I met Cary author Stephanie Ricker through publishing her story “Inseparables’ War” in Bull Spec #7, and her reading of the story at a NC Speculative Fiction night event. I was very happy to see her have a story in the Rooglewood Press anthology Five Glass Slippers: A Collection of Cinderella Stories in June of 2014, and very excited when I learned that she would be continuing the universe of her story “A Cinder’s Tale” in a novella series The Cendrillon Cycle. In December, Ricker published the first of those novellas, The Battle of Castle Nebula, and as you might be able to guess from the cover art, this is a planet-spanning science fictional retelling. And here, Ricker tells us about the hardest part of, well, everything.
By Stephanie Ricker:
When asked what the hardest part of writing The Battle of Castle Nebula was, I’m tempted to gaze back with haunted eyes and melodramatically whisper, “Everything.” Looking back on the process from a comfy couple months without looming deadlines, I’m forced to admit that’s not really true.
But, wow, did it feel that way.
The Battle of Castle Nebula was written as a prequel to A Cinder’s Tale, a novella published in Five Glass Slippers, an anthology of Cinderella-themed stories. Castle Nebula was my first foray into my own publishing (hence its status as Volume 1 in The Cendrillon Cycle rather than Volume 2), and it was intended to reveal how several of my protagonists ended up in the circumstances described in A Cinder’s Tale, a Cinderella-in-space retelling.
The reality was a miserable lesson in what I should have learned from George Lucas: namely, do not write prequels.
I quickly realized that many of my cavalierly thrown-in lines in A Cinder’s Tale now required actual, plausible explanations. I had written A Cinder’s Tale in a last-minute frenzy and had been none too careful about what elements I included, little thinking I would be revisiting the world in which it took place. When the anthology’s publishing company encouraged me to write more stories set in that world and offered to help me publicize them in Five Glass Slippers, I realized that I had hemmed myself in. The world I had created now had to make sense in the larger context of multiple stories, and events in the prequel had to happen in a certain way in order not to violate my own continuity.
For various reasons (none of which seem adequate now), I was convinced that the prequel story needed to be told, but I was also thoroughly convinced that I didn’t want to do it. I was working at an association management company by day and at a fiction editing company by night, meaning I was only a writer by late, late night. I procrastinated as long as possible in a snit of rebelliousness, spooked myself into finally writing via the terror of impending deadlines, and pounded my way through the novella like a toddler with a bad attitude. Making revisions, after receiving comments back from several editors, was even more unpleasant. As I inevitably ended up staring bleary-eyed at my misbegotten manuscript at 1am on a work night, I seriously questioned why I had ever thought writing was even a remotely good idea. The publishing company of Five Glass Slippers innocently suggested a third novella, and I had an internal, horror-stricken conniption. Nope, I told myself, somewhere in the middle of yet another mutinous late-night writing session. This writing stuff? This is horrible. I’d be crazy to do this to myself again.
But when I got over my hissy fit, I realized that I would be crazy to turn down the opportunity, one that might never come again. The encouragement of good friends—some of whom were vicariously excited about storytelling options I could explore, and some of whom were trying to get their own works published—made me see that I had been given a blessing: one I shouldn’t reject due to a little frustration or sleep deprivation in the short-term.
Writing is hard (anyone who says otherwise is lying), but it’s also worth doing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Ricker is a writer, editor, and tree-climber. She adores the cold and the snow but lives in North Carolina anyway, where she enjoys archery, hiking, and exploring with friends. Stephanie’s first novella set in the Cendrillon universe, A Cinder’s Tale, was published in Five Glass Slippers, an anthology of Cinderella-themed stories. Stephanie’s fiction has also been published in Bull Spec and in four consecutive editions of The Lyricist, Campbell University’s annual literary magazine. Her senior thesis on Tolkien was published in the 2009 issue of Explorations: The Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity for the State of North Carolina.