My Beloved: How It All Began

I haven’t talked about The Shanhasson series in the past year or more.  I kept thinking, “Oh, I’ve talked about it so much already–I don’t want to bore people.”  But then I realized that I lost years of posts when I left yahell hosting, and so if you’re a newish blog reader in the past year or so, you might not have any idea how it all began.

The first dream.

I’ve always tinkered with writing.  I was writing Walter Farley The Black Stallion and Gone with the Wind fanfiction way back in elementary and high school.  I have enough credits for a minor in English, and one of my all-time favorite classes really was a Romantic Period class on Byron, Shelley, Blake and crew (alas, Conn was NOT my teacher).  But in all those years of writing both for school and pleasure, it was a hobby.

I never took it seriously, until my beloved sister called me in the fall of 2003 because she’d finished her first book.  Other than fanfic stuff I’d finished as a kid, I couldn’t say I’d ever finished anything.  Certainly nothing that was entirely MY OWN.  She even sweetened the pot by saying she’d only let me read HER story if I let her read MINE.

The story I had the most finished was then called My Beloved Barbarian.  It was a kind of mishmash of all my favorite elements of both fantasy and romance.  A little bit of Johanna Lindsey, Robert Jordan, George RR Martin, not to mention all the Scottish and Regency romances I’d read in my 20s and early 30s.  I adored both fantasy and romance, but it’s hard to please me as a reader with “romantic fantasy” because it’s usually not romancy enough.  Fantasy Romance is usually too lite on the fantasy for my tastes. 

So I set out to write what I couldn’t find at the time.  Steamy, highly romantic yet very epic fantasy.

With my sister’s encouragement, I finished the first draft of My Beloved Barbarian around October of 2003 and went on to write its sequel, then titled Khul’s Beloved by Christmas.  YES — a huge amount to accomplish in just a matter of months.  MBB clocked in well over 500 pages and the first draft of the second book was almost as long. 

Remember, these were the first books I’d ever finished.  e.g. I didn’t know ANYTHING.  My POV was all sorts of messed up.  My heroine had significant problems, speaking too modern–while my heroes spoke too stiffly and formally.

But it was a start.  The beginning of the dream.

Yes, there were dark patches.  Like the first time I entered an RWA contest.  Yowsa, did I learn a LOT!  I rewrote the books entirely from scratch and tried again in 2004 with contests.  MBB even finaled in a few that time and I got some nice agent requests but no bites. 

Then I hit another bad patch in 2005.  I was learning all this new stuff about plotting and characterization — basically figuring out all the things I’d messed up and feeling overwhelmed that I’d never get it right again.  I doubted that I’d ever finish a book with the same kind of overwhelming love and excitement.  I was too hung up on the rules and I’d lost the love.

I started to fear I’d never finish a book again.  In fact, I didn’t finish a single book in 2005.

But Beautiful Death helped break that vicious cycle, and in 2006, I decided I was going to rip MBB apart and rewrite it yet again.  I murdered my heroine and recreated her.  But as I threw out those hundreds of pages to start over for the third time, I realized I’d done quite a few things right.  It was my job in this third and final draft to highlight those things I’d done right and fix the things that were wrong.

It might sound depressing to think about throwing out yet another draft and starting from scratch (by now, I’d written over 1000 pages in this series only to throw them out), but it proved my love for these characters.  Turning MBB into The Rose of Shanhasson was like coming home and finding it more wonderful than even I remembered.  Surely I didn’t really love this story that much (wrong!).  Surely it wouldn’t make me cry AGAIN.  (I was mistaken.)  Surely it wouldn’t keep me up until all hours of the night when I already knew exactly what happened (ditto, again). 

After years of learning and writing other things, my voice in this world was firm.  I’d learned to write with authority because I believed.  The dream lived in me and I refused, absolutely REFUSED, to give up on it again.  Rhaekhar and Shannari lived and breathed on the page, and Gregar…well.  Let’s just say that Gregar whispered in my ear.  “It’s about time you came home to us.”

The biggest plus to working so hard and rewriting so many times:  years had gone by and I found the courage to do things that never occurred to me when I first started.  I’d grown so much.  I wasn’t afraid to make the difficult choices, to really put my characters through the Three Hells and bring them back again. 

It was a long road, and so “Faith of the Heart,” the original theme song for Enterprise, became the major theme song of this series.  Along with Kiss from a Rose by Seal and Everything I Do (I Do It For You) by Bryan Adams.  Those songs instantly put me in the Shanhasson world.  I can’t hear them on the radio without thinking of Gregar, and usually, I burst into tears. 

I’m not kidding.

So the dream that began in 2003, continued with the publication of The Rose of Shanhasson in 2007 and The Road to Shanhasson in 2008, will be complete with the release of Return to Shanhasson.  The story began in Dalden Bay and that’s where it ends.  It began with a barbarian declaring his love was unshakeable, and ends with him proving that he was right.  This is not “romance” in the true sense of the word (WARNING:  major characters do die – but they are never gone) but if your heart isn’t singing and crying at the end, overwhelmed with the love of these characters, then I should become a sports mystery writer like my husband wanted.  *wry laugh*

It’s been a long road fraught with tears and heartache and doubt, but through it all, the Lady’s Moon shines down with love from above.  Love, the greatest gift of all, and the greatest sacrifice.

5 thoughts on “My Beloved: How It All Began

  1. Joely, I must admit The Rose made me fall in love with your writing. I absolutely adore the characters and world you’ve created because they are a perfect balance of romance and fantasy. You have every right to be proud of this series. And for the record, I never tire of hearing about it.

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