At the time you’re reading this, my first full-length novel, Renna’s Crossing, has finally reached its official publishing date of October 29th, 2020.
I had mixed feelings about the date when it was first decided way back in March of this year. I’m happy that the book came out in October, a wonderfully autumnal month which also contains my (and Renna’s) birthday. Despite the events of the story taking place in late spring, the themes and overall vibe of the story really just feel fall-ish. I wonder if other readers feel similarly. Also, it’s a couple days before Halloween, and, y’know, Halloween and witches and all that. Of course, the downside to this date is that it’s greatly overshadowed by a particular U.S.-centric event that’s been four years coming, and is currently dominating most of our attention right now. It’s hard to think about much else. Trying to promote a book feels a little bit gauche at the moment, but hey, my book will still be available to buy after the first week of November, regardless of any other terrible, terrible happenings that might or might not occur. Gotta keep focused on what keeps you sane, right?
I still remember the night this story found its way into my brain; it was April of 2015, and I was still settling into a new apartment, having only recently returned from teaching English abroad. I knew I wanted to write books, and I had plenty of stories to write, but up until that point I couldn’t quite make those two desires click together; I was smushing the two dolls’ faces together and muttering “now kiss”, but perhaps they just weren’t feeling the chemistry. I was sitting on my couch in the dark, doing something not important enough to recall, when I found my thoughts tracing a curious scene. It involved a young girl, one who harbored incredible magic power, and a demon that was bound to that power. I want to describe the scene in further detail but as it just so happens, it would be a major spoiler for the entire story I ended up creating around it. The scene is included in the book, and you’ll probably know it when you read it. (I promise this wasn’t intended to be some contrived advertisement opportunity hidden in the middle of this blog post, but it is what it is ┐(￣ヮ￣)┌ )
It was hard to pinpoint the motivating factor that caused me to slam out over 100,000 words in the next two months, when so many other stories had disappeared into a drawer before hitting 10k. But I’d say that in a word, it was “desperation.” I felt like I was always waiting for a more “right” time to produce a novel-length story, but the years since graduation were beginning to add up, and I didn’t yet have an editor climbing through my second-story window yelling at me about submitting drafts. There weren’t any factors besides myself that were going to push me along to my goals, a terrifying realization in itself. I wanted something that existed outside of my own head that was proof of my creative spirit. So why not this story?
Over the next year I ended up throwing an incredible amount of my own personality, ideals and interests into Renna’s Crossing; write what you know, and all that. Many of the characters were born of various aspects of myself or other people from my life. After completing both the first and final drafts, after all the editing passes, and after finally seeing the work in print, I’ve always enjoyed reading the story I’ve written. That’s a good sign, I hope, and not one that it’s too self-serving. My ultimate goal for this story is that someone I don’t know picks up the book and finds something that resonates with them in there. Over the past five years I’ve come to terms with the fact that I still have a long ways to go as a writer (both in skill and in practical work; now I have the other two sequel books to get cracking on.) But I would love for a story that I love so much to have an effect on others as well, even if those others are relatively few as far as a published book’s reach goes.
Anyway, I’d like to once again extend my gratitude to all of my wonderful friends who have helped me on this project, from that spring evening of five years ago to today. I name some names on the acknowledgements page of the book itself, so I won’t repeat myself here. If you want more frequent updates on the next book, as well as the many other projects I’m trying to produce, you should follow me @arnamantle on twitter/instagram/tumblr. Until then, please enjoy Renna’s Crossing!