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Meeting Neil Gaiman

I met Neil Gaiman. And it was actually special and magical and amazing. I wish I had a picture of it but I was more focused on making an actual connection, which totally happened, by the way. Let me tell you the whole story:

Several weeks ago I turned in the last version of ACORAS (the sleeping beauty retelling) back to my agent. This recent revision was particularly hard for me. I completed initial revisions in 8 days (8 DAYS!) and then had a series of unfortunate events relating to critique partners, which delayed the Official Turning In by several weeks.

Then I had a new CP read the book, someone whose opinion I admire very much, and she pointed out a very serious flaw: the ending doesn’t… really… work.

To be fair, I wrote the original ending in a furious burst of 10k two years ago in an effort to finish the story and be done with it. And it was an okay ending. But it wasn’t really amazing, and it didn’t fully wrap up some of the themes in the book. So, okay, I need a new ending.

If those words don’t fill your heart with fear, consider them again. A brand new ending on a book I’d had for two years, when I hadn’t even given a single consideration to a different way of wrapping it up. All of the plot I’d worked on had been hurtling towards this set conclusion, right? And now I had to figure out a different way to maneuver these armies and villains and heroes…

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Like most writers, when I was young I was a prolific reader. I inherited at least a dozen books about ‘beloved’ children’s stories and fairy tales, and read all of them. I can still very clearly remember reading fairy tale collections by nightlight, because I wasn’t supposed to be awake still.

I am also Swedish (though a half breed, lol), so my grandmother gave me books of Swedish legends, and thus I have a fond spot for trolls and gnomes.

I used to move about those worlds with freedom and excitement. How will the young hero outsmart the witch, or the giants? What will become of the human child adopted by trolls? How will the princess in disguise save herself from her curse? How will the young woman save her love after she violated the rules of their magical treaty?

For a long time I have wanted to write a YA or Middle Grade book that returns me to those ancient and wild worlds. I have flashes: rocks covered in moss in a pine forest; huge boulders guarding dark pools near waterfalls; giant trees alive with light; Baba Yaga’s house in a magical clearing; treacherous, gray mountain paths through troll-infested lands…

The thing about those legends and fairy tales is that they all used the same set of rules. It made me feel as if I would have a fighting chance if I were ever transported magically into that world.

Then, today, I found this video, narrated by Neil Gaiman, called ‘Instructions’, which creatively lists all the instructions that heroes and heroines must follow in these tales.

Suddenly I have a fierce hunger in me to dig up those old books and return.

Seriously. Go watch that video. Tell me if you don’t get the hunger inside to visit.