Do not ask me how I found myself, yesterday, editing a long-shelved manuscript, but I did. Do not ask me what it was that prompted me to check the submissions requirements for an e-book publisher I have worked with before, but, again, I did. Do not ask me how my brain said, “Anna, you could totally send that there. Go open the file, poke it with a stick, and send it off.” I do not have an answer for that, either, but, for the time it took for me to make adjustments I’d known I had to make, for years, my brain was entirely focused on the work, not the domestic tornadoes that have whipped through the week so far, not the hot, sticky weather, not the feeling that I should be oh so much farther along this writing road by now, not anything that was not John and Aline and their road trip from Aline’s plague-ravaged fishing village to a city that may or may not exist (she thinks it does, he isn’t so sure) and it was…nice. No stress, only story. Only fun.
This is the story, originally titled Draperwood, then Ravenwood, now A Heart Most Errant (I seem to be going through a lot of titles these days, and I am okay with that.) I wrote during a time of huge life upheaval, and the story that made me cry actual tears when I reached The End, because I had spent so much time with John and Aline, that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but the story was done. They reached their destination, though it wasn’t what either of them had expected, and they were happy. They were both home at last. Me, at the time, not so much, because that was one journey that wasn’t yet over in real life, but them? They were going to be fine.
They still are. That’s one good thing about checking in on characters one has waved off into the sunset some time ago. Even though I honestly have no idea what prompted me to dust this story off, or set a deadline for taking a chance on submission, after some really good rejections and a resting period, when I did open the file, it felt right. There they were, as happy to see me as I was to see them. Maybe they sorted out a few things while I was busy in other centuries, but if that works, hey, I can deal with that.
I first wrote John and Aline’s story when I saw an issue of RT Book Reviews magazine that featured separate articles on both medieval romance and post-apocalyptic romance. I like both of those things. Could they be two great tastes that tasted great together? Even in the whirl of grief, caregiving and other concurrent adventures, I couldn’t wait to find out, so I didn’t. To the people of fourteenth century England, having the Black Plague sweep through multiple times in only a couple of decades had to seem like the end of the world. The unbelievably high body count wouldn’t be the only casualty of the plague, but buildings burned to eliminate contagion, businesses and professions knocked to their knees due to the loss of people who could do those jobs, and travelers or expats, like knight errant John, who returned from their travels to find there was literally nothing left and nowhere to go.
I have always been drawn to stories about survivors, those who lose everything and yet keep on going, so John and Aline’s story is very close to my heart. Maybe the only answer to why toss a third ball into the mix when I am already juggling two other books and it’s domestic tornado season is that it is time. What do I have to lose? As my Aunt S used to tell me, “the worst they can say is no, and then you’ll be exactly where you were before you asked.” So, that’s what I’m doing. I don’t think I need to know precisely why.
Is this story perfect? No. Will it ever be? Again, no. Is it right, though? Yes. Is it true, though? Again, yes. Not true as in there are historical records to prove that people with my characters’ names actually existed and this is what happened to them, because no, there is not; they were born in my head. What I put on the page, though, is an accurate representation of the story they told me, so I’m okay with that. Sometimes “good enough” is enough of a goal. If this publisher says no, there are others, and if they all say no, well, I’ve been curious about the indie process for a while now.
What I do know is that it’s time. Sure, “post-apocalyptic medieval” isn’t a term one hears every day, but everything we know now was once done for the first time. Though I don’t normally think in series, there is one not-a-monk who has been giving me a sly glance from beneath his hood as I edit the sections where he appears, and, if he has a story to tell, I am here to listen.