by Rebecca McFarland Kyle
I’ve always dreamt of meeting Peter S. Beagle. The Last Unicorn and Inkeeper’s Song are two of my all-time favorite novels. When he offered a writer’s workshop at a nearby convention, I signed up immediately hoping he could give my career the kick in the pants it needed.
I looked at my body of work and nothing seemed worthy. The deadline to submit my 5,000 words fast approached.
About a week before the submission was due, I had a dream. Persephone hadn’t gotten called to bring Spring to the Upperworld for years and she was taking matters into her own hands. She convinced her cousin, Eurydice, who hadn’t gotten word of her husband Orpheus for years and still grieved his loss, to come with her. They climbed up into the Badlands, a vastly different world than the one they’d last walked — and quickly had to adjust to the Wild West.
I had no idea where the dream came from. I’ve been a fan of Greek mythology since I was introduced to Bullfinch’s Mythology in fifth grade. I hadn’t seen anything related to the characters in year, but I have studied lucid dreaming and used the concept to write scenes before. I scribbled down the dream as fast as I could. Big surprise the dream story came in at almost precisely the 5,000 word limit for the workshop.
As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep too well the night before the workshop. I was grateful we’d have individual sessions instead of a class. If my hero didn’t like my sub, I’d hear it alone. Instead of talking immediately about my work, Peter Beagle mused about Persephone herself, the connected mythos, and how her story still resonated with the world. I took notes furiously, unsure of what to think.
“What did you think about the sub?”
“It feels like a novel,” he smiled and handed the papers back without a red mark on them.
I sat there and mouth-breathed. Okay, I’d gotten the dream whole cloth, but nothing else since.
“How do I write it?”
“Let the characters tell their story.”
Easy for him to say. He hadn’t had such a vivid dream and scribbled the thing down in a notepad from the nightstand at 3:00AM and then heard nothing since! Still, I went home and re-read the excerpt as well as my notes of what he’d said.
What would happen next?
No surprise that Peter Beagle’s notes actually helped me get back into the storyline. At the time, they didn’t seem related to the writing on the page. Like all great teachers, he was gently directing me in the path I should take for the rest of the story.
I finished the book two years later — with help from some amazing beta readers. I turned it in on Christmas Eve, just a week before the publisher’s annual submission deadline was over. She notified me that she’d received the submission, read and liked the first chapter, and would be reading it over the next several weeks as time permitted.
I was shocked to receive an acceptance letter the day after Christmas. My publisher said she’d started the book and couldn’t stop reading, so she was buying Fanny & Dice. That was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten!
If you think the hard part was over then, you’re wrong. At that point, I had to do final edits and start thinking of promotions. For a generally shy person, I found this phase the hardest of all.
I was fortunate: the four authors I asked to blurb me all readily agreed to help launch a freshman author and blushing fangirl. They all provided kind words to include with my book and helpful advice.
Fanny & Dice launched at Mile High Con this past Halloween. I can’t say I’ve taken the world by storm, but I wasn’t aiming specifically at that. My goal was to tell the characters’ stories and hopefully to find fans who love them as much as I enjoyed writing about them.
Awe filled me when I realized how close to the mark I’d come. While visiting my favorite aunt at an assisted-living center, I encountered an octogenarian who’d immigrated from Greece in her childhood. This tiny woman filled the hallway with her luminous presence. She strode everywhere with her head held high, intelligent eyes bright and studying the world. When she introduced herself, she offered up two-syllable given and surnames.
“But that’s not my real name,” she said with a grin after I worked to pronounce her name as she had. She spoke two names which resonated with the blue sky and sea of her homeland. “They shortened my name so Americans could pronounce it.”
Right then, I learned her real name and I realized I had hit on something very real and true from most immigrant’s experience. Readers have already asked if there will be sequels. Perhaps Eurydice will sage into a luminous lady who walks the world with determination and grace.