What’s better than a “tale of galactic war and love”? How did this story come about?
This is my “I got angry about Star Wars” story. I saw The Rise of Skywalker last December, and I was so annoyed with the movie, particularly with how it handled the romance between Kylo Ren and Rey. I like romances; I like happy endings. And the movie didn’t deliver that for me at all. So, I ended up writing an essay on Medium about how the movie could have done that better, which helped for a few days, but then I realized that I was angry still. (essay link: bit.ly/2YLzway)
At the same time, I saw Greta Gerwig’s version of Little Women, and there’s this great speech in there that Amy gives (speech link: youtu.be/i10aNmmXYsQ) all about how marriage, particularly for women, is an economic proposition. I’m not sure that I entirely agree with the character that “we have some power over who we love,” but the speech really resonated with me.
A few days later, the speech in the movie and my anger about Star Wars collided, and I ended up deciding that I was going to write my own galactic love story.
Can you talk about how you opened and closed this story?
I actually started with the frame story about the Lovers. I wanted it to be almost myth-like; about these larger-than-life figures, and everyone in the galaxy knows the story and it’s just one of those background elements of life that’s always been there.
When I started writing the story, I thought it was going to be just about Cali and Jere’s romance, and how it contrasted with the frame story in certain ways. But then I got part of the way through writing it, and I realized that I was writing a story that had three separate love stories in it: the mythical one, Cali and Jere and Arvin’s, and Hanna and Vela’s. And that the story of how these two women fell in love with each other—because of the connection their children had—and how they would never have met otherwise was the one that I was really telling.
As for the closing of the story, I like taking things in a circular manner. Since it started with a romance, it made sense to end with one. For the final scene in the hospital room, it was one of the rare endings that I realized halfway through writing; most of the time I don’t know what the ending of a story is until I get there. I knew what I was writing towards, which was an interesting change of pace.
What did you end up taking out of the story?
Pretty much nothing. I’m a picky writer in certain ways—if something doesn’t sound right to me, it’s hard for me to move forward in a narrative until I fix it. As a result, I tend to write pretty clean first drafts because I’m going back and forth and editing them on a sentence-level as I write them. I actually added a tiny bit more description into the story, but that was it.
What are some story tropes that make your Top Ten Writing Peeves?
I don’t have any Top Ten Writing Peeves about that. I like story tropes; I think it’s one of the most fun things that you can do as a writer, taking an existing trope and turning it upside down into something new. We all gravitate towards certain stories and character archetypes because they have emotional resonance for us.
When I went to the Odyssey Writing Workshop, one of the things we talked about was that you can have a story that has a normal frog in a strange garden or you can have a strange frog in a normal garden, but it’s almost impossible to have a strange frog in a strange garden, because there’s nothing there to ground the reader. And that’s what story tropes do—they ground readers in the familiar, and let the author introduce strangeness without confusion. I’ve been writing a lot of fairy tale retellings lately, and so, I’ve been having fun playing with all of this.
How has the pandemic impacted your writing and writing life? Any surprises?
I have three children under the age of ten, so my pandemic has been a crash course in remote learning and figuring out how to keep everyone happy when there’s nowhere that you can go. We’ve been exceedingly cautious as a family, so there’s been a lot of social isolation. The first few months of the pandemic, I ended up getting almost no writing done; I couldn’t concentrate enough on it in the scraps of time that I was able to find. Things got better in June, as the school year started to wind down, and I’ve been managing to do more writing.
I’m one of those writers who finds elements of their world showing up in their stories, because that’s one of the ways I process things. I have a tiny story that I wrote this spring, which started as a pandemic/alien invasion story, but is actually about a man grieving after his wife’s death. I’ve got another one half-started about remote learning and being a parent on Mars that I’ll get around to finishing eventually.
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