ORIGINS – Tiffany Trent

Christmas Eve.  My parents and my aunt and uncle played poker upstairs, waiting for me to wind down and finally go to bed so they could get their Santa on.

But they would wait a very long time.  The Nutcracker was on TV.  (And this is how I know I was young because it was the 1977 version with Mikhail Baryshinikov and Gelsey Kirkland. I wore my mother’s cherry-colored negligee and danced along with Clara).

And then came my favorite part.  Clara snuck downstairs and found her beloved nutcracker under the tree.  Herr Drosselmeyer looked in on her through the clock, which struck me as ominous and yet spine-tinglingly right.  The walls receded, the Christmas tree grew through the roof, the Nutcracker grew into a Prince, and the Rat King and his army attacked.

It was not so much the fact that the Prince saved Clara that kept me glued to the screen, or that made me leap about on our ragged carpet when finally the Prince triumphed.  It was the fact of the magic. The fact that the framework of the real world had vanished, allowing something older, more primal, and deeply magical to take its place.  I loved that a nutcracker doll could become a Prince, that a scurrying rat could become a King.  I loved that the Christmas tree became the World Tree, stretching its limbs between earth and heaven.

I wanted this magic to be mine.  I wanted to dance so hard and so well that somehow I opened a door in the cheap paneling of our basement so I could step through to something richer, stranger, more true.  I wanted to call a Prince to me out of the shadows, someone strong and self-assured.  And just like Clara, I wanted desperately to step into that shining new world of sweets and laughter and find myself a Princess.

Perhaps it was that night that he came, born out of my wish to have a Christmas like no other.  All I know is that for years afterward, this Lord would fill my thoughts waking and sleeping.  I would dream fantastic dreams of his world and his people, and my first stories were recountings of the battles we fought, the demons we faced, the castles we built (sometimes literally) in the air.  By the age of 14, I had filled several notebooks, not just with the dreams, but also with the history of that people, their customs, their legends, their gods, and maps of their land and temples.  The seed of a dream grew into a land so vast I could never fully explore it all; I have still never been able to definitively say that I’ve reached the ends of that not-earth.

It was because of this Lord and his land that I wrote my first (still unpublished) novel, a sweeping adult epic fantasy full of martial arts magic, demonic mayhem, and probably every cliché you can think of.  I wrote so many versions of the novel that I’m not sure how many I actually wrote, and it was the first one I tried to get an agent with once I finally finished it in 2004. All told, I think it took 15 years to finish that novel.

But it only took a year and a half for me to realize it wasn’t any good.

The final rejection of this novel from a senior editor at a reputable publishing house could have been the death knell to my writing, if I’d let it.  I had invested everything I had in that one story; it was my best beloved—the one gift I felt I had to give to the world.

But the way of the Universe is mysterious.  I had been contacted earlier that year about possibly writing a series based on an idea I’d discussed with another writer, an idea I’d never really developed because I was spending all my energy on that one epic novel no one wanted. Two months after the rejection of my first novel, I had an offer for Hallowmere, the book series that launched my career.

I realized then that there is never only one story inside of us.  We are full of gifts, if we only have the vision to reach for them. Whether I’ll go back to that novel remains to be seen. As my agent reminded me the other night, lots of writers need that first book to learn *how* to write.  It doesn’t make you a lesser writer if your first book or even your fifth doesn’t sell.  What matters is that you keep going, keep listening, keep following that elusive whisper through the sugarplum forest. We are truly such stuff as dreams are made of.



If you couldn’t find Tiffany Trent up a tree in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the next best place was to find her curled up with a book in a blanket fort.  She started writing stories at age nine and now writes full-time. Along the way, she earned three Master’s degrees—MA in English, MFA in Creative Writing, and MS in Environmental Studies—at Virginia Tech and the University of Montana.  She has worked as a senior editor for a wildlife conservation organization in Hong Kong, bred poison dart frogs and rare turtles at a science museum, and taught English at Virginia Tech (the most dangerous of all her jobs!).

She is the author of the YA dark fantasy HALLOWMERE series. The first book, In the
Serpent’s Coils, was named a BookSense (IndieBound) Children’s Pick in Autumn 2007 and a New York Public Library Book of the Teen Age in 2008.

Tiffany currently lives on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. When not writing, she chases wolves and bears with her wildlife biologist husband on Alligator River Wildlife Refuge.


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