As I get ready to release my book, The Flight of The Starling, A Fairy Tale, I find myself reminiscing about when I wrote it. The book cover looks so real, the website seems like a real author’s page, and the idea of actually putting this story I have loved so long out into the world is exhilarating, but scary. Times like these I feel like going back to the beginning of things.
So I brewed some Strawberry Sunset tea. A whiff of the hibiscus, lemongrass, and strawberry works a sort of magic. Smell is the sense of memory, and suddenly I’m in the kitchen of that awful pink rental house in Missoula, the one I shared with my husband when we got married. My black and white cat, Fox, is meowing at my feet. Once the summery scents are spiraling up from my mug, I take it to the window seat in the back bedroom. I settle in among every throw pillow in the house, a princess without a pea, and draw the lace curtain. It isn’t much but this cordons off my writing nook from the rest of the house, and my writing time in a sacred bubble where I won’t let myself be disturbed.
I take up my pen and my fairy tale notebook – real actual paper from trees. I didn’t write the whole book longhand, but in the beginning this was deliberate. I was trying to strip away all the trappings of literary pretension I had picked up in my university years as an English major. Just me, my words, and my pen. Slow and careful, writing it like a journal helped in my quest for authenticity, for writing intimately. Stephen King called this “writing with the door closed” in his book, On Writing, when you are writing to please yourself without thinking of any other reader or audience. Eventually I wanted to write a fairy tale for everyone, but in those early days, the book was for me.
A passionate princess, in a castle. Fairies who are charming and mischievous. A magical Book. A journey to a distant land. Princes, dragons, and a ball. Last but not least, the myth of Persephone and Hades, a narrator I hoped Lemony Snicket would appreciate, and wry jokes that would seem at home in The Princess Bride. I surrounded myself with these favorite gems from fairy tale lands, fluffing and rearranging them like the pillows in my writing nook.
Ritual is meant to bring us to a certain state of mind. I’m over a thousand miles away and many years past that house, that nook, that time. Fox is long gone, but my golden cat, Topaz, is my writing companion now. I still have the fairy tale notebook, somewhere, but now I carry a digital copy of the book in my pocket on my phone. Butterfly Herbs still makes Strawberry Sunset tea, and whenever I drink it, I time travel to when I first wrote about Princess Lily, Marzipan, Beloit, and all the rest.
What magical elixir takes you instantly back to another time and place? Do you ever travel back on purpose?
All the best.
The Flight of The Starling, A Fairy Tale, is available for pre-order on Amazon and IngramSpark now, for release on November 1.
Read the first chapter of The Flight of The Starling.