Writing your first novel is…hard. Publishing your first novel, whether you decide to go the traditional or self-publishing route, is hard. But do you know what’s at least equally as hard, if not harder?
Writing the next book. And the next. And the next.
I forget who this quote is ascribed to, but I’ve heard it said you never learn how to write a book – you only learn how to write this book. I’ve been thinking about that quote lately, and how true it is. I published the first edition of Reborn back in November of 2013. That’s…eight years ago, lol. It started out as a pretty simple idea: a story about a college-aged woman who runs into a man from her past. A tall, dark, handsome, broody man who is probably not human. And who is either her long-lost love or sworn enemy. Or a little bit of both.
I wondered who these two characters were. I wanted to root around their brains, find out what drove them, what scared them, what – and who – they wanted more than anything.
Then, quite suddenly, I didn’t have just Siobhan and Jasper anymore, these two fascinating but deeply flawed people. I had a whole world in my head I wanted to explore, a world where Greek mythology met Greek life but was also equal parts 90s syndicated sci-fi show and teen drama. If you would have asked me to describe Reborn when it first came out, I might have told you it was like Stargate SG-1 meets Greek (you know, the ABC Family – now Freeform – show from the late 2000s?). Which is honestly kind of accurate, but also who the heck would want to read that (besides me)?
If you’re new to the Reborn series, it’s essentially a modern retelling of the Eros and Psyche myth. My Psyche is Siobhan Elliot, a college student at the fictional Thurston University in Shadesburg (a Pittsburgh-esque city). My Eros is Jasper Hart, her hot teaching assistant for her World Myths and Legends class. The first two books in the series, Reborn and Relapse, mostly focus on their complicated, at times downright toxic, relationship, as well as Siobhan’s efforts to navigate this new world she finds herself in.
Pretty quickly, my ideas for the series expanded beyond Siobhan and Jasper’s story. It spawned two novellas and the third installment, Reclaim, which focused on a different main character: Siobhan’s sorority sister, Carly Dragonjac. While Siobhan’s interests began to clash a lot with her sorority’s, I think of Carly as the Gamma Lambda Phi sister who stayed. As Carly doesn’t have much of a family left, the sorority didn’t just become her home-away-from-home, but her home, period. And her storyline let me indulge one of my other favorite archetypes, the wicked (and sexy) trickster god. The fourth book, Retribution, picks up where both Siobhan and Carly’s stories left off and gives them a (mostly) happy resolution.
Oh, right. Did I mention I have a book coming out?
Going back to that quote at the beginning of the post, it took me four years (Reclaim was published in 2017) to learn how to write Retribution. Not that I was writing it that entire time. I was not. I did put out a novella in 2019, but mostly the ideas for the fourth book were marinating. And, sure, then there was a global pandemic in which I was like…okay, I’m at home way more than usual, there is literally no excuse now not to finish this book…
Although the major ideas and revelations in the book never changed, I think it would have been a much different book if I had forced myself to write it four years ago. It was always going to be about how Siobhan and Jasper both heal from their past traumas, how they finally find their way back to an authentic, healthy version of their relationship. But I was also thinking about several larger themes while I was writing it. For one: What would happen if our world was infiltrated by an alien civilization? (Slight spoiler alert: probably nothing good.)
And, in this era of movements like #MeToo, where we’re starting, as a society, to confront egregious abuses of power and privilege, I was thinking a lot about what we’re “allowed” or expected to feel as women. So, power is definitely one of the major themes in Retribution – confronting power imbalances, confronting those who abuse their power and, most importantly, reclaiming that power.
Now, there are definitely many light-hearted, fun, silly, sexy, and romantic moments in Retribution. But it does get rather dark at times. Rest assured, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, I let my female characters experience the whole gamut of emotions: happiness, love, desire, fear, desperation, despair, regret, hate, resentment. Each main character has an inner darkness to confront. One learns to accept and live with it. One rises above it. One embraces it.
You can pre-order Retribution for Kindle on Amazon! It releases July 1, 2021. While you’re at it, add it on Goodreads. I am planning to give out a few review copies (.mobi or pdf only), so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested. Heidi’s gorgeous cover art and the book summary are below!
Siobhan has returned from a seven-month stint in Pandora to a world that’s falling apart. Literally.
She doesn’t care, though, about the holes in the walls between the worlds. Or that, according to a prophecy, she’s the only one who can stop Eric and his halfling army from taking over Olympus. All Siobhan wants now is to get back to some semblance of normalcy in life, and in her relationship with Jasper.
Meanwhile, combat training is Carly’s new normal. But while Gamma Lambda Phi prepares for certain war, she grapples with missing memories and a forgotten power. And just when a possibility for new love presents itself, an old flame is rekindled.
Electra is the new general of Eric’s army, but it’s a tenuous command. She is caught between love and fear, sanity and madness, a desire for absolution and a thirst for vengeance…
In the game of the gods, anything goes, and nothing is what it seems. And in this conclusion to the Reborn saga, these three women will learn just how far they’re willing to go to win.