Getting a first novel published is never easy. Merrie Destefano found that out with AFTERLIFE: THE RESURRECTION CHRONICLES, the first in a planned trilogy from Eos/HarperCollins. Here, she recalls AFTERLIFE’s ever-changing life cycle in its journey from brain to book.
I wish I were one of those people who could slam out a book in three months, whose first draft was pretty near perfect. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The truth of the matter is, I drive my writing group nuts. What book is this, they’ll ask after I start reading a few pages for critique. Oh, it’s the same book, I’ll tell them, just completely different.
I have a tendency to write and rewrite and then write some more, changing names and moving characters around and slashing plot lines. While it might seem like I’m having a great time, throwing away thousands of words at a time, I’m not.
I’m driving everyone I know, me included, nuts. They probably all wish that I would take up something meaningful to do in my spare instead of write. Something like playing miniature golf. Or raising bonsai trees. Or studying organic chemistry.
Just in case you don’t believe me, listen to the genesis of AFTERLIFE: THE RESURRECTION CHRONICLES.
In the first draft — under the title WHITE BURN — this story took place on Mars. (Do I hear snickers already?) It was a detective story, where the main character was tracking down a cult leader who had stolen a serum that could raise the dead. Besides falling into the hands of a dangerous cult leader, this serum also happened to be stolen by a gang leader, which led to one grisly gang war — a little bit like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Only on Mars.
Needless to say, that book didn’t garner much attention from agents or editors.
In the second draft — under the title ONCE TO DIE — the story was moved to Los Angeles. Here, I had a homicide detective, a woman named Addy, chasing a serial killer who could raise the dead. This story must have been tighter and better written, because at least a few editors talked to me at this point. They even smiled. Right before they told me, no way were they going to publish this book. One of them was even kind enough to give me a few pointers. He said something like, try setting it in the future and throw out everything except the resurrection drug.
I confess, I’m the brooding sort, so I mulled and groused over his well-meaning rejection. I thought about it for so long that I actually came up with a story idea based on that simple one-line suggestion.
In AFTERLIFE, I built a future where the technology for resurrection has been around for awhile, long enough for it to have a serious impact on our culture, our major world religions, our family system, our judicial system, you name it. After working on the story for a month or so, I realized that if I removed this one small element — death — from our culture, it changed everything.
Writing the actual book took me about a year and a half, with the prerequisite three-four month period of writer’s block tossed in the mix. Once I found my agent, Kimberley Cameron, she sold my book in a relatively short time period to Diana Gill of Eos/HarperCollins. I think we sold the book in August 2009, and the book is now out.
AFTERLIFE is a Hydra of sorts: one part urban fantasy, one part romance, one part science fiction, one part mystery. It’s a tale about a man who watches over people during that fragile first week after resurrection, when memories from previous lives are still sifting to the surface. And it’s a story about the woman who has just resurrected, who holds a secret in her subconscious that could change the world.
But for me, it’s a story that tells me that my wild and disorganized writing process somehow manages to work. Even though I drive a lot of people nutty along the way. —Merrie Destefano