Allison's Book Bag

When Life Hands You An Accident

Posted on: August 10, 2012

Teaser time is here! This summer has been a full one with writing courses and family concerns. Now with school just around the corner, it’s time for me to settle back into a routine. This includes my practice of writing daily teasers.

In the spring, I won three fantasy books with no-strings attached. The latter meant I didn’t have to review the set. Yet I’m a reviewer. I can’t resist sharing my opinion of what I read. So, drum roll please: This week I’d like to present Bree Despain and her The Dark Divine trilogy!

The only info which I could find about Bree Despain’s childhood and adolescence is pretty much repeated in every biography and interview I could find. Despain grew up with all the instincts for being a writer. As a child, she stapled folded papers to make her own “novels.” As a teen, she wrote stories in notebooks while her friends waited for the next page to be finished. Her teachers told her she should be a writer.

Despain didn’t initially pursue the writing life. Why? Apparently, she thought only special people could be writers and so she settled into the idea of having an ordinary career. Yet her passion to write never left her. Despain rediscovered her childhood love for creating stories when she took a semester off college to write and direct plays for at-risk, inner city teens. When she returned to Brigham Young University, Despain filled her schedule with creative writing and literature classes.

Even then, she still didn’t pursue the writing life. She married, became a mom, and worked at other jobs. If not for accident, Despain might have never seriously tried to become a writer.

WRITING LIFE

When the universe threw a pick-up truck in her path, Despain realized that life is short to not do what one absolutely loves. At Deseret News, she shared: “I was being given a second chance. I realized if I had died I would’ve had two big regrets: I wouldn’t have been around to be a mother to my son, and I had never become an author.”

Having lost her job as result of the accident, Despain and her husband had to move in with her parents while she recovered. Money was tight, but her husband came up with an old, refurbished laptop computer for her to work on. He brought it home, placed it by her bedside, and told her, “You’d better start writing.” The laptop became her lifeline. Although flat on her back, she could still write. And she has ever since.

If you were to die tomorrow, what would be your regrets?

Also helping Despain on the writing path was an old friend Emily Wing Smith. Despain credits Smith with being one of the reasons she is a published author today. In one of her blog posts, Despain tells the story of how Smithe and her met while both were taking a young adult fiction writing class in college. They got to know each other a little bit during that class, but then lost touch until years later Despain attended a writing conference. “I went to that conference looking for a little inspiration, and what I found was Emily.” The two ended up in an advanced writing class together and by the end of the week had re-sparked their old friendship. They put together a small critique group that met once a month to share writing, comment on each others’ work, and lend support.

Who supports you in your dreams?

In an interview at My Pile of Books, Despain reveals how essential chocolate is to her routine. One summer, she went on a diet that didn’t allow her any sugar (including chocolate!) for about a month. Her writing productivity went way up but, when she got my revisions back from her editor, she had to rewrite almost every single sentence she’d written during her chocolate-free-month. Now, she always has a little bowl of dark chocolate chips at her side when she writes.

What is your one sweet indulgence?

“Accept the fact that becoming an author takes time—and a lot of it. Yes, there are those fluke cases where someone writes a book and then has a multi-million-dollar debut book deal six months later. But for the other 99.9% of us, it takes several years to become an author. Ask just about any published author and they’ll tell you that it takes about 10 years to make a name for yourself in this biz. And most of us are better off because of the time it took to strengthen our writing. I thank my lucky stars that my first novel never sold. I’m extremely grateful that the original version of The Dark Divine was rejected by every agent I sent it to. Your writing may not be ready for publication right now, but if you keep working, and learning, and reading, and writing, it WILL get there someday.”–Bree Despain, Writing Tips

RELIGION

By the time I’d finished reading the first book in The Dark Divine trilogy, I felt extremely curious about her religious background. The main characters represent a positive portrayal of a pastor’s family. Yet The Dark Divine trilogy is not published by a Christian press.

Although Despain’s dad isn’t a pastor, he is a religious leader. For that reason, Despain grew up knowing what it was like to have one’s every move watched and evaluated. Because her teenage life centered around religion, she wanted to capture that experience. I appreciate that.

What’s more, I admire that adding religion to her story proved to be a risky move. At Deseret News, Despain shares how at one point an editor made an offer on her book, but only if she removed the religious aspects. The editor suggested changing the father’s occupation from pastor to social worker, a move that Despain disagreed with.

Despain wanted to explore themes of redemption and forgiveness and grace. “I really felt like in order to do that, religion had to be part of who the characters were, not just in the background of their lives,” she said.

