It all began six years ago. On a warm Ozark Sunday morning back in 2008, I found myself looking at a piece of property on the shores of Beaver Lake in Carroll County, Arkansas. The bluffs, the wet-weather stream beds, the gnarled trees—the land spoke to me. Rick, my partner, and I climbed down to the water’s edge through a mass of vegetation that seems to grow everywhere in the Ozarks, and were captivated by the quiet moments we shared listening to the gentle lapping sound of waves breaking on the pebble shore. I started that day looking for a place to build a house, not the setting for a fiction story. That particular piece of property sold years ago, but it did stir the creative juices and set the WFJ series in motion.
The idea for the Weald Fae Journals came about slowly and, if I’m being honest, it started out dramatically different than the story you now know. Rick and I both commented on how “magical” the property seemed. As is often the case with us, we began talking about the kind of house we’d build there. From the beginning, there was only one style that would work for me. A huge fan of Carmel by the Sea, I had to have a storybook cottage—the land demanded it. I spent a week or two scouring the internet for images and plans, hoping to find the perfect storybook home. It didn’t exist. So I sketched it, and awkwardly plotted the lines on a CAD program until I had a floor plan. Over the next few weeks, I tweaked and altered the plans until I’d created a cottage that I have ever since dreamt of building by the lake. Every detail of it emerged, from the chestnut colored beams and stone fireplaces, to the plum roof tiles, the old stone gazebo, and the octagonal library. I’d lost myself in what was possible—practicality never played a role. It became Aunt May’s cottage in the WFJ’s series (and yes, I will build it one day).
Once I had the cottage plans (and then managed to convince Rick that a storybook would be the way to live—not an easy task, by the way), we set out searching other pieces of property. For weeks we looked, and then one day, yet another Sunday, we found the perfect piece of land. Unfortunately, on a visiting professor’s salary, I didn’t have the means to buy it at the time, but I found a way to make it look like I had envisioned. The Weald was born.
Originally, the idea of writing about the land and the cottage was intended purely as a way to entertain our friends’ children. I thought it would be amazing to write my own “Weald Creation Story,” and add it to the mystery and charm that already existed on the land. For months I wrote pages and pages of “fairy tales,” aiming to keep children entertained and, I hoped, make their visit to the Weald a little more magical. I continued until I’d written about 160 pages. No protagonist, no Unseelie, just fairytales to bring each crazy feature of the property to life. That’s how it stayed for months.
In the fall, Rick and I were walking around Lake Fayetteville—which is just a few miles from where I live now, and often served us as a surrogate for Beaver lake—and everything changed. It occurred to me that I should write a story that people might want to read. That was daunting. I’d practiced law for a few years, conducted terrorism research at the University of Arkansas, and had just finished my Ph.D. Interesting achievements, yes, but none of them provided me a clue about writing fiction. Today, I believe it’s a good thing I was blissfully ignorant and naïve, both about writing a novel and finding an agent. Had I known anything about literary agents and slush piles when I began? Well, I rarely do anything that leads to perpetual rejection and unmitigated frustration. But I digress.
I knew I wanted to write a fantasy fiction—it’s my favorite genre. With that in mind, I tried to breathe life into a protagonist, craft a struggle, and create a world for it to take place. I wrote the first chapter—it took a week. What I had was awful, and I knew it. Maggie was a sniveling brat, and I still didn’t have a real plot. Other than the fact that I knew she would have powers, I had nothing else.
Some people call me driven—and I suppose with three post-graduate degrees, that is somewhat true of me. But more than anything, I’m stubborn. I refused to let a little thing like “no plot” stand in my way, so I did what I’d been trained to do elsewhere in my life…I started researching. I spent the summer of 2010 prepping for a class I was teaching in the fall, and reading everything I could on the Fae. I didn’t read popular fiction. Instead I read books on folklore and books by authors who believe them to be real. Early on, I paid more attention to Irish legends of the Sidhe than anything. I found them fascinating. I preferred the more ancient version of Sidhe that tied those beings to the elements, rather than the fallen angel tradition that came much, much later.
As my research progressed, I began looking at Fae and similar beings from other traditions—German, Chinese, Native American. It was mesmerizing. That summer, the summer of 2010, the Fae as I’ve written them began to coalesce. With a better idea of what I wanted, I returned to my manuscript and began working on story details. I wrote the Earth trial first, figured out the Water trial next, and crafted sentences for a few weeks with a clearer picture of who I wanted Maggie to be. While trying to sleep one night, but unable to keep my mind from wading through the story, a plot began to form in my sleep-deprived brain. Excited, inspired, I got up—I think it was about 2 a.m.—and settled in front of my computer. By 6 a.m., I’d outlined the entire WFJ series—all four books. While I freely admit to “massaging” parts of it from time to time, the finished product is remarkably close to that original outline. I still intend to build a storybook cottage on Beaver Lake, but in some ways, I feel like I already have.