“Have fun,” my husband called after me. “And don’t drink too much!”
I snorted and grabbed my keys on the counter before stumbling out the door. A wave of heat blasted in my face, the temperature unseasonably warm for late September in Wisconsin. A line of perspiration beaded on my forehead, and as I walked to my car, I cursed the black cardigan I had donned in an effort to look somewhat professional. But not too professional. Not like I was trying too hard or anything. Because this meeting was kind of a big deal. Because this was the day I met my editor.
It’s interesting to find yourself at a place in adulthood where you start referring to people in the possessive. My stylist. My accountant. We just bought a high-efficiency woodstove and we even have a wood guy who delivers to our door. My wood guy. But never in a million years would I have ever imagined I would find myself referring to someone as “my editor.”
Before I became a writer, before I became many things, I wanted to be an actress. I once took a workshop taught by a woman in a long, tie-dyed gown and big rings on her fingers that would glitter and shine as she would chant to us, “Take a risk! Take a risk!” Creative risks were always easy for me. I never minded looking foolish in my acting classes, rolling around on the floor imagining I was a tiger on the savannah or a child making snow angels. And I felt this way when I finally decided to cross off that one nagging item on my bucket list—to sit down and write a fantasy novel. Go on an adventure. Tell a story. Once I got the hang of it, it was just like building a fort or running around in dress up clothes. Whether I’m in a quiet black box actor’s studio or sitting at my dining room table with my headphones on, these are magical places for me. Places where anything is possible.
But there are other risks, risks creative people tend not to talk about. Risks of rejection. Risks of failure. Risks in an industry where the rules are fluid, where the finish lines are always moving, and everything you know to be true one day can turn on a dime the next. One of the biggest professional risks I’ve ever taken was answering a #MSWL tweet from a young editor named Awnna Marie Evans at Entangled. I had queried my first book heavily, and I had garnered some interest, a few full requests. I was almost there, but, as they say, “almost” only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. Not in publishing. The market was bursting with vampires, ghosts, and werewolves. My Fae urban fantasy didn’t stand a chance. Plus, and let’s face it, it was my first book, and it was riddled with all the first book problems you could imagine. It’s easy to see that now, but in February of 2015, all I could see was a book I loved, a book I desperately wanted out in the world.
Do you remember that early scene in the movie Labyrinth where Sarah meets that little worm, and he teaches her how to see the different twists and turns in the walls? I’m not comparing my editor Awnna Marie Evans to a worm (although she would look adorable in that red scarf), but to me a great editor or agent is someone like that. Someone who can help you to actually see something you’ve been looking at for a long time. This person can show you how to re-enter the labyrinth of your novel, uncover different paths, alternate endings and beginnings.
But to enter that maze is a risk for both parties because neither one knows how your novel will end up on the other side, or if the book will make it to the other side at all. There are creative risks, professional risks, but the personal risks involved between a writer and editor who choose to work on a project together are perhaps some of the most daunting. They are, in essence, the sticky sweat beneath that black cardigan, the thoughts and feelings we try so hard to cover up. The things that make us vulnerable. Human. What might begin as a simple business decision turns into a far more intricate journey with stakes that can feel impossibly high at times.
When I saw Awnna’s tweet on #MSWL I hemmed and hawed with my friend in private DMs. Do I dare sub to an editor directly? Do I dare disturb the universe? But in the end, it was the right choice. I ended up having to do an R&R for Entangled (a revise and resubmit), and Awnna felt so strongly about the project, she sent me a ton of notes, gratis. A lot of people were telling me, “take the notes and run, find an agent,” but I knew I had found the perfect partner for my novel, the guide who could help me see through the walls. Even still, any time I receive an editor’s letter or have a meeting with her, I have the uncanny sense she has traveled to the world in my head, sat down and had coffee with my characters, and returned from her own journey with news.
I met Awnna at a local winery as she was coming back from a con in Minneapolis. It was the only place open on a Sunday. She joked that she had ran out of clothes and asked me to excuse her for wearing what were essentially her pajamas—a T-shirt and yoga pants. I smiled and peeled off my black cardigan, grateful for the breeze on my bare arms. We sipped all the wines, ticking them off from whites to reds. I didn’t drink too much. We sat outside amidst the rows and rows of grapevines, already turning yellow, and talked. In fact, we shut the place down, and as the sun set over the parking lot, we lingered by her car, still sharing ideas, still discussing books, writing. Creative things.
In their simplest forms, artistic journeys are circular, always arriving back at the place we started. Whether it’s pretending to build a snowman with your fellow actors or chasing a new idea for a novel, we are forever returning to that core risk, the single spark that makes us choose something different, to create something out of nothing. When I drove away from the winery, the song “Dreams” by The Cranberries came on the radio, and I laughed. It seemed so fitting. Cliché almost, like a trailer for a bad rom-com. But I sang along anyway, at the top of my lungs with my best Dolores O’Riordan impression. Because I, too, am in the manufacturing dreams business, and they are changing.
As a child, Colleen Halverson used to play in the woods imagining worlds and telling stories to herself. Growing up on military bases, she found solace in her local library and later decided to make a living sharing the wonders of literature to poor, unsuspecting college freshmen. After backpacking through Ireland and singing in a traditional Irish music band, she earned a PhD in English with a specialization in Irish literature. When she’s not making up stories or teaching, she can be found hiking the rolling hills of the Driftless area of Wisconsin with her husband and two children. THROUGH THE VEIL is her first novel.
Elizabeth Tanner is no Tinkerbell, and her life is no fairy tale. Broke and drowning in student loans, the one thing she wants more than anything is a scholarship from the Trinity Foundation. But after the ancient Irish text she’s studying turns out to be more than just a book, she becomes their prisoner instead. And when Trinity reveals Elizabeth is half-Fae, she finds herself at the center of a plot to save the magical races of Ireland from a brutal civil war.
As Commander of Trinity’s elite warriors, Finn O’Connell isn’t used to having his authority challenged. He doesn’t know whether to punish or protect the infuriating young woman in his custody. When he discovers the Dark Fae want to use Elizabeth’s abilities to control the source of all power in the universe, he’ll risk everything to help her.
At the mercy of Trinity and enslaved to the Dark Fae, Elizabeth finds herself alone on the wrong side of an Irish myth thousands of years in the making. Refusing to be a pawn in their game, Elizabeth has to fight her way back to the man she loves, but to do so, she must wage her own war against the magic that binds her.