Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guest Authors: Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto

The Duchess of the Shallows

Looking back, it was inevitable that we would write a story together.

We met at a poetry reading at Giovanni's Room, the nation's first gay and lesbian bookstore. (We're too shy to say which of us was actually reading that night.) We got to talking afterwards, and a very big part of our conversation was stories, and characters and why we loved them. Both of us had a background in writing, as well as a love of games that told stories, like computer text-adventures back in the day, and especially role-playing games (RPGs) like Dungeons & Dragons.

This shared love of both games and stories led us to the Shallows and Duchess.

It started in late 2007, when we sat down to play an RPG between the two of us. We had a vague idea of a thief operating in a Renaissance-style urban setting that was something like Seattle and a bit like San Francisco, with the larger-than-life ingredient that is a staple of any fantasy tale. As the game went on the city came alive – a real place filled with real people. Our thief became less of a bog-standard rogue and more of a person with her own motivations living in a difficult and complicated world. Soon enough we had the Shallows in the City of Rodaas and its first named inhabitant, Duchess.

The nice thing about improvising a story is that you can throw out plot elements without knowing what they mean at the time and connect them to the story later when you figure it out. "What if Duchess is an orphan with a secret past?", "What if there are remnants of an ancient civilization?" or "What if the brothel-keeper knows everyone's secrets?" We included these and many more, and only as the game played out did we discover just how these elements enriched the world and painted a picture of who Duchess really was. 

Eventually, we were inspired by National Novel Writing Month to turn our game into a manuscript. For the next three years we crammed in writing and editing between work, sports, vacations, and several changes in jobs and lodgings, but we never lost our dedication to the work. Lucky us, we had recorded every single session of the game, so we were able to go back and remind ourselves how things had gone. Games are not novels, however, and deciding what should stay the same and what must be changed was a constant challenge. As every writer knows, stories have their own way of growing and changing, and the writer has to respect and accommodate that growth even if it means leaving cherished notions behind. Much like being a parent, except of course you'll never have to send the manuscript to college!

In the end, we were left with a fantasy story that was not quest-for-the-Sword-of-Eternity-and-kill-Lord-Evil but something more character-focused and personal. It didn't take long for us to realize there wasn't much space in the publishing industry for The Duchess of the Shallows, and so we decided to take our case directly to the readers. 

The title "self-published author" has in many circles all the cachet of "leper", but we've been delighted by overwhelmingly positive reader response. Thanks to the support of places like Bookingly Yours, we're hoping to reach even more readers who are willing to take a chance on do-it-yourselfers like us. 

The novel has become something else we now share, along with a house, our lives, and our love of story. Something that's grown along with us, and – like our relationship – has become something much, much more.

More information about The Duchess of the Shallows, along with free sample chapters, is available at http://peccable.com/duchess


Related Posts with Thumbnails