The Oathbreaker’s Shadow is not the first novel I’ve written.
It’s the third. Two other books are buried deep within my computer files, never to see the light of day. But when I occasionally dig them up out of the archives, those books – and especially those characters – fill me with such a warm sense of nostalgia (as long as I ignore the terrible writing!). I still love them, even if they will never be read by anyone ever again!
The first book felt like a major accomplishment for me. I was 15, in high school, and in need of some kind of creative release. I lost myself in two things during those years: writing and the strange world of the internet. But writing came first. That first book topped out at 35,000 words. Yes, hardly novel length (just about novella length) but it had a strong start, a pacy middle and an absolutely godawful ending. But it had an ending, which was big for a girl who started many things and hardly saw any of those ideas through. The book was a time-travelling tale of two modern-day teenagers who, separately, end up in Tudor England (one as a wealthy young lady at court, the other as a poor urchin boy running around the streets of London). There was a love story (featuring the popular YA trope ‘insta-love’ – don’t judge, I was 15!), and a dancing scene which pretty much replicated on paper the dance from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet.
Unfortunately, by the time it got to the end, I couldn’t figure out how to get them back into modern times in an exciting way, so they were transported to a strange interdimensional-portal-type-place where they met their real parents (my two MCs were estranged brother and sister, of course!) who were professional time travellers… it got weird, let’s put it that way!
But those two characters – whose names were Tagwen and Sterlyn (I trawled the baby name websites) – were my two first loves. Their dreams were my dreams, their stories were my stories. And those characters have featured in every story I’ve written since. Up until my first major rewrite of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, my main character was called Sterlyn — until I realized that a name with very English origins probably wasn’t the best for a Mongolian/Asian-based world! But calling him ‘Sterlyn’ in the initial draft gave me this strange sense of familiarity and safety — I had written a whole book with him before, and I could do so again. It felt a bit like stepping into comfortable shoes — although the rest of the world I was exploring was new and different and challenging, I knew I could get through it because I had a main character I knew inside and out, backwards and forwards. I just had to find the right story — the right frame — to put him in, and I knew it would turn out all right.
Anyone else sometimes return to those ‘shelved’ books? And if so, is it with trepidation or nostalgia or a bit of both?