Side notes, trivia and makings-of. Spoilers ahead.
First off, this book took forever to write and edit. (Over a year, which in indie publishing terms is a decade.) But that’s not too fun to talk about, so we’ll skip it.
The Healers’ Road ended up shipping-agnostic, but this book does not. However, because I like to make things complicated, it’s complicated. “Both characters have tons of baggage” complicated. “He thinks he’s already confessed, but she’s expecting big culturally-defined fireworks because That’s The Only Way Love Works” complicated.
This will continue to be a theme.
I went back and forth endlessly about which way to tip the first book’s ambiguity, or whether to tip it at all. The expected thing, the thing that everyone considers to be the only acceptable happy ending, is a tidy hetero ride-off-into-the-sunset. But I want to believe that platonic friendship means something, and can be a happy ending on its own. Then I start wondering whether this, particularly, is the best story to use for that idea. Some of the other story ideas in my stash could run along that path, instead.
Ultimately, I ran with what felt most natural with these particular characters. Tidy rides off into the sunset are not necessarily in the cards, but however it turns out, it will be sappy and dramatic and, I hope, true to the characters.
So, Your Friend Plays the Lute…?
My musical diet during the writing of this book leaned heavily on twee Apple-commercial-style pop and queasily Mormonish arena lite-rock, plus the soundtrack to Undertale, a video game I played while finishing the second draft. I suppose an excess of earnestness is the common thread there.
A short playlist, your mileage may vary:
Regina Spektor, “Two Birds”
Ingrid Michaelson, “Soldier”
Imagine Dragons, “It’s Time”
Elle King, “America’s Sweetheart”
Ingrid Michaelson, “The Chain” (live)
Regina Spektor, “All the Rowboats”
Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
Radical Face, “Welcome Home”
Ingrid Michaelson, “Are We There Yet”
Cut & Shuffle
While this book wasn’t written entirely out of order like the first one was, it still went through some reordering.
The first two or three chapters written for this story ended up being cut and set aside for Book 3, because it would have felt like a distraction instead of the act-ending set piece they were intended to be.
The first two chapters of arriving in Wildern were cut for the first draft and reinstated for the second, as had happened with The Healers’ Road. “Jump right into the action!!!” all of the writing advice books say. “I’m lost!” the beta readers say. “SIGH,” I say.
The whole second act was initially written/arranged with all of Keifon’s plotline first, then Agna’s, because that was closer to chronological order as I’d initially intended. Interleaving the two was my Ultimate Beta Reader’s suggestion. Taijiang and Whalen also jumped up from a book 3 introduction to book 2.
Second Beta Reader and Keeper of the Shipper Flame noticed that until the furniture salesman shows up in the fourth chapter, Keifon is the only male character who appears in more than a crowd scene. (In order of appearance: Agna, desk clerk, Keifon, Jaeti, banker, Welcome to the Neighborhood couple with children of unnoted gender, furniture salesman.)
I wish I could say that this was intentional, but it was not. The Welcome to the Neighborhood couple were intended to a) relay the Word on the Street about how Wildernians see outsiders, and b) remind the audience as early as possible that we are in an LGBT-friendly universe (just in case they, for ex., didn’t read the first book). The others just happened.
Still, I left it in, because it pleases me to mess with fantasy tropes. Sooooo it’s like half+ of the world’s population disappeared for no good freaking reason? DO GO ON. Besides, dudes take up plenty of the oxygen later in the story.