You know how you’ve always heard the advice that you should keep writing to the end of the manuscript before you even think of editing? Before you delete anything? It’s lovely advice when it works. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t. Writing the sequel to The Broken Prophecy has turned out to be just such an instance.
I stopped writing A Hollow Vengeance halfway through because I just wasn’t feeling it. After some exploration and the advice of my marvellous, patient, and very astute peers, I realized that it wasn’t working because I started writing it from a place of guilt. That’s right. I felt guilty for having focused so much on Damon in the first book. I worried that I hadn’t done enough for Phoenix.
The first draft of Blood of Midnight featured Phoenix as a character who was introduced halfway through the book and ended up just being the main character’s love interest. Thank the Gods that I didn’t stop there and instead took my time to learn more about character development, plot, cliché, and the frustrating lack of good female protagonists in fantasy and fiction in general. I committed to having a fully fleshed out character who could stand on her own, who was three-dimensional, had a personality, goals, hopes, fears, and is just generally not a sock puppet or a cardboard cut-out of a person.
I ensured that she had just as much “screen time” as Damon. I made her a person of colour, both because it made sense for someone who grew up in the desert, and because damnit we need more relatable characters who aren’t white as mayonnaise. I even went as far as to insist that Phoenix be featured on the cover just as large as her male counterpart and portrayed in a heroic, take-charge fashion.
Still, I felt guilty. Had I done enough for my female readers? Had I done Phoenix right? I had focused more on Damon in The Broken Prophecy. I decided I would focus more on Phoenix in A Hollow Vengeance in penance for giving Damon too much of the spotlight in the first book. I decided this because I had gone too far in trying to Do The Right Thing and forgotten one crucial fact:
Damon is my main character.
Blood of Midnight has always been his story. It’s called “Blood of Midnight” in reference to the colour of Damon’s blood. I needed some time away from the series, working on other things, engaging with different ideas, in order to realize that writing good female characters does not mean I can’t have a male protagonist. I don’t have to sacrifice the story I wanted to tell in favour of a story I should tell. “But does it please the Feminists?” is the wrong question for me to ask and is not an appropriate measuring stick by which to determine if the book is good or not.
I let politics muddy the waters of my art to the point that I couldn’t see what I was doing anymore. Thank Gods I realized that before publishing what would probably have been a perfectly lovely mess. I’m sorry guys. I lost my way for a while there. I forgot that my job was not to act as a political mouthpiece for someone else’s agenda. I forgot that my job is actually about telling a good story, and more importantly, it’s about telling my story. I’m not here to tell you what I think you want to hear. I’m here to tell you what I want to say. You can love it or you can hate it, but ultimately what’s important is that the words coming out of my mouth are mine.
I had hoped to have the first draft of A Hollow Vengeance completed by the end of last year. Needless to say, forgetting who my protagonist was kind of threw a wrench into those plans. I have decided to scrap it entirely and begin again. I am not afraid of hard work and even though I have gotten my plot muddled I have kept sight of my commitment to quality. I believe that you deserve to read a good book. I believe that this is part of the unspoken contract between writer and reader and I absolutely refuse to present you with something that is crap. If it takes me longer, so be it. I will not shame myself by producing sub-standard materials and I will not betray the trust of my readership.
I will continue to write the character of Phoenix with her own plot, personality, character development, and goals. But there is a very sad lad in my brain who has been neglected during my foibles and I need to become reacquainted with him. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your patience and support, and I promise you a sequel that is not only as good as the first book, but even better.