As I prepare for the TWCS release of book 1 of The Gateway Chronicles: The Six on April 5th, I've begun reflecting on how this book came to be. I'll try not to be too long winded about this, but I thought there certainly might be some interest as a whole new audience of people is being introduced to me on the TWCS website.
The Six was truly a labor of love (not to sound too cliched), and something I wanted to write for years before I actually sat down to do it. The entire story behind The Gateway Chronicles is wrapped up in my past, in 19 consecutive years of attending a week-long summer camp with my family in upper Michigan. While some people might think that one week a year couldn't possibly be enough to make that great of an impression on a person, for an awkward, anti-social child like me, whose family moved several times, and who struggled with depression, it was often the one constant in my year. At camp, I had the same friends every year, and they were the only constant friends I ever had (many of whom I'm still very close with today). Camp never changed, while the outside world did, and that lent a magical quality to my time there. It was as though I was transported to a new world every summer. Combined with the fact that the upper peninsula of Michigan is bone-achingly beautiful, and that for a week every year I was cut off from all technology (as the camp discouraged it), it was also an environment in which my imagination could run wild. My girl friends and I at camp used to make up magical stories about fairies, elves, pirates, and everything else inbetween that existed only at camp, and I think that a part of my young brain always believed that the stories could be true.
Fast forward to college, and I was no longer able to attend family camp. My husband and I married young, and, well, life changes. We were able to attend camp once together when we were dating, and once later after we had our first son, but I knew that it was a chapter of my life that was well and truly over. I know it must sound silly, but I went through a real period of grieving over the loss of something so important to my childhood, and that's when I first began to jot down notes and conceptualize a fantasy story based on my childhood and teen experiences at camp. At first it began as a way to hang on to the memories, but it has become much more of a way to let go.
These notes that I jotted down in college were very scattered and much closer to my actual camp experiences than The Six has turned out to be. For example, there were nine main characters, not six, based on the fact that there were nine of us in the core group of kids my age at camp (six boys, three girls). My working title in this early stage was "Nine Fast Friends," and all the character names were different. I didn't have a clear idea what the story would be beyond that I wanted these nine friends to travel to another world from camp, and I wanted that other world to imitate the camp I knew and loved in as many ways as possible. I also knew that I wanted it to imitate The Chronicles of Narnia in being a clean, family friendly story that dealt with timeless themes and deep concepts, but I also wanted to modernize it to relate to how teenagers today think, talk, and react. These things are not enough with which to write a book, however, and I was, in college, in the midst of finishing a different fantasy manuscript and jumping through the hoops of trying to get that published, so I shelved the camp-based idea and vowed to come back to it someday...
I am breaking my promise not to go too long with this, so I'm going to cut off this blog post here and come back to it with a part 2 later this week. If you're enjoying my story, let me know! I'll address questions as they come up.