all the disparate pieces suddenly came together for me. I wanted to use those archetypes and that story arc to illustrate the extraordinary power of true faith, and to remind myself and my readers that while everyone is placed on earth to do something great, we are also all interdependent. We need each other.
But that story had already been written, many times before. I knew that to make it new, I had to infuse something different into the story, something that hadn’t already been done…
It just so happened that I was studying physics in my spare time anyway. I was fascinated by the concept that the only thing that seemed to bar quantum mechanics from having a direct influence on the macroscopic world was the law of probability. A lot of superhero legends, I knew, were based upon some aspect of real science… but I hadn’t ever seen anybody use the collapse of the quantum wave function as a superpower before.
Bam. Ready-made twist!
The Arthurian legends part came later. As I massaged my archetype into an outline, I realized I had two choices: either I could create a whole new set of legends altogether, or I could draw on something that already existed… and frankly the latter was just easier. I chose Arthurian legends just because the book was set in England… so y’know, that seemed reasonable. I also discovered along the way that one of the formerly dominant world empires (Rome) happened to collapse right around the time that historians estimated the real King Arthur might have lived… which played right into my supervillain-who-dominated-the-ancient-world thing. (Sweet! I got so excited when stuff like that worked out and I didn’t even have to try).
Six months later, after reading and highlighting and typing up notes from more books than I care to count, and creating an outline for seven books (which later turned into three), I was ready to start writing.
The first draft (called “The Carlion Chronicles: Ripple Effect” at the time) was probably about as bad as “Shadowlands,” and the second (which I hand-wrote, at nearly 600 pages) wasn’t much better.
But the third had promise. I still edited and polished and edited some more, but at long last I was happy with what I had. Once I’d written the first book, the second and third followed within about six months each. I’d already done all the research and world-building, and I already knew my characters, so although there was still plenty of major rewriting, at least I didn’t have to go through multiple drafts the second and third time around. (Also, I finished med school. That helped.)
Me with my friend Charlie at my first ever book signing, after the release of “Invincible”
And, voila! A completed trilogy!
Like any author, I’d LOVE to have a much greater readership than what I have now (so go tell your friends!!) 🙂 But it’s already so incredibly satisfying to see people I don’t even know reading and enjoying what I once cranked out years ago at the crack of dawn on my glass-topped kitchen table. I remember pausing when certain details of the plot didn’t add up just right, and I’d stand up and walk around in my apartment, talking to myself out loud until I could make the pieces fit. Then I’d cry, “Yes! That’s it!” and hammer it out before I forgot again, chugging down the last of my cold cup of coffee before running off to a lecture on pulmonology (or whatever).
I am so blessed, and so grateful!