What is it about Guardians, Inc. and Witch Hollow that appeal to me so much? So much so that I wake up in the middle of the night with scenes and conversations floating around in my head? So much so that I spent not days, or weeks, or even months, but years finding the correct blend of information for my character building?
I wish I could point you to one defining moment, and say “This is why I write this series. This is why it matters so much to me that it’s done right.” Truth is, I can’t.
The base concept for this series (and particularly Witch Hollow) begins so long ago, it feels like I’ve been working on this series forever. The first conceptualization began when I was just 7 years old, and absolutely addicted to mystery and crime fiction (something I’ve never outgrown… it’s just become more nuanced over the years). I had this image in my head – I wanted a detective agency that solved strange cases. And I wanted a laboratory that used science to solve cases no one else could. At the time, I was dealing with a lot of personal trauma, and I wanted to believe there was someone out there who would be able to punish people like the person who hurt me, without the people like me (the victims) having to go to the police. I knew that wasn’t how it worked, but I wondered what it would take for that to be the case.
I jotted down my thoughts in a spiral notebook, and shoved it aside, with most of everything else I thought. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, over the years. And, as I began to study more and more about the paranormal and supernatural, I kept going back to that notebook, jotting more notes. What if the cases involved something paranormal or supernatural? What if they were crimes the regular police couldn’t solve, because either the victims or the perpetrators weren’t human?
I kept researching and adding thoughts and ideas and notes and information to the notebook, as time went on. When I was twelve, I shared my idea for the first time ever, with someone I trusted. With encouragement, I actually started drafting the series in earnest, though I still wasn’t convinced I’d ever have the guts to publish it. Mostly, it was a response to my need to wrestle personal demons, and understand human motivation somehow.
By early 1992, I had not only the basic series information compiled, but I’d written more than half of the first book I’d ever write in the series. By 1995, I’d completed the book, and couldn’t believe I was actually considering trying to send it to publishers.
It wasn’t until 2003 that I finally worked up the nerve to send it to a publisher for the first time. And I was naïve enough to believe that the words “we just need to tweak it a little” meant making it better. Instead, they tore it apart. Over the next few years, the book came to look nothing like it started out, and I hated what it became. It wasn’t the story I wanted to tell – it was a farce. And when I questioned why it was changed so much, I was told my characters were “too unbelievable” and “not likable enough.” I ended up caving, and it was published in a format that destroyed every ounce of work I’d done for so many years. An epic battle eventually ensued over whether or not my book would remain as it was edited and released, or I’d be allowed to either return it to its original format, or pull it completely. I didn’t have the industry knowledge, at the time I originally signed my contract, and as a result, I lost the battle. Disheartened, I shoved what had now become a binder full of information and work to the back of the shelf, convinced it was dead.
Then the publisher went under, and the chance for the series as I originally envisioned it was reborn, and the final pieces of the puzzle jogged into place for me – this series was tamper-proof. I would redraft that original book, back to what it was before, and no publisher would be allowed to touch it unless they were willing to put in writing the agreement to not tamper with the core of the characters or the premise of the series/books. Otherwise, I’d find a way to publish it myself.
So, I’ve dug in, since, and the series is literally flying at me, the characters talking to me all hours of the day and night, like they’re in some race to catch up to the years I spent hating that book for the damage done to it. And I will stand by my promise to myself. The only publisher who will ever get a chance to publish these books is one willing to stipulate, in a legally binding contract, to not make alterations to the foundations of my series or characters, and who understands I have final veto on any major changes suggested. If no publisher is interested in that, then I’ll publish it myself.
While some changes are good and necessary to making a work better, as authors, we must occasionally draw our lines in the sand, and blow off the damned foot that dares to cross it without our permission. This is a lesson I’ve learned under very difficult conditions.