Last year I read Merrie Destefano’s Afterlife, and rather enjoyed it. Just two days ago, her second novel, Feast was released. Mez joins us now with a guest blog. Book information is at the end.
Sometimes books can give you nightmares. Filled with scary stories and spooky creatures, some books can lead to sleepless nights where you stare at the ceiling and just wish the monsters would go away. And if you think it’s scary when you read a book like that, imagine what it’s like when you’re writing one.
Trust me. It’s not pretty.
I was in the midst of writing just such a book – one where the monsters were scarier than anything I’d ever written about before, mainly because these monsters were real – and I was on edge. I’d write until about 11PM, then go to bed. Have you ever noticed how many scary noises your house makes in the middle of the night? Or how suspicious those bushes outside your window look when the wind blows? And then there’s the clock, taunting you with red glowing numbers, proving that you will never, ever be able to go to sleep again.
Right about then – after a string of sleep-deprived nights – I began to wonder what I was doing. Was I really cut out to be a writer? Why did I always write stuff that scared the crap out of me? Anyway, on one evening like this, when the rest of the known universe was cuddled up in soft blankets and dreaming about buttercups and rainbows, I decided to use my powers for good, not evil. I decided to imagine my way out of this predicament.
So, I came up with a creature, like me, who never slept. The more I thought about the creature, the more I enchanted I became. And the less I worried about the monsters lurking in my closet.
Within a day or so, I came up with a race of sweet-natured creatures – from another world, naturally – who came to earth to harvest human dreams. I even allowed myself to write a short ten-page story about them. At the time, I call them Imaginary. But before long, they evolved into Darklings. I didn’t get to write about them immediately. First, I quit working on that heebie-jeebie monster book (still haven’t had the courage to work on that one, despite the fact that several editors have read the synopsis and wanted it!) Then, I wrote another book, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles.
At that point, while I was trying to find an agent and get Afterlife sold to a publisher, I started writing the book that would become Feast: Harvest of Dreams. I must confess, Feast wasn’t an easy book to write. I sometimes say that I think the Darklings didn’t want me to tell their story. They had hidden successfully for thousands of years, disguising themselves as other legendary creatures, mythical beasts like vampires, werewolves, fairies, doppelgangers, shape shifters and Muses.
In the beginning, they teased me with inspiration. They then taunted me with writer’s block the rest of the way. As a result, I ended up throwing away the first half of the book – a whole 150 pages. I switched from first person POV to third and then back again. I changed the plot; I moved the locale from Pasadena to Ticonderoga Falls; I gave the main character (Maddie) car trouble and got her stranded in the mountains, then I changed her trip to Ticonderoga Fall into a purposeful retreat.
Throughout it all, the main Darkling character, Ash, remained enigmatic, charismatic and enchanting. He dared me to tell his story. He was nothing like Chaz, the main character in Afterlife, who gladly told me all of his deep, dark secrets, as if they were a burden and he was glad to be rid of them. In contrast, Ash was a fleeting shadow, disappearing and then reappearing, always hiding his true character and motives, as if the last thing he wanted was for me to reveal him or his people to the rest of the world.
Almost like he was real. Just like those creepy monsters in my first book.
Fortunately for me, I was finally able to finish writing Feast. It took longer than I anticipated and required making more changes than I expected. But despite all this, I’m really happy with the way the book turned out. I thoroughly enjoyed creating the Darklings and their world and their magic.
I’m looking forward to writing more stories about them – in fact, I have a prequel e-book novella coming out soon called Cursed that tells some of Ash’s back-story. In time, I hope to write a sequel as well. Those Darklings have a lot more secrets that they haven’t told me yet. And I plan to pry it out of them, word by word, if I have to.