The roots of obsession and my Work in Progress

July 30, 2012

 By Leo Valiquette

For some time now I’ve been dropping hints on the Twittersphere about my efforts as a fiction writer. On this blog I’ve been decidedly more forthright. Nonetheless, I’ve been reluctant to spill the beans about just what my Work in Progress is all about.

It’s a bit ironic considering I get paid to help others tell their stories and actively push those stories to the media. I find it much easier to be a cheerleader for others before myself. But, no more. Here at last is my first blatantly self-promotional and self-indulgent blog post as a fiction writer.

A long time ago …

I suppose it all began when I was seven years old and my mother joined a book-of-the-month club with one of those deals where you get four free books for signing up. She chose E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little, along with the novelization of a new movie that had just hit theatres – Star Wars. Yes, it’s true. At the age of seven, I was reading Star Wars. Well, to be honest, it was like wading through a snow bank on the ice planet Hoth that’s neck deep, but you’ve gotta start somewhere.

In Grade 3, my teacher read the class The Hobbit, and I borrowed it for the summer when she wasn’t able to finish it by the end of the school year. I think it was the map in The Hobbit, as well as illustrated histories of ancient civilizations in my school library, that compelled me to create my own story settings. A few years later, I was using my allowance to buy a genre magazine, I think it was Famous Monsters of Filmland, which would serialize old flicks like The Blob and Rodan into written works of pulp fiction. Since I was never able to buy all the issues for the full story, I started writing my own endings.

In high school drama class, our teacher expected us to develop projects for the annual Renaissance Fair. Students could do anything from covers of Bill Cosby stand-up routines to dance, theatre and the fine arts. I decided to showcase my first stab at a fantasy novel, complete with maps and character illustrations that I had coerced a talented classmate into doing for me (wish I could find those).

By college, I had played with various ideas and redeveloped that first novel through several iterations. (I’ve since lost the most recent version of it, as well as the only draft of the sequel, but that’s a painful story for another post.)

The idea for a short story that grew into the epic fantasy currently titled Knight of Aegias first came to me in 1999. I have this problem writing short fiction—it always ends up bursting at the seams. I just can’t create a plotline without wanting to spend more time with the idea and the characters than the length constraints of a typical short story allow.

Birth of a monster

It wasn’t until July 2004 that I deemed the first draft done—a bloated and wordy beast that clocked in at 193,000 words. I actually queried a couple of agents about that thing. Hopefully they’ve long forgotten.

Then came ownership of a house in need of a little TLC, the responsibilities of being a newspaper editor and a little monkey named William. The manuscript was left to collect dust. I tried my hand at short fiction again, because it was, well, short, and did garner some encouraging feedback on the rejection slips.

A couple of years ago I finally resumed work on that 193,000-word monster with the aid of an axe named Delete and the indulgence of my long-suffering partner in all things, Natalie. I also hit my first literary conferences where I could engage with other writers, as well as agents and publishers. Today Knight of Aegias is a much leaner and meaner 123,000-word manuscript that I have begun shopping around to various agents with the aid of Publishers Marketplace.

The logline

So just what is my Work in Progress all about?  Knight of Aegias is the story of Ryn, a former soldier who broke faith with the church he served after his oaths to obey his superiors led him to betray his conscience and stain his hands with innocent blood. He finds a chance at redemption in the destiny of the woman he loves, but it comes at a price. Sometime soon I’ll share my agent pitch and the first chapter.

Is there a moral to be found in my journey as a fiction writer? If anything, I suppose it’s the tired old cliché that a writer writes, always. But it’s a cliché because it’s true. No matter where I’ve been, no matter what I’ve been doing, I’ve always been lured by the call of a blank page. Along the way there have been long periods of time in which the demands of life and making a living have taken precedence. But the desire to explore a world of my own making, the restless discontent that drives my compulsion to do better, the need to just tell a story—these things have always been there and always will be.

I have no idea if I will ever make a reasonable living from making stuff up, but that’s not really the point.

 

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