Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How I accidentally wrote a 300,000 word trilogy

When I first started writing PANDORA’S GENES, back in the early eighties, I had no idea that the book would consume not the year that it took me to write, nor the three more years it would take till publication, but rather--off and on--a chunk of the following thirty years.

I have written previously about how the book began as a mysterious dream, in which I had a hazy vision of a good man who was about to do something very bad for what he thought were good reasons. When I started writing I really had no idea where I was heading, and let the characters take me where they wanted to go. My original ending, which seemed logical to me, had the three main characters, Zach, Will, and Evvy, marrying each other in a triad, which was the most common form of marriage in the society I wrote about.
This is the first original cover for the paperback; at the insistence of a major bookbuyer it was withdrawn and another cover was made.

After I turned in my manuscript, I was shocked when my editor--who had bought the story as I had written it-- told me that the reading public was not ready for a marriage between two men and a woman, and I would have to change the ending accordingly.

So I changed the ending as requested, having Evvy agree to marry Will for the good of civilization, though we readers all knew that Zach was her true love. My editor pointed out that there was plenty of room for a sequel, so I wrote PANDORA’S CHILDREN, in which I detailed, through "artful" flashback, much of the story that occurred before the start of the first book. When  I turned this manuscript in, my editor made me take out almost all of the prequel material, which my subconscious and I continued to chew on.

Thirty years later, my editor was long since retired, the imprint I’d published with had disappeared, the entire publishing industry had changed, and I still couldn’t get the Pandora’s story out of my mind. I decided finally to write the story I wanted to write, PANDORA’S PROMISE. It starts a few hours after the close of the second book. Though Evvy and Will are still planning to marry, nothing has happened yet, and events propel a new story, following Zach in new adventures, while Evvy and Will become involved in quests of their own.

An entire section of this new book (about 1/4 of the whole thing) is devoted to the prequel--how the Change happened, and the ultimate connection of our characters with its early days. This time I wrote it in a way that is organic to the story, rather than as a traditional flashback. In the main story, Evvy sets off on a dangerous quest with Baby, her empathic fox-cat; while Zach meets some new animal characters, including  the River Clan of elephants, who now freely roam portions of the Great Plains. Along the way I got to explore some new societies, including one organized around a brutal futuristic form of football, and another that is connected with the mysterious Eye, which may or may not be a myth. And nobody made me to take these plot elements out!

For the record, I did have an excellent editor, who suggested many, many changes, most of which I incorporated. 

I feel that this book is by far my best, and that it encapsulates all the things I have most cared about in my life. It has turned out to be a more intense love story than I imagined, and I realize now that its seeds were sown more than thirty years ago when I imagined that unknown man riding into the yard of a poverty-stricken family, where he meets Evvy, the extraordinary young woman who becomes the heroine of the series. *

* (The original book, Pandora’s Genes, won an award from Romance Times in the year it was published, as “Best new Science Fiction of the Year.” I had not realized until I was notified of the award that I had also written a romance story.)


  1. This is some fascinating insight into your whole writing process. It's funny that it was 30 years in the making. What wasn't acceptable when you first published, no one would bat an eye at now. It's really true that time changes everything!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anne. I was thinking the same thing about how mores have changed since the eighties. I guess I'm lucky that I was made to change the original ending, because it allowed me to eventually write a book that in my opinion now has a PERFECT ending. :-)

  2. Yes, the ending was well worth waiting for. And no wonder it had been an itch you needed to scratch all these years.

    1. Thanks! And a note to anyone else who may be reading this: gh was one of my beta readers, and he loved the ending as much as I do.