Right. Okay. I feel like it goes without saying that there will be story spoilers in this, so please do not read it unless and until you’ve read the whole darn thing. This gets very long and navel-gazey, I’m sorry. Also it’s boring, you don’t care, I know.
So…I am not sure where to begin.
Like with many of my more crackbrained ideas, “Velvet Petals” was born when I was half asleep. My brain had decided to ponder on the subject of “Miss Holliday Goes To Dalton” (which I was nearly finished writing at the time) and how the way I was composing that story was like a medieval dance - something with which, as a former Renaissance and Medieval Faire performer, I am familiar.
(the photo is no one I know - I borrowed it to give you an idea)
The structure of the story and how I put plots and characters together at different times had my brain conjuring images of Glee characters dancing with plot and spinning off to dance with other characters and plots points…the mental image of Blaine and Kurt and the Warblers in a courtly dance made me laugh and start wondering what it might be like to actually stick them in that situation.
After that I’m really not sure how I got to the Wars of the Roses, except that I happened to be re-reading a trashy romance novel by Virginia Henley called “The Dragon and the Jewel,” about one of the last Plantagenet princesses, and then I ended up on Wikipedia (not unusual when I start wondering about English history) and the next thing I knew, I had a stack of research material a mile high and a Very Cracky Idea.
But I didn’t know if anyone but me would be interested, so I wrote up a prologue/test chapter and stuck it up. I would have written it anyway even if I was the only one who wanted to read it, I think, but…well, it seemed worth checking on.
Then my email exploded a little.
So, interest. Okay. I began to write in earnest.
Three months, 130k words, dozens of jokes about medieval sex lubricant, and hundreds of comments and reblogs later, here we are at the end.
I cannot tell you how I could not have done this without MotherGoddamn acting as cheerleader and beta both. Hundreds of emails were exchanged over the course of writing this story, some of which actually had to do with writing it (the rest of the time we were exchanging badfic links and insulting each other). She kept me going during the most contentious of plot points, the times when I was terrified of getting something wrong or not dirty-hot enough or when I was flat out going to upset people - she kept me on track with what I knew was right to do for the story.
She - and Illyriaz-Shell, who stepped in for the last two chapters at the last minute like the lovely person she is - will tell you that they didn’t do anything (I’ve seen them both say so, it’s ridonk), but they did so much to help me wrestle this story into coherence. They patiently read several drafts of the chapters and pointed out plot holes and tangles that I’d inadvertently written. They sat through me panicking and going “IT’S NOT PERFECT HELP ME” and they did just that. They’re so grand.
(What they didn’t do and I didn’t ask them to do was to vet my historical accuracy, so some anachronistic language and significant costuming errors slipped in. I’ll be correcting those, but until I do, blame me, not them.)
(let’s jump to the contentious point right away!)
Amelia was an accident. She wasn’t intended to be more than a reference in chapter one. Originally, Alice Beaufort was to be a greater character and the role Amelia took as friend to Kurt and Blaine was somehow going to belong to Quinn, because Finn was going to have a greater role as a double agent playing both sides. Quinn was also going to be pregnant, because Rachel wasn’t going to be in the story as much as she ended up being.
When I started to outline the story, that got messy very quickly, and the holes in my knowledge of medieval intrigue too large to fill. I couldn’t figure out how to make anything happen without it being a giant clusterfuck. The logistics were a nightmare.
And I couldn’t bring myself to throw a pregnant Quinn down the stairs.
Overwhelmed, I sat myself down and forced myself to think a way out of the hole. That’s when my brain turned to Amelia. Blaine was going to be at Crawford Keep, he was going to work with Lord Crawford on the war planning, so…okay, well, maybe Amelia could have a little role in the story for a while.
Yes, well. You’ve all met Amelia by now.
I had heard of characters taking on a life of their own, and to an extent I’d experienced it while writing MHGTD, but this was a whole different level of writing fuckery. The more I tried to pull back her involvement in the story, the more she wound her way in, and I grew increasingly terrified of backlash - I’d seen what happened to other writers who introduced original characters into Glee fanfic, and I am not someone who takes criticism or backlash well (part of my maladaptive stress response, and I hate it).
But people loved her. I was floored. People loved her just about as much as Kurt or Blaine and freely expressed their surprise in doing so. I expressed my surprise right back. People began to tell me they missed her when she wasn’t around for a while. I asked them if they were feeling feverish.
