So when I was 24 my wife was pregnant with our first child. That first kid changes you (parents out there will be nodding).
One thing that happens is that you suddenly see your own childhood from a completely different angle. For example, my parents split when I was very little, something I would have said had almost no effect on me…
Except by the time my daughter was born, I was convinced it was one of the most important things that ever happened to me. And it was genuinely shocking that I hadn’t even known that.
So the first year I was a father I wrote this book, Nobody’s Son, about a working class hero named Shielder’s Mark. Mark comes out of the sticks, goes on an epic quest, breaks a mighty curse, and gets the hand of a princess in marriage from a grateful king – all by the end of Chapter 2. But it turns out that Happily Ever After is just the beginning. Mark finds himself hip deep in Court intrigue – not his specialty. He has to deal with the consequences of letting a sinister magic loose in the land. Most dauntingly of all, he has to face a challenge far more terrifying than spells and monsters: marriage
This one might be the warmest and friendliest book I’ve written. Some of the others are more impressive, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the one people re-read on a rainy day. You know the kind of book I mean.
My daughter’s birth was not only the emotional catalyst for this book; it completely changed my writing life. I was the stay-at-home dad. All day long I would plot scenes while pushing strollers or walking in the woods with Cait in the Snuggli. Then, during the precious one hour of her mid-day nap I would *leap* to the computer and type like a maniac, writing down everything I had spent the day composing in my head.
Eventually the book was written and accepted for publication. “We’d like to do it as a YA,” the publisher said.
“Okay. Um … what is that?”
“It stands for Young Adult.”
“Oh. That makes sense. You see, I was twenty-four when – ”
“Young Adult means ‘teenager.'”
“Oh,” I said. “Just in case it matters, I didn’t start thinking about this stuff until I was twenty-four and we were having a baby, so…”
But the publisher was right. The book came out first in Canada, and won that year’s Canadian Library Association award for the best Young Adult novel.
Kids grow up fast this days.
Mine sure did, anyway. The baby that started me thinking of all this stuff is 25 now. Her younger sister, who wasn’t even born when this book first came out, made the cover for the e-book edition.
Happily Ever After seems to be working out.