“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their Inspirations and Influences. In this feature, we invite writers to talk about their new books, older titles, and their writing overall.
Tomorrow, December 15, we will publish The Long And Silent Ever After by Carlie St. George–the third and final entry in The Spindle City Mysteries. Today, Carlie tells us a little bit about the Inspirations & Influences behind the final novella in the series.
Please give a warm welcome to Carlie St. George, everyone!
The Long And Silent Ever After is a Sleeping Beauty story, but surprisingly, I found my biggest inspiration in a different fairy tale: The Frog Prince. Before I can explain that, though, I have to go back and talk about The Case of the Little Bloody Slipper. Also, diversity. Fair warning, friends: I’ve got a bit of a soapbox today. Get out, or get comfy.
So. Shortly before I submitted The Case of the Little Bloody Slipper to The Book Smugglers, I did one last reread and came to a disconcerting realization: I hadn’t made mention of, or really even thought about, any of my characters’ sexualities or ethnicities. (Or, in most cases, even basic physical features. It’s an ongoing struggle for me.) Because of this, I knew that every character would most likely read as straight, white, and cisgender, and that bothered me because, like, that’s not what the world is. I wondered for a long time if I should go back and make changes…but I didn’t, at least not initially.
There were two reasons I chose not to rewrite the story. One, I was worried that if I changed the characters now instead of coming up with diverse characters in the first place, then I was just doing what the Sad/Rabid Puppies are forever accusing SJW’s of: serving themselves instead of the story by adding “diversity for diversity’s sake.” I’m a mostly-white liberal born and raised in Northern California; my greatest fear is becoming the jerk who pats herself on the back for looking progressive instead of actually being progressive. (Okay, that’s a lie: my greatest fear is probably drowning in the middle of a lake in a collapsing cave whilst fearsome aquatic spiders crawl into my mouth or something, but you know what I mean.)
The other reason I chose not to rewrite the story, honestly? I was lazy. I liked the story I’d written. I was actually pretty proud of that story, and I didn’t want to take the time to go back and make substantive changes to all my characters. I just wanted to submit it and hold my breath that someone loved it as much as I did. And if they did, I told myself, then I’d write a sequel where I introduced more diversity into Spindle City. I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I was making the wrong choice, but ultimately, I still made it.
Obviously, The Book Smugglers ended up buying my story and commissioning two more, which was just crazy awesome. But they did bring up their own concerns about the white/straight/cisgender default of every significant character, and I felt ashamed, not because they were mean to me (they weren’t) or because they tyrannically demanded that I change my story to fit their conspiratorial social agenda (they really didn’t), but because I’d already been aware of a problem in my work and had chosen to ignore it.
So, I went back to the beginning, thought about my characters–who they were, where I wanted them to go–and I made some changes. And as it turns out, making Jimmy Prince bisexual was one of the most important writing decisions I made for this entire series.
Which brings us back to The Frog Prince. Once I decided Jimmy was bisexual, I started reading through my depressingly tattered book of fairy tales to find inspiration for a character who I originally intended to be Jimmy’s ex-boyfriend, a relatively minor character. When I reread The Frog Prince, though, everything changed because I’d inadvertently stumbled across this great love story between the Prince and his servant, Iron Henry (or Faithful Henry), and bringing said love story to Spindle City ended up reshaping my entire series. I discuss specifically how in my eBook exclusive Q&A (oh, that’s right; I fear aquatic spiders, not shameless plugging), but in general, the entire plot of The Long And Silent Ever After is just as dependent on The Frog Prince as it is on Sleeping Beauty. Which means if I hadn’t decided to make Jimmy bisexual, I don’t even know what the final story in my trilogy would look like. The whole plot just collapses without it.
Sometimes, it feels like there’s an author every other day talking about why it’s not their job to include diversity, or how there’s already enough diversity in literature, or why forcing diversity on your story will inevitably make it worse. Honestly, I feel like the conversation is a lot more complicated than some Puppies or SJW’s want to admit, but when it comes to that last concern, about how adding diversity always makes your story worse? I feel like I’ve had the exact opposite experience writing the Spindle City mysteries. Purposefully going back and trying to make the series more inclusive didn’t ruin the writing experience for me; it didn’t take away from the action or the banter, and it didn’t turn all my characters into rote political mouthpieces. Trying to make the series more inclusive only served to make it better, both more nuanced and more exciting. It opened up the whole world for me, helping me create more interesting characters, and shaping the stories in ways I hadn’t anticipated. And if more readers are able to enjoy the series because they find someone or something to relate to, I mean, isn’t that kind of the whole goal?
Of course, readers might not feel this way. Some might believe that I’ve taken a fun concept and turned it into a PC nightmare. Others might say that I’ve done a poor job with representation, that I was offensive or inadequate while attempting to be inclusive. Whatever mistakes I’ve made in execution are ones I have to face and try to learn from, but I don’t think intentionally inserting diversity into the series itself is something I’m ever going to regret. Spindle City, after all, is populated by luckless gumshoes and dangerous dames, corrupt cops and scheming socialites, merciless gangsters and desperate button men. It is world full of secrets and violence and sacrifice and love. It is not a homogeneous world, anymore than our own is, and it’s probably long past time you or I try to pretend otherwise.
How to Get the Story
The Long And Silent Ever After will be published officially on December 15, 2015. You’ll be able to read the story in full for free here on The Book Smugglers, but we’ll also have a DRM-free ebook (EPUB & MOBI) that contains the story, a Q&A and an essay from the author, as well as fun extra materials about the series available for purchase on all major ebook retail sites. PLUS the ebook also contains a brand new exclusive short story, told from Jack’s perspective, called “The Stakeout Blues.”
Preorder the Ebook
Add the book on Goodreads, and read The Long And Silent Ever After for free online on December 15, 2015.