There will always be a special place in my heart for Courtney Schafer’s The Whitefire Crossing. It’s the first book I reviewed as a blogger that felt like discovery. I was the first blogger to review it (I think), and I absolutely adored it. Complete with a setting that shines in Schafer’s experienced mountain climber hands, Whitefire is a charming chase novel that promises a much deeper plot in future novels.
I should mention that Schafer took a real risk with Whitefire’s narration, swapping between first and third person depending on the point of view. It’s a tough thing to do for any author, especially an author in her debut, but Schafer pulls it off with aplomb, further evidence to the fact that she’ll be in this business for a long time. I hope anyone who reads this post will give her a shot.
Here’s Courtney Schafer…
I’ve heard some authors say their second published novel came easier than their first. To which I say: you lucky, lucky bastards! But since I’ve already talked elsewhere about why carving the Taj Mahal out of marble with my fingernails might’ve been easier than writing The Tainted City, I won’t rehash the details here. I’ll just say that I think many of the difficulties of writing a second novel can be summed up with this: before publication, writing is an escape from stress. After publication, writing becomes a source of stress. Learning to manage the stress while maintaining the joy is a different process for every author, and the solution isn’t always easy to find.
Okay, this one wasn’t exactly news to me. After all, I’m a mountaineer who thinks struggling up some insanely steep peak is the height of a good time. So I was delighted to tackle The Tainted City, because it’s a far more complex story than its predecessor The Whitefire Crossing.
Much of Whitefire’s story was fairly straightforward: a mage and a smuggler who can’t trust each other must travel the wilderness together and face dangers both physical and magical along the way. My two main characters Dev and Kiran mostly interacted with each other, and the journey gave the novel a natural structure that made writing the first draft a breeze.
But in The Tainted City, while Dev and Kiran remain the POV characters, they interact with a far larger cast of secondary characters – all of whom have their own motivations and agendas (hidden or otherwise!). Plus, while the book certainly has some scenes of mountain adventure – come on, you think I’d write a sequel to Whitefire without sneaking in some ice climbing and glissading? – they come late in the story, and this time it’s magic, intrigue, and murder that form the backbone of the plot.
When you’re a slow writer with scant free time and a looming deadline , it’s easy to panic and vow to spend EVERY SPARE SECOND on the book. No more speaking to friends! No more reading for pleasure! No more mocking bad SF shows with my husband! No more hikes, no matter how short! If I’m not caring for my son or working my day job, I will be WRITING, I said.
Thank God, my husband finally lost patience and demanded I step away from the computer. Reluctantly, I took a weekend off writing – and hey, guess what? Afterward not only did I feel better, but the writing flowed much easier again. Seems so obvious, right? Our brains need regular chances to recharge to work at their best. Yet when you’re caught up in deadline fever, it’s so terribly easy to insist, “I can’t possibly afford even a moment away – I’ll recover when the book is done.” But at least for me, progress came much faster if I actually gave myself a little time off each week. Besides, if you want to get inspired for writing an adventure fantasy, there’s nothing better than actually getting out and having some adventures of your own.
When I hear people say, “Write what you love,” I give a hearty AMEN. Writing a book is hard. Not only that, it’s time-consuming beyond all reason, and the publishing industry is crazier than a barrel full of clowns on crack. But if you love your story enough, none of that matters worth a damn.
I remember when Whitefire first went on submission, I couldn’t bring myself to take the sage advice that says “Never write a sequel until the first book sells.” I started work on The Tainted City, hell with what made the most sense career-wise, because the Shattered Sigil books were the story I wanted to tell. I loved my characters and world far too much to leave the story unfinished, even if the series never saw the light of day.
In the end, it’s that passion for the story that kept my butt in the computer chair for all the countless hours over the last year. And the best part is: I still love this story. Truly, madly, deeply. So much so that once again I intend to move right ahead to work on the third and final book in the series, even though it’s not yet under contract. I’ll put the book out myself if I have to; but no way will I leave this story unfinished. I’m having way too much fun. And if you decide to check out The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City, I hope you will too.