I started writing Finding Fairy Tales in 2004. But don't let the fact that I'm publishing it a full 14 years later fool you into thinking this book is an epic Tolkienesque fantasy featuring intricately designed languages and cultures. It's not that (although my editor did say "you've somehow managed to write a modern day "The Hobbit" with a C.S. Lewis twist", which... eek! that is possibly the best compliment I'll ever receive, ever).
But it didn't take me 14 years because I was working so hard on building a world like Middle Earth. It took me 14 years because I had to stop and grow up while I was writing it. I had always known I wanted to be a writer. Not because I wanted to be famous or anything like that, but because I devoured fiction like it was my one life source as a child, and I wanted to create something like what I loved to consume. I imagine a lot of people write for that reason.
But when I started Finding Fairy Tales (and honestly it was so long ago I have no idea where I got the idea for it, or what inspired it) I was 21, still in the Army, knew absolutely nothing about writing fiction, hardly anything about the world in general, very little about my faith, and almost nothing about myself. I was a pretty good journalist, but of course journalism and fiction are horses of entirely different colors. News reporting requires different style, structure, length, and of course there's far less truth involved in writing the news than in writing fiction.
Of course I knew that every legitimate writer starts with an outline, but I was quite sure (oh, foolish Kate) that I was exempt and I gushed to my friends about how the words were writing themselves and how I was myself frequently surprised by the turns the story took! What an adventure! Which is how I ended up 20 chapters in with a lot of very flat characters completely freaking out for no reason, a conflict I couldn't care about, and no idea what was supposed to happen next.
I also knew that I didn't want to write a "Christian book" (we'll get into the horrors of Christian fiction in a future blog post) but simultaneously felt guilty if it didn't include some sort of "Gospel message" and of course I barely understood either the Gospel or art, so trying to combine the two was destined to be a heavy handed, clunky disaster.
I was also, I'm ashamed to admit, a hard-core Republican at the time, and the worst of all tribalists. I mean (don't hate me! I've grown!) I was the type of Republican who looks up to Anne Coulter and wants to be like her. I was a patriot! A soldier! And the democrats were BAD (though I knew too little about public policy to justify this extremely strong opinion). My now staunchly libertarian, opponent of the party system, tribalism-is-the-true-evil self laughs at 2004 Kate.
There's no need to bore you with more excruciating tales of my foolish youth, you get the idea. When I started this book (or more accurately a basically unrelated book with a few similarities) I was something of a little idiot. After a while, I became discouraged and put it down.
A few years later I picked it up again, with even less success, then put it down again, and attended to the cares of life. I did this every year or two, often rewriting large chunks. I don't know when I decided that I was not above outlines, but when I finally did sit down and create one, it sparked an interest in the story that I hadn't enjoyed for some time. But, being the type of person who is perpetually prone to overcommitting myself, it still took several years to finally finish it. During that time, my own worldview underwent drastic shifts. My views about faith, politics, art, and everything in between changed (for the better, I'm quite sure) and as they did, the story I wanted to tell did as well, though some of the main themes did not.
But the ultimate goal has always been simply to write something that I would want to read. And I'm extremely happy to say that I have finally done so. I don't think my story is perfect. But it's whimsical and magical and it makes me laugh, and most importantly it makes me feel adventurous. I'm a different person than I was when I first sat down to write it and so (thankfully) it's a different story than the one I first sat down to write. But after all this time I still think it's a tale worth telling. I hope you agree.
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