The Book Launch
My book launch was everything I could have hoped for and more! Surrounded by family and friends, new and old, that night ranks as my third favorite day (My wedding day and giving birth as my other two favorite days)
If you weren't able to be there, here is the transcript of my speech, as well as a few answers from my Q&A:
Good evening. Before I begin, I want to give a wholehearted thank you to the Urban Arts Gallery and to the Utah Art Alliance for having me here this evening and for hosting this event. The coordinator and staff have been phenomenal and I highly recommend you browse the gallery this evening before you leave. Everything in this gallery is created by local artists. And I do not say this lightly when I say, there cannot be enough art in the world today.
I did not put this event on alone. I had lots of help. Will Sally, Cammie, Julie, Pam, my sister, Emilie, and my family stand up? Please help me applaud them for making this party so beautiful!
I also want to express my gratitude to my publisher, Immortal Works, who saw my manuscript as I did, something special.
I want to give my most sincere thank you to you for being here tonight. I would not be standing here with you without the incredible support system that encircles me and my life.
Like Sloane, the main character of The Befallen, I have found that although there are some tasks that must be completed alone, like drafting a book, I am all too aware that it is because of my friends, my family, editors, colleagues, and most of all, my incredible husband that I stand here today with my very real little book baby.
The Befallen began as a kernel of a scene, as most of my writing does. A singular scene in which the hero shows her strength. Sloane came to me in a quiet manner and did not fit the stereotypical description of a hero. For one, Sloane has a disabled leg. Second, she is virtually alone and possesses almost nothing. Except for faith and perseverance. I loved her right away and I hope that you will too.
I do not know what it is like to be physically disabled, but I live with O.C.D. and as a secondary educator, I have taught a number of students who, in one way or another, whether it be a learning disability, a physical limitation, or emotional scars they must carry, do not fit in. When I began drafting this novel, it was important to me to bring to light characters who do not always belong. I think that it is important to remember that readers, too, have struggles. And whether or not those are physical or invisible mental or emotional hardships, the giving of oneself over to a story is both a beautiful escapism and a very collective experience that equips us to delve into our own realities. Realities that require hope. That requires empathy. That requires, sometimes, the strength that we do not know we possess just to get through a single day. This makes the art of stories, whether you are a writer or reader limitless.
Because you are here this evening, you must also believe in the power of storytelling. This story, the story of The Befallen, is one of faith and found family. It’s about the moon and its magic. And it's about reckoning and redemption. Sloane is a character who sees herself and whose only wish is to have others see and understand her as well. And isn’t that what we long for? To be seen and understood?
That is what makes storytelling so magical. Stories show us that you do not need to go on a quest to be adventurous. You do not need to be a knight to be brave. And you do not need mystical gifts to demonstrate perseverance, conviction, and compassion.
It is my hope that The Befallen will speak these things to you and above all, show you, my family, my friends, new and old, that no one who is loved is unsung. Thank you.
Question: Tell us about how you began writing.
First, I want to talk about when I began to read. Because I believe that good writers are good readers. My mom taught me to love to read. When I was a child, my mom worked from home so I was left to my own devices at times. Which was an absolutely wonderful way to grow a very large imagination. But my mom would read to my sister and me in the afternoons every day. I knew her work was important. But by her doing that, I knew that reading–that stories–was important. And I always knew I was important because she would make that time for me. But, as I said, I had time as a child. I started writing stories when I was a child. And, again, I had a very patient mom, who would help me spell words. Because it was important to me, even as a child, to be professional [laughs]. So I started stories about girls with horses and horses with girls. And most of my characters were named Jessica. I don’t know if that’s because The Man from Snowy River was one of my favorite movies as a child, but there was often a Jessica in my story.
We moved around a lot when I was a child and in fifth grade for lack of friends, I invented imaginary friends, which, I know now, is unusual for a ten-year-old to do. Unbeknownst to me, my fifth-grade teacher entered a short story I’d written into a district writing contest. The story was a prompt given by my teacher about Rodin's The Thinker. It was about a girl who sees outside her window a homeless man sitting in the cold on a snowy winter night. She wonders what he is thinking about as she goes to bed. The next morning, she goes outside to confront him, only to find he's died in the night. She is saddened to discover she'll never know what he was thinking.
. . . I guess I have always liked dark stories. Anyway, I won that contest. And you would think that as a young writer, I would have been overjoyed, but because of my school circumstances and where I fit in on the fifth-grade food chain, I was mortified. It was ammo for my bullies.
But I went to this writing festival I’d been invited to anyway. Probably because I knew my bullies wouldn’t be there. And there was Beverly Cleary. She spoke there. And I got to meet her. She didn’t read my work, but she had kind eyes and said, “Young lady, you keep writing.” From there, it was just a matter of time and meandering, filling countless notebooks with prose and poetry and more imaginary characters that eventually brought me to this place.
Question: What surprises occurred while writing this novel?
This novel was full of surprises. The first surprise was that I wrote an entire novel while I was earning my MFA in writing. I treated The Befallen like a practice novel as I’d read a text about doing such to gain experience in a low-stakes scenario. The novel came out fast, which told me that I had something on my hands. When I got close to the nine-month mark in drafting, I made a goal to finish it in 9 months as a sort of symbolic end. Another surprise was my character, Tolvar. Tolvar started out as a writing exercise in my MFA program but was just too grumpy, too tortured, too interesting to ignore. While The Befallen began as a singular POV work, I added Tolvar’s POV and I’m so glad I did. I love my tortured knight. But the last surprise was that one of my beta readers saved the life of a particular character in the book. I won’t tell you who because I don’t want to give any spoilers, but Brooke, thank you. It was the right decision.
Question: Tell us about the world of The Befallen.
I would love to. The world of The Befallen takes place in the continent of Tasia on a small island kingdom called Deogol. The island is known for its diverse terrain and incredible landscapes. It’s also a dangerous place overrun by a band of highwaymen called the Ravyns. Deogol is a superstitious place, but it’s also a place of forgotten lore and forgotten faith. But Sloane is one of the true faithful in her kingdom who believe in the thirteen goddesses of the moon. On the night of the full moon, one may pray to the particular goddess of that moon for specific blessings. Though most in the land have forsaken this belief system which has helped to keep the kingdom safe, Sloane never wavers in her belief. There is a dichotomy between Deogol and its closest neighboring kingdom, The Capella Realm, which is a large and prosperous empire that celebrates enormous prosperity because of the five priestesses that safeguard that land.
World-building is one of the most
rewarding aspects of writing fantasy. I love delving into both the everyday life and the unique culture of another world, considering how the societal norms of that world both reflect and oppose those of our own society. A fantastical world can hold up a mirror to our society in many ways, making readers consider what norms of society we wish would change or improve. My characters see things in their world they wish would change, and they try to do just that. Sloane is, of course, the first. But there are others coming in The Befallen's sequel.