Everything Old is New Again
The first book I ever published was THE SCENT OF SHADOWS, though it wasn’t the first book I’d ever written. The story came to me on the heels of a long love affair with historical fiction. With my interest in that genre waning (that’s code for ‘I could never finish a darned book!’) I became energized (code for: obsessed) by the idea of a strong contemporary heroine, and a magical world beneath the shimmering veneer of my hometown, Las Vegas. I didn’t know what it was, and so I didn’t tailor it to any genre or any extant similar stories I’d read. Truth was, I hadn’t even read a story like it – that’s probably why I wanted to write so badly.
“This is Dark Urban Fantasy.”
That’s what my agent told me in our first phone conversation. Mind, she was offering representation at the same time, so I readily agreed that that’s what it was, and rushed straight to Google to research it the moment we hung up.
What it happened to be was a genre filled with the exact same elements that had attracted me to historical fiction: fully realized worlds, larger-than-life characters, and a true escape from mundane reality. Yet by using a contemporary setting, I found a way to ground those fantastical elements in a way that’d previously eluded me. Everything felt more real—although it probably helped that I didn’t people my story with vampires or ghosts or werewolves. Joanna Archer is just like you and me … you know, if we unexpectedly (and unwillingly) found ourselves moonlighting as superheroes.
The superhero angle also gave me a chance to play with the idea of people not always being what they seem, whether they’re a beauty queen with a surprising core of inner toughness, or a homeless man with a heart of gold. I use superheroes and the masks they wear to explore how we all have one face we wear in public and another, often very different one, just below that.
After all, who can’t relate to that?
Now if you’d asked me at the conclusion of the sixth book if there was any more life left in the Zodiac world (and people did) I’d have said no (and I did). That story belongs to Joanna Archer, and her journey—if I didn’t make it clear—was over, her trials complete. My girl had done the best she could under very trying circumstances, and even I thought she deserved some well-earned down time.
What is Joanna doing now?
What about her daughter, Ashlyn, who’s fated to come into her powers soon?
What about Zoe?*
(I can’t tell whether people love Jo or Zoe more sometimes…maybe because I can’t tell who I love more, either. That Zoe is fierce.)
Even as I penned the entirety of the Celestial Blues trilogy, these questions came to me. Celestial Blues was both well-reviewed and well-received, and still my feeds and emails and posts were filled with questions about Joanna’s fate.
And readers were still finding the books after all these years, doing it in their own time, as readers as wont to do. Sure, some cried ugly tears at the conclusion of THE GIVEN, and some banded together on Facebook solely to tease me about my cooking skills *ahem* but even those who were happy to follow me as an author were still wondering about Joanna and Co.
So when a friend (Kevin J. Anderson, whom I’ve wanted to work with for years and have been without the personal bandwidth to do so) asked if I’d like to contribute a story to a charity anthology just after I’d completed the Celestial Blues trilogy, I thought, Why not give my readers what they already want?
I had to pause and feel around in my mind a little bit. Re-enter a world I hadn’t stepped foot in for years. See, I always believed that “what happens next” in the Zodiac world begins with Ashlyn Archer’s story, Joanna’s daughter. Yet Joanna remained my inlet to her – and to all things Zodiac – so even though she was likely still sick of me, I wondered if she would be willing to speak to me after I’d given her so much time and space. Maybe now that she’d finally lived some of her happy ending (such as it was) she would open up again.
Or, just as likely, I’d end up with a crossbow bolt between my eyes.
I wasn’t really sure, but when I finally did go back and poke around in her sandbox, damned if she didn’t sit right up and say, “I missed this.”
And I realized I had missed this.
And that’s how I wrote THE REORDERING.
So for all of you who wrote to tell me that you loved the Zodiac series, that though satisfied with its conclusion, you still didn’t want it to end—this is a gift from Joanna and me … to you.
It’s out in October (more on that coming soon) and when you’re done reading it, feel free to contact me and let me know what you think. Because writing THE REORDERING didn’t just give me another story.
It gave me another World.