It was about 1.5 years ago that I began Thirty Minutes to Heartbreak, and at first, it was not one of my more carefully planned projects. It was January 2011 and I had recently gone through a tough time. I had not been able to go to work, leave my apartment for any reason, see friends, or do much of anything for several months. I spent all my timing reading and writing to escape. I imagine this isn't too special, and many people have episodes like this. A contributing factor may have been that my boyfriend of 4 years had just left me under unpleasant circumstances.
The first three chapters began gushing out without my permission, even somewhat to my dismay. I was surprised (and fascinated) with how much the story was focused on revenge, and how petty and vindictive the characters seemed-- but the story had three unusual qualities for my writing: it was fun, sexy, and twisted. I sat on the chapters for a while, nervous and uncertain about whether anyone would like them. Finally, I released them on my usual writing website, and the response was incredibly positive. I was encouraged to continue, and only then did I allow myself to begin consciously making long-term plans for the rest of the story.
I was insanely relieved-- the fact that others were already enjoying the story I desperately wanted to write gave me the permission and excuse I needed to keep going. I had no money, and I had just moved out of home and begun renting an apartment. I had just graduated and I was in huge debt to student loans and credit cards. The circumstances were not ideal for writing, but nonetheless, I could not stop. So, in my little basement apartment in High Park (a rather pretty, forested area of Toronto) I worked for countless hours, completely immersed in this story. It was dark underground, and I had heavy curtains, so I lost track of time and never knew whether it was day or night. It was exactly what I needed to temporarily forget while simultaneously rubbing my face directly in what ailed me; a healing balm and self-punishment all wrapped up in one.
From January to April I did nothing but working on Thirty Minutes. I paid my rent with my credit cards and tried to ignore my mounting debt. Nothing else was important but that story and doing everything in my power to entertain and impress the readers. They gave me much-needed validation and I literally lived for good reviews; I couldn't find happiness or self-worth in anything else. Hours were spent just chatting with fans and trying to determine the mechanics of the story. What portion was science and what portion was magic? Hours were spent addressing how to redeem the characters. But most of all, readers told me that it made them feel. I was obsessed.
Here's the thing: it was merely fanfiction. It was a story I NEVER intended to publish. I wrote it because I physically could not make myself do anything else. Readers began to shower me with kudos, suggesting that I publish. I can't tell you how many people sent me articles about Amanda Hocking, and how many people told me that I had surpassed their previous favorite authors and they enjoyed my work more than "real books." This stunned me. I had been writing incessantly since I was a kid, but the level of praise I was receiving was new. I always knew I would need to be a writer someday, but was I finally good enough? Maybe someday was finally here.
I was 22, miserable and dirt poor, but a spark of confidence was ignited in me. Just like the woman I was writing about, Para, I began to change and grow. When I began writing Thirty Minutes I was broken and unsure, but after a three-month marathon, my mind had been completely sharpened and refreshed. I felt like anything was possible-- I felt capable of conquering the world. So I did.
After a period of withdrawal, I often feel the need to come out swinging harder than ever to compensate. That's how I work-- I'm not consistent, but I'm lethal in brief spurts of productivity. I made a goal to fix my financial troubles, and over the course of the summer I completely turned my life around. I told myself that once I was able to fix my living situation and save up a few dollars, I could return to writing with peace of mind. And I did. By November I was able to buy my first house, and I achieved this while being disciplined enough to write consistently. Throughout all I did, the story was my priority.
There was one line I happened to write in Thirty Minutes that inspired all of the Sacred Breath Series. It was a scene where one of my male characters is observing his ex-girlfriend through a viscose green liquid, and he imagines that she looks like a drowned mermaid. He's a bit of a silly character, and he dwells on the thought for some time, imagining the details of whether a mermaid could drown and whether it had gills or lungs like other aquatic mammals.
I spent so much time thinking about this story. I drove from Toronto to Chicago and back three times last year (9 hours each way) and each trip was filled with visions of the characters unfolding in my mind. I played out scenes hundreds of times, sometimes tweaking the tiniest details. It was never redundant, and it was always pleasurable.
I had often considered re-writing TMTH so that it could be enjoyed by a larger audience, but I had always dismissed the idea. So much of the world was built on the ideas of others that I felt guilty. I thought it would be dishonorable to stand on the pillars of someone else's creation and chose to publish only the ideas which were completely original-- if even there is such a thing. I considered my tail-less, biologically plausible mermaids to be as original as I could manage.
However, this year with the recent success of Fifty Shades of Grey, which as we all know, used to be Twilight fanfiction, I seriously reconsidered my preconceived notions of honor. I realized that all ideas are built on the creations of others, and if I could find a way to completely change the the mythology of my beloved story, maybe I could regurgitate it in a new and improved form. The idea rattled around in my head for several months before I thought of making my characters witches.
I considered this for a while before deciding it would never work; I created Thirty Minutes as a virtual playground for superpowers. When you're feeling powerless, what could be better than reading about characters who can do practically anything? Eventually, I decided that my characters could not fit the mold of just any mythical creature-- they needed to be gods.
Para needed to be a vengeful goddess. It should have been clear to me long ago! I researched Buddhist mythology and found that the concept of demigods called "devas" were precisely what I needed. I grew so, so excited about this! I was eager to spend time with my characters again--and created a few new characters, in fact. The original Thirty Minutes was 310K words-- to perform the adaptation, I took the first 60K words and re-wrote them with an additional 40K words. The novel is 100K words in length, which works out to being... long. Even after the events of Paramount, I have the material already written for about 3-4 more novels in this series, and the plans to easily write six in total. I am only a teensy bit older and wiser, but I believe I have grown as a writer since the story first hit the internet. The new version truly is better; it's more polished, and more riveting.
I have three full-length novels completed, but for some reason I cannot wait to receive the paperback copy of Thirty Minutes in the mail! The cover is just gorgeous, and I have never wanted anything more than to sit down and just read my own paperback book. Although I wrote it, and I've read this story over and over dozens of times, I still want to live in that world. I suppose that's what love is-- not being bored of something, even when it is no longer new. Although, technically, rewriting it has injected new life into the story and made it new again.
It might be the fire. I feel so much closer to the fire of Thirty Minutes than the water of the Sacred Breath Series. It's definitely my favorite element; I'd much rather go out in a burning blaze than by drowning!
I chatted with a few readers about this, and had my spirits totally lifted to hear them speak about how much they care for the story. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I can't explain the allure of Thirty Minutes or why it is so beloved. The story is a pretty simple concept of two loyal friends helping each other out. It's rather down-to-earth (once you look past the arrogant omnipotent characters) and oftentimes the characters are foolish. But I know one thing for certain; there's something special about this one.
Writing this story has already changed my life for the better.