“So, when I open that box of books in a couple of weeks, it isn’t just my victory; there are others who deserve a big thank you. ‘I get by with a little help from my friends…’ And find a new way to strand a few thousand colonists now and then.”
My first box of books for Stealing Ares is on the way as I write this, and among the people I want to thank, and Lord knows there are many, my podcasting friends, The Wild Women Who Write, are at the top of my list. To get even more specific, Kathy Nichols—who conceived of the Wild Women podcast—is responsible for me dusting off Stealing Ares when I had placed it firmly in the recesses of a drawer.
One evening when we were recording Episode 3: Characters Take Over, a podcast where we opted to just talk among ourselves, I was reminded of the old SNL Coffee Talk episodes when Mike Myers, as a suburbanite woman with a Long Island accent would say, “I’ll give you a topic: Dogs, daughters, no big whoop. Talk amongst yourselves.” Kathy, not a Long Islander but a Tennessean, told us about this great exercise for writers where they’re given a topic and must answer questions as their characters. At the time, I was concentrating on writing an OCD memoir, along with my daughter, Sloane, but because the Wild Women were supposed to be answering these questions as a fictional character from our writing, I decided to answer them as Harlow Hanson from Stealing Ares. As the podcast progressed and we got further into our characters’ heads, I realized something important: I missed Harlow.
So exactly why did I put Stealing Ares, and by extension, my kickass heroine, Harlow, in a drawer in the first place? Well, I had written it more than three years before COVID began, and because I had always been fascinated by the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, I wrote a pandemic into Stealing Ares, where it created problems for the Mars colony that still needed help from Earth. However, when I was querying agents during the pandemic, they began posting on their websites “no pandemic stories.” Because, you guessed it, they were getting inundated with them. It didn’t matter that I had written this story almost four years prior. Discouraged, I knew I would have to go through the entire manuscript and rewrite. But hey, writers are a resilient bunch. I’ve written six books. Why in the world would switching out one disaster for another knock me for a loop? Well, it shouldn’t, I decided. And there you have it. The manuscript came out of the drawer.
That’s when the caldera blew! I replaced the virus with an eruption. There’s a caldera underneath Yellowstone National Park that could go up at any time, and ash would circle the Earth for generations and cripple the world. This would create hardships for those Martian colonists as easily as a pandemic would.
But the point is this: we need each other. As solitary as we writers can sometimes be, hunched over our computers, the glow of our monitors illuminating our bloodshot eyes, we need the fellowship of other writers. We need the encouragement, the ideas, the networking. Most of all, we need the support—and occasionally the kick in the pants—we can only get by showing up for each other. Maybe we even need each other to remind us that the manuscript we’ve placed in a drawer is still very dear to us.
So, when I open that box of books in a couple of weeks, it isn’t just my victory; there are others who deserve a big thank you. “I get by with a little help from my friends…”
And find a new way to strand a few thousand colonists now and then.