After a few chapters, I began to realize what having Amelia step into the Quinn-role shoes was going to mean.
I was going to have to Joss my own original character. That people loved. That I was coming to really love.
I flat out ugly cried over a fictional character. I spent weeks trying to outline a way out of it. But my writing instinct rebelled hard whenever I tried to compose an ending that had them all riding off into the sunset, happily ever after.
One thing they tell you about writing is to write something you’d like to read. I thought about all of my favorite books.
- - The World According To Garp, by John Irving
- - The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, that I read while writing this
- - Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg
- - She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb
- - The Last Herald Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
- - Fight Club, by Chuck Pahlaniuk
- - Morvern Callar, by Allan Warner
- - and of course, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
What these books have in common is that they’re not happy ending books. They have endings that have happiness to them, but there’s a whole lot of pain and sadness and tragedy and…they make you feel. They make you feel a lot. Happy and sad and lusty and horrified and awkward and laughing and insane - this is why they’re memorable.
I wanted to be memorable. I wanted to make people laugh and cry and I wanted them to enjoy the story even when the story was doing things that weren’t necessarily enjoyable. And I am in no way at all ever ever ever saying that I am anywhere near the league of the writers I named above. No goddamn way ever. I am also not anywhere in the league of Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat, or Joss Whedon, three television and movie writers whose works also made a huge impact on my life, for the same reasons that the book authors did.
It’s just…I mean, when I put together the list of people at whose feet I learned to hone my chosen craft (haha this sounds so entirely pompous…Lissa, you need to STOP), I suddenly understood why Amelia (and Puck) had to die, even though I would never, ever be able to explain it to anyone. I suddenly felt sympathy and understanding for Russell T Davies, against whom I’ve held a smoldering grudge since Torchwood: Children of Earth. It was kind of a clusterfuck of emotions that day. I’m still coping with having forgiven Davies.
And people were upset with me. MAN were people upset with me. Cruelty, gratuitous violence, general disappointment in my choices - I heard it all, and it went straight to the part of me that’s still a teenager trying to please everyone all of the time. It blocked me right up as I fought between continuing the story as planned or somehow saving Amelia and giving the angry readers a happy ending.
In the end, I followed my instincts and went with the story as planned, and I do not regret it. Everyone who mourned and grieved Amelia’s death - thank you for loving this character when you had every right and reason to hate that she even existed. My heart can’t hold all the love you sent to my girl.
Moving on, but just a little because this is getting so long.
Things I do regret? Um, not finding a way to make Finn a bigger part of the story, because I like Finn. And not making Emma a larger part of the story, because the scenes where she did appear were some of my favorites to write. That’s about it. Oh, and my anachronistic and costuming slips. I do regret those.
Something I regret not at all, not a single fucking whit and never will: Enjoying writing Jesse St. James as a full on sociopathic nutjob. Oh, my God, that was the best thing ever, when I got to write an Evil!Jesse scene. Hands down, my favorite scene to write in the ENTIRE STORY was the St. Brittana scene that Kurt walks in on.
I loved Evil!Jesse, right up till when I had him killed and I even felt a little bit sorry for it (though not much since he had after all killed Amelia). I mostly felt sorry for the Bitches Love Evil!Jesse St. James Society that sprang up after his first appearance, but I think they all understood that it needed to be done.
And I love the ending I wrote, which is not a perfect happy ending, but one that brings to my mind a quote that I love from Augusten Burroughs:
“Somehow, through a flip of the coin, I ended up here. Feeling like somebody at the top of the heart-lung transplant recipient list. Damaged but invigorated and fucking lucky.”
I didn’t want a happily ever after ending. I just wanted a good one. I think maybe I managed it.
Everyone who has commented, read, commented that they want to read, that has reblogged and recced and loved this story…I love you as well. We’d be here all day if I tried to express how much you all mean to me, yes, even the people I managed to upset! You have all been generous with your time and attention to me - there’s even been an instance of fanart, which blows my mind like whoa - and I can never, ever thank you all enough for that.
I do a lot of things. I sing, I play the autoharp, I dance, I do a lot of things I love. But there’s nothing I love more than to write, and you all have made me feel like it’s something I might be able to actually do. You have no idea how much that means to me.
So thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand and one times or more.
I very much could not have done it without you. At the very heart of it, “Velvet Petals” is just as much your story as it is mine.