So, as many of you know, Time of Ruin the second installment in the Ash and Ruin Trilogy, releases in exactly one week.
I can’t express the level of anxiety I have about this. Trilogies are incredibly difficult to write, I’ve come to learn. With an open-ended series you have a while to develop your character arcs and have so many plot bunnies to chase down, the pressure is kind of spread out. But with a trilogy you’ve got three books. Three acts. Beginning, middle, and end. And you gotta get your shit done. And each book needs to have a whole, satisfactory story contained within it’s covers while carrying on the major plot arcing through all three books.
I thought the hardest book was the second one, the one coming out in a week. But truth be told, the first book was just as hard. This is a fucking hard story to write. Harder than I anticipated. I realized this wasn’t a story I could have told before now because I needed to be a stronger writer to do it justice. And I hope I am doing it justice. And with that, I knew that the middle book of a trilogy often suffers as the least interesting book, often it’s just a bridge from book one and two and people say, “Shoulda just made it a duology.” I didn’t want that. I wanted book two to be strong and whole and its own. I wanted readers to hit the last page with an Ooof and make grabby hands for book three.
Oh but book three. Book three looms over my head like an angry little gray cloud. Book three clings to my neck like a dead albatross. Book three is my undoing. No, I haven’t even put one word to page for book three yet, but I finished book two a few months ago, got wonderful feedback and reactions from my team of betas, my editor loved it, so the pressure of book three just grew and grew. I have expectations to live up to. And I am terrified. I’ve stepped away from Ash and Ruin for a minute and thrown myself into the world of Matilda Kavanagh, my series about a spunky witch living in a supernatural neighborhood of West Hollywood. It’s my escape, my world of magic and fun and adventure. It let’s me write for fun and put my characters in crazy situations and let’s them fight their way out of it and go home at night for a nice spiked cup of hot chocolate and a smush-faced cat. It is not a world of death and desolation where each page takes a piece of my soul.
I don’t talk about my fear of book three very much. Occasionally I’ll ask my husband (my alpha reader for A&R), “Hey, what do you think of this? or “Well, what if this happened?” Vague questions that he’d dutifully respond to with his impressions or thoughts and I would just nod and go about my day. I wouldn’t make a note of anything because it was just a passing thought. But inside I would be having a total melt down about the book. I had no idea how to end this story. I have no idea how it’s going to do. I don’ t know who’s going to die and who’s going to live and how they accomplish either task. Whenever I set out to write a story, even if I don’t know how many books it’s going to be, I have a sense of the ending, maybe even know exactly how it’s going to end. How the hero wins or loses. But not with A&R. I am lost, utterly and completely.
And then Saturday I was standing in my kitchen, making sandwiches for lunch. It was sunny and windy outside. I was barefoot and the kitchen floor was freshly swept. My husband was somewhere else in the house and the dogs were quiet. And like so many other quiet moments, my mind wandered to Kat and Blue and Dylan. I could see them at the end of book two and out of no where, among the cold cuts and vegetables, I knew. I just knew. It slammed into me like lightning and I couldn’t move until I followed the thought to the last page. I knew what is going to happen, how it’s going to happen and who lives and who dies to make it happen.
My husband walked in and jumped up onto the counter and I turned to him and said. “What if…” and I almost couldn’t keep up with the words. Before my husband could say anything my whole body broke out into chills, goosebumps covered my skin, and I teared up. Blinking back the tears, I started laughing and said, “Oh my god, I figured it out. I know what happens.”
And you better believe I wrote it down. I don’t know every detail, every twist and turn, but I know the core plot and suddenly, I’m not so afraid to write this book. I just had to wait until I was ready.
(This post was brought to you by all the puppy gifs ever in honor of Blue and the muse that inspired him, Brody, who is ten times this size now.)