English: Werewolf, by Rodrigo Ferrarezi Portug...

English: Werewolf, by Rodrigo Ferrarezi Português: Lobisomem, por Rodrigo Ferrarezi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just as intriguing to me is how Despain integrated werewolf mythology into her religious trilogy. An old court document from the 16th Century inspired her. It told a story about a man who was accused of being a werewolf and was facing a death sentence. Instead of trying to fight his accusers, he admitted to being a werewolf but claimed that the town didn’t understand what werewolves really were. According to him, werewolves were invented to protect humans from evil beings and, if the town killed him, they would no longer be protected. Thinking this was a clever twist on the typical “werewolves are evil” mythology, Despain decided to expand on this idea. In her trilogy, werewolves were created by God to protect humans from demons, but became so prideful of their special abilities that they were corrupted by their power and transformed into monsters even more evil than what they were originally created to destroy.

Shortly after, Despain joined a critique group, she decided to challenge herself with a new writing project. Her group encouraged and helped her through many drafts of The Dark Divine over several years.

Cover of "Such Great Heights"

Cover of Such Great Heights

The Dark Divine was born from ideas, thoughts, and memories that had been brewing for a few weeks. Deseret News reports that these all came together one dark January night while Despain was driving. She had just read the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and recently watched the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the first time, was listening to the song Such Great Heights by the Postal Service over and over again, and needed to teach a lesson about grace at her church. All these things were on her mind, along with a random memory from ninth grade, when she hit a red light. She glanced up at a billboard in the dark and suddenly this conversation between a brother and a sister popped into her head. The brother was warning his sister to stay away from their former best friend. “He’s dangerous. He isn’t the person he used to be. You have to promise to stay away from him.” That was how it all started!

Despain went home and wrote down their conversation in a notebook. She needed to figure out what the deal was with the brother and sister. Despain kept going until she’d written The Dark Divine.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first incarnation of The Dark Divine was actually a contemporary fiction novel. In becoming a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which used paranormal creatures and events as metaphors for things teens deal with, Despain decided, however, that she wanted to try her hand at paranormal fiction. She started reading paranormal books, even started writing a paranormal novel (not The Dark Divine ), and eventually decided to make The Dark Divine a paranormal story.

After unsuccessfully sending out the original version of The Dark Divine to a few agents, Despain realized that the manuscript needed a major overhaul. Not knowing how to do it, she put the book away and moved on to other projects. When her problems with The Dark Divine finally started to work themselves out in her mind, she pulled the manuscript out again and spent a year overhauling it. This time, when she sent out The Dark Divine, she landed an agent.

At first, Despain saw the The Dark Divine as a stand alone, but one of her mentors suggested that she leave the book open-ended enough so it would have series potential. That way the book could be satisfying on its own, but have room to grow if the demand existed. Luckily, her publisher asked for a second book.

As for the final book, Savage Grace, Despain admits to Magical Urban Fantasy Reads that she felt surprised at how hard it was to write the end. She kept turning in the manuscript without the last two chapters, because she didn’t want to drop the ball on the third book and leave a bad taste in readers mouths about the series as a whole. That’s pressure!

EXTRA STUFF

Sample chapters, soundtrack lists, and book trailers all seem big with social media-savvy authors these days. What do you think of them?

Do you like book trailers? Although movie trailers can be misleading, they’re still one factor in my determining whether I’ll watch a movie. However, cover blurbs still remain my preferred way to evaluate books.

Do you browse the table of contents and/or sample chapters of books to determine whether to purchase them? I don’t often for fiction but regularly avail of the feature on Amazon for nonfiction books.

Do you like to know the soundtracks authors used while writing their books? The first time I heard the idea that authors use songs to put them into the mood for their story I felt intrigued by the idea. While I still don’t actually check out those by others, I do have my own for longer works. As for the short stuff like reviews, it’s all my notes that help me most with them.

Now without further ado, here’s all these items for The Dark Divine Trilogy by Bree Despain.

DARK DIVINE

Chapter One

Soundtrack

Trailer:

SAVAGE GRACE

Sample Chapter

Soundtrack

THE DARK DIVINE TRILOGY

Grace’s Recipe for Divine Apple Pie

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I am focusing this year on other commitments. Once a month, I’ll post reviews of Advanced Reader Copies. Titles will include: Freddy Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, One Two by Igor Eliseev, Incredible Magic of Being by Kathyrn Erskine, Dragon Grammar Book by Diane Robinson, and Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton.

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