The two things I say most about my book are “I’ve read it so many times that I an hardly stand to look at it anymore” and “It’s my baby.” I think I’m justified in saying both those things. I started this book in my freshman year of high school and had the first draft finished by the time I was a sophomore. Now I’m done with my junior year, and believe me, this was not dead time for Peace in Paradise. I am my own worst critic; every time I looked at it there was something new to fix, a sentence to tweak so it flowed better, a weak verb to root out; I rewrote huge chunks of my first and last chapters to the point where Chapter Twelve had to become Chapters Twelve and Thirteen. I haven’t reread it quite as many times as I have the Harry Potter series, but it’s close. Very close. And being my critic, I’ve gotten pretty sick of looking at the damn thing.
But I also love it. It’s the first full-length book I ever finished (okay, let’s face it, it’s the only full-length book I’ve ever finished), and I’ve devoted a huge part of my life to it. I have concept art galore, chapter panels that for the sake of my poor bank account couldn’t fit into the book, little manga scenes sketched absentmindedly in class and pencil sketches of random scenes. I have little offshoot stories in my mind – alternate endings, what-could-have-beens, even a half-thought-out prequel that explains how a particular character ended up the way she did. I get a little obsessive when I have a project, and this was no exception.
And now I’m sending my baby out into the world. I covered my panic in another post, so I won’t go into that. What I want to explore today is how Peace in Paradise came to be.
I won’t lie: a lot of my original inspiration came from playing too much Pokemon Ranger. My first idea was that my main characters, once they graduated from the Academy, would go to the beautiful tropical island chain and have to deal with a group of people stealing powerful magical artifacts from around the islands. That was it. My writing process is pretty much to get an idea and run with it for as long as possible. I’ll let you in on a little secret: that’s exactly what I’m doing right now.
But it changed, like stories do. The group of people faded away, but the magic stayed. The magic grew stronger and actually ended up as the dominant element in the book. Some new characters that I hadn’t counted on bloomed into being. One of them, a young boy named Nico, I lifted straight from a bizarre dream I had one night. Fishing pole, eye-contact avoidance, and even the reason he shows up the first time – to warn that something big was coming – all came from that dream, although like everyone else he changed over time. He almost changed in a big way. I remember in my first semester of freshman year I had gotten obsessed with a manga called Bleach, and as I was working on the passage where my mainies first got an idea of the villain they’d be dealing with, I read the part of the manga where a character whom I rather liked and trusted turned out tot be someone very different than who I thought he was. It put the idea in my head, and I spent ten or twenty minutes of Biology scribbling about whether or not I could have one of my characters do the same thing. But every time I considered it, my mind rejected the idea with so much force that I knew I couldn’t do it. I would love to know how that would have turned out, but when I looked at the characters I was considering, I knew that they weren’t ones to be in league with the villain. Not that villain, at least. Even Nico, as much as he would love to get rid of his ability, wouldn’t go that far. But it’s interesting to think about what might have been.
I have three pages in my notebook from freshman year that record my struggles with possible paths I could have taken – the relationship dynamics of my main ship, the way my main character Lillia’s various abilities fit with her past and the abilities of two others (which also changed the dynamics of some relationships in what I think is a very good way), my who-should-be-a-bad-guy debate, and one that allowed me to finish when I got stuck on my biggest passage near the end of the book. I remember a fourth mental debate on President’s Day weekend, written on a napkin in a hotel restaurant in Garmisch-Partenkirchen while my father participated in a hockey tournament, but I no longer have that napkin. I rather wish I did, because honestly, I don’t really remember what I wrote on there anymore. I think it was something about how to destroy the villain, but I’m not sure. All I remember was that it was enough, because later that weekend, I used my craptastic school-issue laptop to type out the final words of the story. All the different paths I could have taken, every unforeseen turn in the story, every decision I made during those frantic writer’s block scribble sessions, led to something that even now, after all my editing, I don’t think could have been done any other way. I don’t think any of the other paths I was considering would have led to a finished book. Somehow, everything came together and turned into something that seems miraculous even to me who doesn’t trust in miracles. But I do trust in magic. Seventeen years old and a published author, but my trust in magic hasn’t dimmed since fairy tales and Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s because I read and write, I think. There’s something in the way that words on paper can translate emotions and people and lives between minds that is inherently magical. And where there is magic, there can be miracles.
Peace in Paradise hasn’t really changed since I typed end on the final page that day in Garmisch. In spite of my editing and revisions, it’s kept its original soul and magic; revising just brought it more into the limelight, like polish on dull metal that takes it from a glimmer to a gleam. And though I say I can’t stand to look at it anymore, I know I’ll read it again. Maybe even twice or three – okay, dozens of times more. Every time, I’ll think of something I could change, but that’s okay. Now that it’s published, it’ll stay as it is. I’ll learn from what I want to change and apply it in my next story, and the one after that. It’ll always hold a special place in my heart, but now I need to say goodbye. My baby has gone out into the world; it can take care of itself now. I have other children that I need to raise.
Lillia, Reubyn, Aiene, Nikiani, Nico, Manialua, Vrenchard, Kaiko, Iemalu, Pegu, Maunei, even you, Harimako: I love you all. Go out. Tell your story. Live in our minds and hearts.