They’re electronic. They have gorgeous covers. And they’re mine—my first two novels, long out of print. The brief introductions I wrote for these new editions are below, along with the links to the e-books themselves.
They’re back, baby.
I started A Telling of Stars when I was twenty. I was nursing a broken heart and an unrelated yet equally overwhelming sense of disillusionment with fantasy; I thought I’d try to address the latter, anyway. I’d write a story that was difficult, that offered ambiguity instead of closure, rendered in language that would be lush, as wonder-inspiring as what it described. I’d subvert tropes all over the place. It would be my protest fantasy, and there wouldn’t be a single family tree diagram or whiff of capitalized Good and Evil in the entire thing. And I’d write it for me—just me.
I started Telling in a tiny bachelor apartment, on a blustery December night in Montreal; I finished it on a sunny November morning six years later, in a tiny Toronto bungalow. I put it away, then. I had no idea whether I’d achieved what I’d set out to do, all those years before, and I wasn’t nearly as vehement and fierce and angry as I’d been then. I was sad, mostly. A dear friend of mine had died, as I was writing; another died as I was revising. They were both in the book, as was the guy who broke my heart, and my first love (who didn’t). My protagonist’s grief, longing, helplessness and hope were mine. I figured it would end this way, for her: with a manuscript that I put in a box. But it didn’t. Years later, I hauled it out and reread it. And I got an agent. An editor. A publisher. Readers who weren’t my parents and sister. It was a dizzying, amazing thing—until a few years after that, when it slipped quietly out of print. I figured it would end that way.
But, thanks to ChiZine, and you, it didn’t.
My first novel, A Telling of Stars wasn’t supposed to be published. It was my own personal protest fantasy novel, begun when I was twenty, and all fired up to subvert tropes. But then, ten years after I’d started it, I found myself with a Penguin Canada editor (the marvellous Barbara Berson—who, like me, is no longer with Penguin Canada). She loved it, despite or perhaps because of its first-novel excesses—and she wanted The Next One.
Part of Telling’s trend-bucking, I’d told myself from the beginning, was its stand-alone-ness. I would not write a sequel. No way. This was one young woman’s story; the reader would see her world through her eyes, only. But all those years later, casting about for another idea, her world wouldn’t let go of me. Fine, I thought. Not what happens after her; what happened before. Whether because I badly needed to rationalize breaking my own iron-clad rule, or because there actually was a difference, the prequel thing felt right. Jaele’s story was definitely done, but the story that had inspired her journey—the legend of Queen Galha, who’d lived hundreds of years before Jaele’s birth—still hadn’t been told. Not really. Because what if the tale of Galha’s epic revenge quest wasn’t at all like what had actually happened?
I had no idea, when I thought up the legend of Queen Galha, that I’d completely overturn it, in a subsequent book. (Yes, mostly because I never thought there’d be a subsequent book.) But that’s what I did—and it was so much fun. Jaele encountered people and creatures and places, in Telling, but she never stayed long, and I never had to fully understand any of them. In The Silences of Home, I had to fully understand them. I returned to the shonyn’s riverbank, the Alilan’s painted wagons, the lofty spires of Luhr. I figured out the Sea Raiders’ real names, and what their homeland was like before Galha got there. These were delirious discoveries. Silences is much longer than Telling, and much more involved—but I wrote it in a nine-month blur, in 1.5-hour increments, while one daughter was at kindergarten and the other daughter was napping. It remains the most thrilling writing experience I’ve ever had.
How and why does history become legend? I hope you enjoy finding out as much as I did.