It’s probably past time to share our origin story. Not the one couples usually tell about how they met (although we have a pretty good How We Met story), but the one about how we became a Unicorn, and by that I mean how we started writing novels together. It all began in the summer of 2007 about a month after we got married, and J’s parents, intrepid world travelers, had left for 6 months in South Africa and Australia while we’d be on our honeymoon.
An odd start to novel writing, but stick with me.
For some reason the USPS doesn’t believe that people leave home for more than a month at a time, and if for some bizarre reason they do, their mail should be forwarded to them. Now why the post office would want to forward my mother-in-law’s quilting magazines to Pretoria instead of holding onto them in Ohio is a mystery to me, but no one ever claimed the postal service made sense. Since J hadn’t changed his place of residence yet, he was allowed to pick up their mail once a month and then replace the hold on the mail. (Not that this didn’t lead to its own issues, but whatever. I’ve already spent far too much time on this weird topic.)
So, J and I had to make the first of our two-hour drives to his parents’ local post office. Not quite half way, I threw out one of my random conversation starters. (Something, thankfully, J is always up for. On one road trip before we were married, I asked about the English monarchy, which ended up with J telling me the complete history from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II. It was awesome.) The topic on the drive to his parents’ was “What kind of stories do you like?” J answered “A quest!” with an unlikely hero, ala Star Wars to be specific. As so often happens when I randomly say the things that enter my mind, when J turned the question around on me, I had no answer. But we kept chatting about the nature of stories, the archetypes and genres we enjoyed. I agreed that quests are nice, but in my very limited exposure to SFF, whether it be books, movies, or TV, there seemed to not be a plethora of interesting women going on quests and proving themselves unlikely heroines.
I then asked the question that would change everything. “If you were going to write a story, what kind of story would you write?” Neither of us had ever written fiction. As I’ve mentioned before, we both majored in English in college, but we strictly took lit classes, and neither of us ever studied creative writing. But I suppose this is the sort of thing a lot of people think about, and considering the previous random topic, the answer wasn’t particularly difficult for J. “I suppose I’d write a quest with an unlikely hero.” I also just repackaged what I’d said before, J having sold me on the awesomeness of quests, and I said that would be nice, except I’d like it to be an unlikely heroine.
And then I said it, the words that would come to define our marriage and our lives from that day to this. “What if we wrote a novel together?” J didn’t hesitate in agreeing to this idea. He, of course, suggested we write a fantasy novel, which seemed like a jolly idea to me, even though at that point I’d literally only read Tolkien and Lewis. (J had just started turning me into a geek a few years before our marriage.) He said we ought to grab all of his Harry Potter books while we were at his parents’ house, because they would provide good points of reference. (We did grab them that day and then preceded to read the entire series out loud together. It was a ton of fun and provided great reference points, just as he said it would.)
Then for the rest of the drive we talked about the foundations of what would become Myrcia. There would be a princess who hadn’t been raised to rule, but circumstances would force her to. And unlike Tolkien where regular dudes sometimes end up with immortal chicks, I insisted our princess end up with some sort of magical guy. We also laid the foundations for the basic geography of the country of Myrcia and a few of the other characters who would show up, such as the princess’s governess.
And we haven’t stopped since then. We just keep writing and coming up with new stories in the Myrcia ‘verse. Because that’s what Unicorns do.