Monday, February 3, 2020

The Making of Windborn

A post by Mary Fan
I went back and forth for a spell on just what I wanted to write for my post this week. Should I talk about the two anthologies I'm editing,  BAD ASS MOMS (which I'll be Kickstarting very shortly!) and the fifth BRAVE NEW GIRLS (which just wrapped up submissions)? Or maybe the third and final book in the STARSWEPT trilogy, which I'm in the middle of drafting? Then I was like -- oh wait, I have a new book coming out next week! I should talk about that!

Poor Windborn. Of all my books, its journey has been the longest so far (though if Midnight Swan ever gets published, it'll probably take the title). The overarching ideas for the Fated Stars series, of which Windborn is the first full-length novel, have been in my head for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I started making up my own bedtime stories in the moments while waiting to fall asleep. It was always a huge sprawling epic fantasy full of magic and epic battles between good and evil, but the details morphed so much over the years, I have no idea what came from where anymore. I'd tell it and retell it, pull out pieces and twist them into something else, expand the timeline to years and years then go back and retcon the whole thing... it didn't really matter because the point was just to entertain myself.

When I started writing, part of me was like, "Hey, I've got all these ideas... maybe I can turn them into a book." But part of me was also like, "Nah, it's too cheesy and self-indulgent, full of the tropes I like an with an audience appeal of exactly one person: me." So I tucked the thought away.

In 2013, I was signed to a small press for the Flynn Nightsider books, and the editor and I had a cordial relationship. An artist she worked with (and that I was following as a result) posted a premade book cover that we both absolutely loved, and I persuaded her to let me write a story to match. To me, it felt like a fantasy cover, and my head went back to that mishmash of magic and mayhem that had been in my head forever. So I finally sat down to sculpt those ideas into a cohesive story and wrote up a series proposal, and the Fated Stars universe was born.

I still love this cover
At the time, the press was working on a marketing initiative to put out e-book only prequel/spinoff novellas to drum up interest in a full-length book. Originally, Windborn was meant to be such a prequel, and it would have been the story that matched the premade cover we liked. But after discussing it with the editor, I realized that the story was too large to fit inside 25,000 words. So after we decided to turn the opening few chapters of Windborn (which was not yet written but existed in outline form) and turn them into a novella (Tell Me My Name), and the rest of Windborn would be Book 1.

It wasn't until after Tell Me My Name came out in 2014 that I even started writing Windborn itself. I still remember what a struggle it was though, to finally put down on a page what had been an abstract swirl for so much of my life. I turned in the full manuscript in late 2014/early 2015. Due to competing priorities, it sat in edits for months and months without word (I kept myself busy with other projects). Then later in 2015 (or maybe it was early 2016), we decided to do another novella, this time a standalone about a character who appears only briefly in Windborn (Let Me Fly Free).

More time passed. I stepped into the world of self-publishing with Starswept (with indie publishing collective Snowy Wings Publishing) and got a taste of independence. In late 2017, I decided I wanted to go full indie with my existing unpublished manuscripts (which were still sitting in edits with that small press) and asked for the rights to be reverted. Life happened, I worked on other stuff, and poor, poor Windborn then sat with me, neglected and unedited, until 2019, when I finally decided to put it out with Snowy Wings (actually, I'd decided that a while before... it just took till 2019 to take action because, well, life).

In the meanwhile, though, I did manage to commission a cover from artist Anne Drury and designer StoryWrappers. I gave Anne basic descriptions of the three POV characters in Windborn -- air nymph Kiri, magician's apprentice Darien, and budding prophetess Arrin -- and she proposed a wraparound layout with a close-up of Kiri, whose life is at the center of the plot, and the background in her hair. I loved the idea, and we ran with it. Then StoryWrappers proposed a windblown look for the title, which I thought was fantastic.

The editing process was... quite something. I hadn't looked at the manuscript since maybe 2016, and I'd completely forgotten how some of the plot points played out. It was kind of nice, going in with fresh eyes, and also somewhat disconcerting. The biggest thing I noticed was that I'd majorly overwritten some parts. By the time I was finsihed, I'd cut about 30,000 words from the manuscript.

Next came the question of who would do the interior formatting. Since I'd already had some experience from doing Starswept, I decided to do it myself again. And, of course, I had to do something fancier than simply making the words fit neatly on a page. So I commissioned Sean "MunkyWrench" Eddingfield to create page frames for the chapters -- one for each POV character. Since I decided to include Tell Me My Name in the final book (since by that point, so much time had passed that I doubted even those who read it would remember what happened), I asked him to do one for the novella as well. And there's also a prologue from a different character's POV, making for five chapter frames total.

Finally, there's a song that Kiri sings in the book. I originally came up with the melody back in college, then fitted lyrics to it for the novel. But I never wrote it down until it was time to finalize the formatting.

To make sure everything looked the way it was supposed to, I printed out the pages to proofread:

Was all that a bit extravagant? Sure. But the great thing about self-publishing is that you can be extravagant if you feel like it. As I once heard at a concert, "It's my cabaret, and I can sing whatever I want."

After all that -- 7 years, 3 artists (4 if you count the artist who designed the stock art I used for the  page decorations, 5 if you count me as well), and lord-knows-how-many revisions -- here's what the finished book looks like. Coming your way February 11... and currently up for preorder ;-)

1 comment:

Karissa Laurel said...

I'm so glad I pre-ordered this book. It's gorgeous. Talk about a labor of love.

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