Get your flux capacitor and TARDIS ready, everyone. For today’s post, we’re going back in time. To when, you ask?
February 9th, 2004 at 10:13am. Room 107 of East Norriton Middle School.
I was 13, sitting in class with a teacher I didn’t much like for a subject I was rubbish at. The few days prior to that, I’d made the decision that I wanted to write a story. Heavily influenced by the magic of Harry Potter and the space and time travel in The Pendragon Adventures – a YA series you should absolutely look up if you’re unfamiliar – I knew that I wanted the story I’d be writing to be some combination of the those elements. Science-y magic, if you will.
I came up with a character to lead this universe, Piper Anderson, who was so named because Piper was my favorite girls name, and Anderson was my 7th grade English teacher’s name. Next, I realized Piper needed a universe to belong in – a world. Sitting in that math class, I tried to come up with a name. Something original. But with nothing around me but other disinterested classmates and a teacher droning on, there wasn’t much for inspiration. So I worked with what I had . . . my math worksheet.
I started using different words from the instructions on the page, combining them in scribbles at the bottom of a piece of paper that I have sadly since lost. I rearranged words and letters, until at last, I jotted down a word that just worked. It clicked.
My world would be called Alteria.
And so I opened my notebook to a blank page – a page I still have – and jotted down the date, time, place, and just above it a phrase. Alteria: The Adventure Begins. Below that, a chapter title. And below that? A horribly cheesy first line that only 13 year old me could have come up with.
Piper Anderon looked like your typical 17 year old girl. But she wasn’t.
Yes, in the first line of my first book, I spelled my own character’s name wrong. DERP.
The rest of that year was spent coming up with alien races, doodling notes, and handwriting pages upon pages of story. That November I decided to write a prequel to this first Alteria story, and the result was very first NaNoWriMo novel called The Waters of Nen. As anyone who’s read this blog before knows, NaNoWriMo is the other thing I’ve been spending the last 12 years doing.
The ensuing years after 2004 saw much of my free time being consumed by coming up with grand ideas, some of which stayed, and some of which went back into the communal creative consciousness for someone else to grab. But even when I came up with something bad, I’d just scrap it and keep going. Most people are still surprised when I tell them the story is as old as it is, usually asking things like, why didn’t you get distracted and just stop writing? I can without a doubt say one of the biggest reasons was an incredibly kind and endlessly encouraging middle school librarian who told me to keep at it. (Spoiler: When I get to write a dedication to this book one day – you can bet she’ll be in there.)
High school saw me getting into other projects, trying new things, and you know, learning how to be a person. Then in college, I was so caught up in the incredibly exciting task of learning to be a filmmaker. While those years were amazing and shaped me so much as a storyteller and creator, Alteria spent much of that time on a shelf, waiting until I was ready to tell the story as it deserved to be told.
Flash ahead to 2015. At the conclusion of one creative project, I found myself wanting to take up the mantle of another one. I debated relentlessly in my head as to which story I should work on, and carried the dilema with me when I went to London and Edinburgh in April for my own adventure. I sat in the very cafe where JKR wrote her much of Harry Potter, thinking about Piper and Alteria, and wondering: is it their time? Am I finally ready? As I walked home that night, mulling it all over, I stopped by a shop, looking for a souvenir for the friend who helped me get there. In that store, I saw this . . .
I took the hint. I went back to Alteria.
I spent July to October writing the first 44K words, then November and December I began a new draft which I completed with less than an hour to spare of New Year’s Eve. I rang in 2016 standing on a street corner waiting to catch the bus to my friends party, because I HAD TO finish my book first. Watching fireworks explode over the city skyline, happy drunken cheers all around, and with Hamilton the Musical‘s song My Shot blaring in my ears, I gotta say – that was one of the most surreal and profound moments of my life.
Which brings me to 2016. A new year, new beginnings, and a new chapter in the life of my story. And now – a new challenge.
This time last week, I was working on revising my draft, with no idea when I’d ever be published, or hell, even how I’d be published. Would I self-pub? Find an agent? I was preparing myself for all possible avenues I could think of. But as I’ve discovered is the pattern in my life, God usually tends to answer my prayers in the one way I that I could have never expected or prepared for.
Along came Inkshares. My friend – bless her heart – sent me a link to a contest called The Nerdist Space Opera Contest, run by the magnificently wonderful Inkshares website. The rules? Get my book to be one of the most pre-ordered books by March 15th, and I get published. That’s it. I’d be a real live published author, and one of the top 3 items of my bucket list would get to be checked off when I’m only 25. Talk about blessed.
So here I sit. My story turns 12 today. 12 years of my life spent with my head lost across the stars in a world I love, which no one ever used to know existed, until now. Now, Piper’s story isn’t just mine. It can be yours too. I imagine this must be what a parent feels like seeing their kid off to school: thrilling, exciting, nerve-wracking, happy, overwhelming, etc.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with this contest or my story will find itself in the winners circle, because to be honest, SO MANY OF THESE BOOKS SOUND SO GOOD. But the great thing about Inkshares is, even if I don’t win the contest, I still have until May 4th to sell 750 pre-orders, and if I do that, my book will finally be on your shelves.
Suppose it is fitting that a post with the words 12 Years in the title should take a while, but if you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me. Not just in this blog post, but in life. On this crazy journey I’m on to live passionately and fiercely pursue my dreams. I hope that if you’ve gotten this far, you’ll take some time to check out this story that’s meant all the worlds to me. You can read Chapter One here.
If you’ve been there at any time in any way for these past 12 years, I thank you. You’ve become part of the story between the lines inherently by being in my life. As for the rest of you, Alteria will be waiting.
Update: As of September 14th, 2016, Elayna cancelled the funding campaign for They Are the Last. Read her official announcement here. Readers can still visit theyarethelast.com to learn more about the story.