The Big Idea: Jillian Boehme
First drafts are made to be edited. Author Jillian Boehme talks about the process of rewriting in her Big Idea for The Stolen Kingdom. Read on to see how a fresh take on an old work could end up being your next big thing.
The first thing that needs to be perfectly clear is that The Stolen Kingdom, my second published novel, is a complete rewrite of my first-ever-written, very horrible novel, entitled The Seeds of Perin Faye. And the big idea behind that was, simply, that I could write a better novel than the one I was currently reading, a middle grade fantasy that will remain nameless.
I didn’t believe that I could ever write a novel, you see. So the moment when I decided that, well, I actually could, if I tried, was the catalyst for my career. The Seeds of Perin Faye was everything a first novel usually is—overwritten, poorly structured, and trope-y. The story was told from two points of view—12-year-old Maralyth, who, along with her friend Alac, had all sorts of adventures with magic stones and a time-traveling great-grandmother and a rather Gandalf-y character named Soldan; and 16-year-old Nestar, Maralyth’s brother, whose storyline was far more exciting. He (lucky chap) discovered he was of the royal bloodline that used to rule Perin Faye, before the throne had been stolen by the current king’s ancestor. Nestar becomes embroiled in a plot to murder the king and his family and take the throne.
Fast forward at least fifteen years. Stormrise, my debut novel, was several months from hitting the shelves, and my editor at Tor Teen wanted three synopses to choose from for my next book. I had two solid ideas, but I had no idea what I could offer for a third choice. Then, while I was in the shower one evening, I had a sudden thought that maybe I could take The Seeds of Perin Faye and make it something brand new. I had always loved the setting (rolling vineyards in a sort of Renaissance-y magical world) and the characters, and I felt I finally had the writing chops to make something out of this poor first attempt at a novel.
I tried and tried to rework the story, but nothing came together. Finally, the big revelation came, and it changed everything. Nestar, as I’ve already said, had the more interesting storyline. What if, I thought, I gave his story to Maralyth? Instead of a young man learning that he could be king, how about a young woman learning that she could be queen?
This idea lined up nicely with my penchant for writing strong female protagonists (who aren’t whiny or embittered), and so the new tale was born. After weeks of frustration, I was suddenly excited about the new direction this story could take. And as luck would have it, this is the story my editor chose to publish next.
Maralyth grew from twelve to seventeen years old, and her brother Nestar became a secondary character. Alac, her best friend in the original story, became the other protagonist—second son to the king of Perin Faye. (Yes, I kept the kingdom name, too.) The next big idea, and one that proved challenging to write, was to pit Maralyth and Alac against each other, so that each would be the other’s antagonist. In theory, that sounds like a lot of fun, right? But placing two characters who had forged a relationship, albeit under a false premise, on opposite sides of a conflict was one of the hardest parts of writing The Stolen Kingdom. Taking an emotional arc from “I think I’m falling in love with her” to “I’m totally going to kill her” takes a deft hand, or it won’t be believable. To say that this stretched me is an understatement.
Now that The Stolen Kingdom has been birthed, I love sharing the story of its origin. Winking while saying, “Well, hey, this is actually the first novel I ever wrote!” is tremendously fun. You, of course, now know the rest of the story.