I mentioned last week that I'm noodling a new story idea that I'm hoping will jolt me out of a little bit of a "woe is me, publishing is hard!" cycle. What I didn't tell you is that the idea is actually old. Twenty one years old, in fact.
I didn't know I was a writer back then (despite all the journals full of poems, the dual-degree in French and English Lit, the obsessive reading habit...you get the picture). But I had recently relocated to England, couldn't seem to find a job, and was in that same sort of "woe is me" headspace, just for a different reason--no friends, no job.
That's when I ended up in the Lake District at William Wordsworth's cottage, and learned that he had an illegitimate daughter with a French courtesan before he became a famous poet.
Wham! I got hit with a metaphorical story stick. And once it strikes, there is no turning back. I had to write about her, what it must have been like to be abandoned while your famous boyfriend goes on to literary fame and glory.
But it was also 2001 and that meant I couldn't just dig into the archives virtually. I had to attempt to get permission to enter the Bodleian Library archives. At Oxford. Gulp. I was twenty-six years old and had no academic credentials or affiliations beyond my degree. So I gave it a go. And they rejected me.
I scoured the books I could get my hands on at the regular, non-fancy library and bookstores, but there was barely a mention of Annette Vallon or her daughter. The few books that had published their letters were out of print and I couldn't get my hands on them.
At the time, I didn't have many other options short of planning a Six of Crows-style heist to get those letters out of the Bodlein and let's face it, I would write that story, but I would not actually live that story. So after shaking an angry fist in the Bodlein's direction, I moved on to another story.
But the idea stuck with me for years. Especially when, in 2009, a major publisher released a historical fiction about Annette Vallon. I have noodled it as a middle grade told from the perspective of a young Caroline, living through the aftermath of the French Revolution with a disgraced mother and a famous, yet distant, father. As a YA story full of angst and rebellion.
Now I'm working on something quite different. Adult. Historical fantasy. Multiple timelines. Multiple POVs. But the kernel of that original story is still there. And this time I can bring the full force of the digital archives and my long-pent-up imagination to bear on this story. Don't worry, I'm going to find a way to weasel a trip to Orleans and to the Lake District out of it, just you wait.
Do you have a story you've been longing to write? One that someone told you was out of your league, beyond your skill, for true, capital-W Writers? Something that both thrills and terrifies you--a story you can't let go no matter how much time passes?
This is my clarion call: WRITE IT. And know that you're not alone. I'll be right here beside you, wading through the minefield of doubts and uncertainty, every step of the way.
PS - I had so much fun as a special guest for the #Preptober episode of the Moms Who Create Podcast. Check it out!