I started writing Thane in 2003. I was fifteen. I had vague plans to be the next Christopher Paolini (who had started Eragon when he was fifteen and was just starting to become famous). The problem with this plan (ok, ONE problem with this plan) was that I didn't have a story. What was I going to write about?
Well, there would be fighting. That was a given. At that time I spent a good portion of my days throwing knives, slinging rocks, and shooting arrows in my backyard. I was getting ready to sign up for fencing classes at the local community college. I was practically a fighting expert.
Unfortunately, "fighting" isn't a story.
I completed my first draft in one year. It was called "A Time for War", and I use the term "completed" loosely, because the story had no end. In fact, the only thing completed about it was that it was already longer than the majority of in-print novels.
I kept writing. Between 2004 and 2011 I wrote in spurts, sometimes for hours a day (usually in the summers between semesters), sometimes not writing at all for months. By early 2011 I had re-written everything three or four times and had a 206,000-word manuscript with lots of potential, but still no ending.
That summer I decided to get serious about things. I was working nine hour days at an internship, but every day after work I came home and shut myself in one of Stanford's computer labs for two hours minimum. By the end of the summer, I had a 184,000-word story (yes, a real story, with a beginning and ending and everything). I was stoked.
I finished grad school at the end of the year. In the summer of 2012 I sold my first few short stories (for a whopping $10 and $7), and by December I had completed a third draft that was tighter (167,000 words), neater, and (I thought) pretty darn good. It was time to find an agent.
But what category did my novel fit into? It was set in an imaginary world of swords and castles (like fantasy), but it had no magic, elves or other "fantastical" elements. It had young protagonists (like young adult), but was considerably longer and deeper than the typical YA novel.
So I pitched to both genres. As it turns out, fantasy agents want fantasy, YA agents want high-concept plots with a definite genre, and neither one wants to look at 167,000 words from a new author.
I began to look at breaking "Thane of Botan" into two shorter books. I was reluctant, at first, but as I began to split and re-write and re-write again, I realized that I actually had two distinct stories. Excitedly I fleshed out the first story and pitched it to more YA agents, first as "War Knot" and later as "Thane".
This was a good move, because I began to receive requests for partial and full manuscripts. Unfortunately, the replies that came back all had the same basic message: "This is really good... but I wouldn't know how to place it." The basic problem--that my book did not fit squarely within any particular genre--was making the traditional publishing approach look less and less feasible.
I began to look into self-publishing. I found that it was surprisingly easy to do, and surprisingly difficult to do right. I learned Photoshop, CorelDraw, and bit about HTML. I conscripted friends and family members to proof-read, went through six or seven iterations of design on the print version, and got everything formatted for the ebook. I told myself that I would finish by June of 2014. At the time of this writing (mid-May of 2014), it looks like I'm going to make it.
So here we are. Thane, the first of at least two books in the Everknot series, is finished. I hope you like it.
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