Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Welcome to Print, Lilibet Lynn! Or, How a Broken Foot turned into a Novel

She's here! It's been six years, but I've finally got a new book--and a new heroine--in print! 

"Lilibet Lynn and the Children of Sherwood" is available on Amazon now, and I'm here to share how that all happened because of a broken foot.

My first book, "The Mermaid and the Unicorn," was published over six years ago. Two difficult pregnancies just 14 months apart plus some theological tangles in the series put me on a major hiatus. I wrote a lot over those six years, it just didn't get me to the point where I had something I could easily publish. 

Then, on Easter 2022, I had a massive fall and ended up fracturing my foot so badly, I couldn't even tolerate a protective boot. I was completely non-ambulatory for six weeks. This was on top of having my hearing aids die the previous month with no success in securing an adequate replacement. With my kids still very small, we had to get complete childcare and housekeeping assistance during the hours my husband was working. 

This left me with a choice. I could sit around feeling sorry for myself...or I could see this as a blessing and use the mandatory childcare coverage and forced physical inaction to pound out some serious writing. 

Well, that was a no-brainer! But what project would I work on? I felt a deep desire to fulfill the promise to my readers and get more "Song of the Fay" out, but there was still a check on my spirit about that (more on that in a bit). I had a couple of other pieces in good places, but I didn't think I could actually get them done soon enough to publish in 2022. And it seemed very clear to me that I needed to publish in 2022. What could I manage from beginning to end in just 8 months? 

Suddenly, out of the blue, two ideas that had been percolating in my brain for a few years smashed together. A young girl named Lilibet Lynn, and the concept of a seamstress who travels through time using a magical thimble. Originally, these had been conceived as two separate projects, one for children, one for adults. Yet when they merged together, it became clear that they would work best together in a middle school novel. 

You could probably blame this in part on the re-emergence of my youthful obsession with the American Girl books. I fell in love with history through my literary friendships with Felicity, Kirsten, Josefina and the others. I expanded that devotion through voracious consumption of the "Dear America" and "Royal Diaries" books, as well as whatever historical fiction I could get my hands on. Sadly, as I got older, there was less and less available in the historical genre, at least until I reached adulthood. Particularly as my greatest love solidified around European, and particularly British, history. 

Furthermore, while I had of course been a twelve-year-old myself, I had the additional benefit of having nannied for four young ladies while they were in the 10-12 age range. I'd gotten to see the world through their eyes while an adult myself. I love all the imagination and possibility at that age and became so excited to dive into telling a story for this audience.

So, there it was. Lilibet would be a spunky twelve-year-old time traveling seamstress, and her first destination would be back to one of my favorite times and places in history...Twelfth Century Sherwood Forest, the era of Robin Hood and the fiery Plantagenet royal family. 

Of course, Robin Hood isn't a verified historical character. Of course not...

...well, you'll just have to read the book to see how I handle that one!

Spring and summer passed. My foot healed at last, but I kept on writing. Finally, just as autumn appeared around the corner, I finished up the manuscript and handed it over to my husband for editing. At the same time, I had to tackle the next piece of publishing business, which was nailing down cover art. 

Here's where technology gets cool--right at this period in time, the capabilities of AI art have exploded. Happily for me, my brother-in-law was right on the forefront of mining the depths of possibility and he was thrilled to help me develop a piece that would become the cover for "Lilibet." 

Working with AI software was absolutely fascinating, and I hope to write another blog post or perhaps even create a short video discussing that process. Although the basic idea is that you write a prompt and the AI engine generates the art, it actually requires a lot of human shepherding and refining to get a very specific image. We learned a lot and it was a blast! I am so psyched about the beautiful piece of art we coaxed into existence! 

The last little piece of Lilibet's creation story is her name. It goes right back to that early fascination of mine with English history. "Lilibet" was the special nickname used by the family of Queen Elizabeth II of England. While that family is as imperfect as any humans on this earth, QEII and her example of fortitude and hard work has been important to me for a long time. Naming a character after her was a very deliberate homage on my part, (and also given a specific purpose in the story). This was all planned out long before the Queen's passing. 

So, there's the development story of Lilibet. 

I'm so excited to finally introduce my time traveling seamstress to you all! It has been hugely encouraging to me as a writer to finally get another published work out in the world. While only the Lord knows the future, many things have settled into place and we have a working plan for how to keep the stories coming! 

And "The Song of the Fay"? 

Well, let's just say that I'm not going to write much about it here, because I'm doing actual writing on it somewhere else... stay tuned! 

You can buy "Lilibet Lynn and the Children of Sherwood" on Amazon, Paperback $11.00, Kindle $2.99, (or read it for free on Kindle Unlimited!) Also, you can read Chapters 1-3 here.

For regular updates on my writing, as well as behind the scenes looks and historical tidbits, make sure to follow my NEW author account on Instagram! 

Thimble Sketch by Carolyn VanBenschoten
Book Layout by Jansina of Rivershore Books

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