Oh, Fairy Tales. Real spoilers start about halfway through. There’s a note.
At some point in the middle of 2014 I decided to write a romance novel. As with most things my brain decides, it latched onto the idea and for a few months I wrote (and read) nothing but romance novels. I’d written romance novels before, a handful of times, but I’d never thought of them as romance novels, so this was basically my muse with a brand new chew toy: taking other people’s books apart until there was fluff everywhere, destroying the squeaker, generally making a nuisance of itself.
No, I don’t know what the fiction squeaker would be, but it kind of makes me giggle trying to work it out. The climax? The rising tension? Anyway.
Once I’d started thinking in terms of genre romance (as opposed to romantic elements in fiction), I realized I already had a few ideas for this, and one of them was Fairy Tales. I even had a few notes in the margins of a notebook, and a rough timeline. (Wendy’s laughing right now because this timeline was a bloody wreck even after the first draft, with no evidence that the writer in question had even considered the constraints of time. And I started with a timeline. Well. All right, I never actually looked at it, but I did find it yesterday while looking for other things. It existed, anyway, I swear!)
This is how that idea began, and it’s one of those great origin stories because–for me, at least–ideas for novels can come from freakin’ anywhere.
My sister Colleen is supersmart. Scary smart. We met at age eleven (yes, sister in the chosen-family sense), and that bitch was always the fastest reader, always got perfect scores on her tests, and always excelled at freakin’ everything. It was pretty obnoxious, but also pushed me to do better (stronger, faster), and I don’t usually need a push, but no one in Colleen’s orbit can help but to take inspiration from her example.
She’s the one on Facebook at seven a.m., posting from her office after taking a run and dropping the kids at school by bicycle, gearing up for the nine o’clock spin class she teaches. I’m serious. Did I mention she’s an assistant professor? (And a shout out to her partner Christian, because this awesomeness doesn’t happen in a vacuum, yo.)
Anyway, a few years ago, Colleen was writing her dissertation. She has a doctorate in (mumble mumble something environment geography mumble philosophy)–ahem, excuse me, I have a bit of a cough. She wrote a dissertation about the rural-urban interface, focusing on small towns in the Sierra Nevada Foothills, and the interplay between small town life and tourism and politics.
Like any voracious reader, when she said, “Do you want to read it?” I said fuck yes, of course, and could she send it in a variety of formats so I could load it on my phone? (Every now and then my copy of SendToKindle still pulls up Colleen Hiner as an author name. Ha!) Since I know Colleen can write (please reference how she was always just a little bit better than me at everything), I figured it’d be pretty interesting and I’d skip the footnotes.
Man, though. I got pulled in. The methodology stuff was interesting, but the stories? The stories were amazing. The shifting lines of personal responsibility vs. responsibility to the community, the sometimes bitter fights played out over local Op/Ed pages, the bitchiness in public meetings–wild. And I knew all this, objectively. But Colleen, like any truly good nonfiction writer, told me the stories alongside the facts, and boy, the picture of all that inspired the hell out of the creative part of my mind.
So I scribbled a few notes (and originally called Henry “Charlie”, which makes me laugh), turned the ideas around in my head a bit, and got back to writing other stories.