First of all, the book is finished! Like, really and truly done. I’ve sent it off to be formatted, which means publishing is imminent (I’m thinking August 1st, as I’ll be away at the end of next week and believe that it’s rude to my book to press ‘publish’ and then dash off to Amsterdam to ignore it for 5 days).
As I read through the Queen, I realize I wanted to complete a bit of mindfulness/reflection. Throughout the process, I don’t think I’ve been as fair as I could’ve been to myself (or my book). So, I’ve been writing novels since roughly 2004 or so. And, let’s face it, my first efforts were a bit basic. When I started the Queen, I specifically wanted to take on certain specific challenges. Was I successful? I guess only time will tell.
So, as someone who literally just finished reading this manuscript, what’s good? What’s not-so-good?
- Diversity! When I started a book set in Victorian England, I knew this topic was going to be an uphill battle, however, I tried my best. I’ve included a bi-racial prince, a young man with a disability (not that it slows him down in the slightest), a gay character, and a female love interest for my female protagonist. Now, I realize I do not deserve any awards for adding these elements, but it was important for me to a least try and include something more obvious than a bunch of straight white people running around. Future books will see other important characters of different backgrounds.
- All the ladies! While probably not entirely in line with historical accuracy, I wanted women to have positions of power (besides the obvious Queen of England). Women of all ages drive much of the trilogy, and that was something I consciously decided on. Don’t worry, the lads have their time, but women are mainly driving the (omni)bus.
- It moves. If there is a hallmark of my novels, it’s that they read ‘fast.’ I started reading my book on Wednesday (sent to my Kindle), and at close to 80,000 words (yes, a few too many for traditional YA, but that’s the beauty of self-publishing), I’m already 45% through (and this is having to stop every few pages for the most minor of changes). While I’m sure there’s a subplot of two I could’ve tightened up, I think it would be easy to read this book in a day or two.
- Growth. I’d like to believe there is some development in a few of the characters (most especially the protagonist). At a minimum, Queen Juliette is not the same person she is at the start of the book.
- It’s engaging. I think the book pulls an audience in. Hopefully, it maintains their interest.
- There are a few funny and memorable lines. As an author, it’s always fun to stumble over a sentence and be all, “I wrote this?”
Now, certainly no book is perfect, and here’s what I think still needs work (even though I am totes going to get this thing published because enough already).
- I wish more of my scenes passed the Bechdel test. Even as hyper-aware as I am of it, and as much as I’ve tried to include women (of all ages and backgrounds), there are a number of scenes which don’t pass… At least in this book. In Books 2 and 3 I do much better. My defense — if I have any — lies in the fact that the Queen is mainly surrounded by men, such that when she is around other young women she has to get a few things off her chest. I really can’t blame her.
- I still love adverbs. My undying love of many words that end in -ly can be seen as weak writing, but I can accept this fate. Let’s just call it ‘my style.’
- I will forever need work on my physical descriptions of characters. Forever and ever. It’s tough because I can picture them so well, but I guess readers can’t really see into my brain. #authorproblems
- More steampunk elements. Having read a great deal of steampunk literature in the past two years, I know it can be done very well and that it can be quite distracting. While my novel actually qualifies more as gaslamp fantasy, steampunk is a much more broadly known and accepted term. I already fear the Goodreads reviews of ‘THIS ISN’T STEAMPUNK.’ While I do love the world building of some authors, for me, I feel the novel has a good balance of some alternate history, steampunk-ish details, and the supernatural.
Phew. Okay, I’ll take today off and get cracking on editing Book #2 tomorrow!