Given I do have a published novel, it might seem crazy to get super-excited about a short story, but finding a home for my steampunk tale Bitter Pill gives me a huge thrill. I wrote the first draft of this story about an assassin sent to Hong Kong to find the Pill of Immortality back in 2012. The story marked a turning point in my writing, because I felt a command of the written word I’d not previously known.
My time writing the young assassin Yu Sharpe was a unique experience for me. Once I knew what I wanted to write, I didn’t choose how to tell the story on a whim. No, I knew how it needed to be told. I felt like I’d stepped outside of the Matrix and could see the code behind the story I was going to write. Given where the story was going to go and with the concept driving it, I needed this to be told out of order. I also needed it to be first person, as deep inside Yu’s head as I could possibly get it, because the way she sees her world unravel is the heart of the story.
I took a big gamble in writing Yu, because I’ve rarely strayed beyond a male protagonist for my main character. I was also getting into the head of someone from a different culture and time period. Writing from Yu’s point-of-view wasn’t a struggle, though. I found being in her mind somewhat freeing, and her very first words set the tone:
I paint mortality.
The dagger draws shades of red from my victim’s flesh, and my art flows across the floor or ground for its canvas.
Death is a beautiful release.
Immortality… That is the bitter pill.
Most of my main characters, like the vampire hunter in my young adult novel Gidion’s Hunt, view the world in literal terms. That doesn’t allow for a lot of eloquent description, but Yu gifted me with an artist who paints death in a manner that makes violence look beautiful. It’s not that I don’t enjoy telling a story from a character who’s more clinical in his descriptions, but it was refreshing and reassuring to see I could go the other direction.
Two years later, I found a home for Bitter Pill. Tee Morris and Phillipa Ballantine gave me the opportunity to adapt it to the steampunk spy world of their series The Ministrty of Peculiar Occurrences. You would think after two years of tweaking a short storty, it couldn’t possibly hold any secrets for me to find, but as the work began to tailor the story for the Ministry’s world, I discovered how important an extra set of eyes could be–not once, but twice. I’ll save what those surprises were for next week’s blog entry.
|Also available as an ebook from:|