[Note: As with most of my blog posts, this one jumps around a bit, so beware of some potential Queen of Nothing spoilers toward the end.]
Since I finished the (fourth? fifth?) draft of Retribution, I’ve been thinking a lot about my self-publishing journey. Things I’m satisfied with, things I might have done differently, and things I’ve learned along the way.
I published the first edition of Reborn back in…2013?! Sometimes, it’s hard to believe this has been an eight-year journey. Back then, I was still a grad student, and had somehow gotten it into my brain that being a self-published author was going to be a great, even lucrative, side hustle. And many things about it have been great (even if that second expectation was a bit of a stretch, lol).
Reflecting on how long it’s been since I published the first novel in this series, I occasionally get frustrated with myself for having taken so long to write the last book. I mean, it’s not so bad, because the last series novella was published in 2019. But still. The series’ conclusion has been a long time coming. I think this era of binge is making us used to wanting/having everything now.
Looking back at my drafts, I started Retribution back in 2017, but didn’t really begin to work on it in earnest until 2020. If I had published it four years ago, it would have, in many ways, likely been a very different book. In the end, I think the wait was probably worth it.
But, I digress. What I’ve actually been thinking about this weekend are expectations – namely, reader expectations. And why I’ve been trying to do some rebranding/recategorizing of the series. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot over the past nearly a decade, lol. One thing I’ve had to learn is that my novels aren’t really paranormal romances.
Does the Reborn series have strong paranormal elements? 100%, yes. Obviously. Does it have romantic themes? Um…sure? Yes? If you like your romance with a very large dose of mutual emotional manipulation and exploitation. Enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies-again-but-maybe-lovers-what-the-hell-are-we-doing.
What I’m really trying to say is, Reborn (and my other books) don’t follow the conventions readers of the romance genre typically expect. And by the way, I’m not dragging the romance genre, at all. I especially love a good Regency romance, and often it’s comforting to pick something up and know exactly what you’re in for (perhaps particularly after The-Year-That-Must-Not-Be-Named). In hindsight, all of this seems pretty obvious to me, but at the time I was publishing Reborn, it just wasn’t. Which made for some pretty confusing reviews from people who were expecting certain things but getting something completely different.
I’m mostly calling them romantic fantasies now, but I’m not even sure that’s a great fit. They are sort of urban fantasies, too (in the way Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series is). Occasionally someone will mention loving the books while not loving with, or agreeing with, some of the characters, and that’s…fine. I didn’t go into this thinking I was writing inherently likeable people, ha. Jasper’s hot in the first book but kind of a jerk (I like to think he’s come a long way since then). In so many young adult-ish books (but not all!), the main female character is the pretty-but-doesn’t-realize-how-pretty type, and maybe not a complete outcast, but not one of the popular kids, either. Siobhan knows she’s pretty, she’s a former cheerleader, and now, in college, she’s in a (purposefully stereotypical, at least in the beginning) sorority. If you like her…great! But if you don’t, I’m also not too surprised.
That all being said, I really did try to give my characters a lot of closure in Retribution. As far as the events go, there is some bitter to go along with the sweet, but the main couples get their HEAs. That was always where Siobhan and Jasper were headed, it was simply going to take them awhile to get there. They needed time to heal (and getting to the point they are at now wouldn’t have made sense without that).
I guess I was also thinking about reader expectations this weekend because I just finished Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series. Which was AMAZING, by the way. I have been raving about it to anyone who will listen to me, which, in these days of social distancing, is mostly my husband. Anyway, as the trilogy is told from only Jude’s point-of-view, you get a sort of very narrow perspective of things. And from what Ms. Black is showing you, you know Jude isn’t always grasping the full picture, but you’re also kind of relying on her. This is my convoluted way of saying that, even though the author was obviously setting Jude and Cardan up for their HEA, there were moments when I was reading the last book that I was just like IF CARDAN AND JUDE DON’T END UP TOGETHER I AM GOING TO RAGE. Even though I KNEW they had to, right? Right???
So, if you’ve managed to hang on for these past eight years, I hope the wait will end up being worth it! I’m excited to bring the conclusion of Siobhan, Jasper et al.’s journey to you this summer. And, if you’re just discovering the Reborn series, I hope this explains a bit more about what I was going for. If you’re looking for virtuous love interests, insta-happiness, and nice endings tied up in a neat little bow, I think that’s great! But please look elsewhere.
If you’re looking for something a little darker, a little sexier, a little more wicked, I think I’ve got just the thing… 😉