I’ve been having an unexpectedly busy past month in my writing. On my last update, I mentioned revising Thorns 2; I was focused on that until mid-April, on track to finish this particular revision pass by the end of the month. And then very suddenly I got hit by an idea for a companion story–probably a novella. I thought I’d just jot down a scene or two…and it completely overtook my brain.
Penelope is a minor character in Thorns 1 – she’s married to Prince Gregory, Terrence’s brother and one of the chief villains of the series. She’s sent away from the castle halfway through the book, which was fully a plot device for Rose and Terrence’s story. But I started to wonder about Penelope, to wonder what had become of her when she was sent away. And once I started wondering, she took up residence in my brain, with apparently no intentions to go away until I wrote her story.
The “novella” kept getting longer, turning into a full novel. And with Penelope more or less shouting at me (even though she doesn’t shout in the entire book), and bringing along a few new characters to join her, I ended up writing a 60,000 word first draft in three weeks. That’s the most I’ve ever written in three weeks, and the fastest by far and away that I’ve ever completed a first novel draft. She just really, really wanted her story told!
It’s a bit of a departure for me as well, because it delves into darker places than my previous books. Gregory is abusive, and while Penelope gets away from him by the end of the first chapter, he stays in her head – she essentially has PTSD, with flashbacks and panic attacks (although she lives in a society that does not have any of those words, so that was challenging to write…) The story is really about her trauma and healing, plus a new romance – so it leads ultimately to a happy ending! But still, she’s the most traumatized character I’ve ever written (except maybe the Phantom, but his trauma feels less raw and immediate).
Having just said this is a darker book, it might sound odd to say I really enjoyed writing it – but I do love bursts of writing inspiration, and I ended up really loving Penelope, the new people she meets, and the way her story turns out.
Not sure when I’ll be sharing this one – it needs revision, and I may not be publishing it until after the currently-unwritten Thorns 3…but for now, here’s an excerpt, with some small spoilers.
“He never tried to kill me,” Penelope said, looked down into the depths of her tea again, and in a low voice added, “Sometimes I wished he would.” It felt strangely good to say it out loud. Freeing.
She dared to look at Cade again, saw him draw in a long breath. There was a kind of tightness around his eyes, in his voice, when he said, “Is it bad that I’m glad he’s dead?”
“No,” Jacinda spoke up. “I’m glad.”
Cade drained his tea, set the cup down with a thunk. “Excuse me. I’m going to go…weed something.”
He headed out the door, and Penelope sat back in her chair. That had gone…better than it could have.
Jacinda was looking at the closed door Cade had disappeared through. “Hmm,” she said after a moment. “You know, he’s rather fond of you.”
“He is?” Penelope said in genuine surprise. He was friendly, yes, but he seemed to be friendly to everyone.
“He weeds when he’s angry.”
“…oh.” Penelope tried to wrap her mind around that. It seemed like a very novel way to express anger. Gregory had glowered and shouted and hit things with weapons. And hit her.
“I suppose weeding is a more aggressive activity when you’re emotionally attuned to plants,” Jacinda said with a shrug. “And yes, of course he is. Did you really think the area around my hut was always as well-tended as it has been lately?”
“I…didn’t think about it,” Penelope murmured, although she had, a little. She hadn’t really thought he was coming around because of her though. Why would he? She was the quiet one, the dull and meek and boring one. Everyone at court thought so.
Maybe Cade didn’t think so, though.
And maybe…maybe she didn’t dislike that idea.
Now that I’ve completed this draft, I need to get back to Thorns 2, and also do some research for my Phantom/WWII NaNoWriMo project. I’m now hoping to finish with Thorns 2 revisions by the end of the month, and then get back to the WWII story in June, to write the final portions of that draft.
Lots of projects! It’s nice to have a good bit going on, and I look forward to sharing more of it with you.