On September 21st, 2014, I texted author S.A. McAuley:
So, this morning I started writing a medieval fantasy comedy that uses modern language and has a sassy gay unicorn named Gary and I just stopped. It is already 12K words and is so far beyond crack that it might was well be black tar heroin.
She responded, Please tell me there will be plague jokes.
To which I had to say, I ALREADY WROTE TWO.
Black death for the literary win. Lambda repeat here you come!!
This same time a year ago, I was in a very rough place. I was spiraling down into this strange and constrictive abyss. I had just released The Art Of Breathing the month before and did the re-release of John & Jackie.
I was tired. I didn’t want to be on social media. I didn’t want to have to promote. I didn’t want to interact. Everything was a chore and I was tired. The fact that BOATK3 was any success at all is thanks to all of you as I didn’t really do anything for it. It came out and I just left it there to do what it would.
And by that point, last July, I hadn’t written anything since December 2013 when everything went to shit. I can’t be blamed for that, obviously, as my priorities were elsewhere. I didn’t even think about writing the first part of last year, and when BOATK3 was released, the idea of writing anything new was so exhausting that I couldn’t even be bothered.
So, last July, I stepped away from everything and just allowed myself to breathe.
It helped. It really did. It was a slow and painful process that I’m still going through to this day, but it helped.
And randomly, one September morning, I opened up a word doc and started writing again.
Funnily enough, this book exists because of a throwaway line from Tell Me It’s Real. In it, Paul is commenting how Sandy snorted while eating radicchio, and it was pretty. The color of the radicchio, not Sandy’s snort, because Sandy wasn’t a unicorn, after all.
And I remember thinking, okay, but what if there was a unicorn?
Which, honestly, should have been my first clue just how crack-tastic this book was going to be. Because who in their right fucking mind thinks what if there was a unicorn?
Apparently I do.
And apparently I did.
The Lightning-Struck Heart is what followed.
Or, as it was originally titled, Unicorn Star Fucker.
(Which, sadly, I wasn’t able to keep the original title. Because of reasons.)
(Those reasons being that apparently you can’t put FUCKER on your cover.)
The Lightning-Struck Heart (TLSH) is not going to be your typical fantasy novel. Obviously. Because I sure as shit am not Tolkein or Pratchett, and I will never, ever be. I don’t want to be, either. This is the first time I’ve written a fantasy novel of this sort, because I don’t ever want to be pigeon-holed into writing contemporary or mystery or historical or any other subgenre that’s out there. Every book I write, I want to have it be different than the one before. If it wasn’t, if I chose to write the same book over and over and over again (Coming Soon, TJ Klune’s Werewolf Mates of Love and Butt Stuff #37!!!!), I would go out of my fucking mind. And you probably wouldn’t forgive me for being so lazy.
What can I tell you about the TLHS?
Sam Haversford, the wizard and narrator, is brilliant, smart, snarky and so completely convinced he can never have the one person he wants.
Ryan Foxheart, a knight with a secret and a boyfriend who is not Sam (in fact, his boyfriend is the douchy Prince Justin, the same Prince who Sam will one day serve when Justin ascends to the throne.)
Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, will steal every fucking scene he’s in, the same way Sandy did in Tell Me It’s Real. I am very well prepared for him to be the favorite, along with his partner in crime, the half-giant Tiggy. It’s fitting, really, since Gary was the reason I started writing this book to begin with.
And it’s comedy, of course, because when I started writing it, I needed to laugh. I love comedy and the wordplay that goes along with. I love super-quick dialogue with snarky banter that zips and zings. I love characters who accidentally blurt their feelings in a way that is both extraordinarily awkward and endearing. I couldn’t have written another BOATK book at that moment, or another book along the lines of Burn or River because the angst alone would have been such a turn off and I know I wouldn’t have been able to finish.
I told myself this wasn’t going to be that type of book. I wanted to write a full out crack novel with snarky humor, a hero that was prone to blurt his feelings, and a knight who was the dreamiest thing ever.
And it worked!
…at least at first.
Because then the angst happened.
Oh, it’s not of the soul-crushing variety, not like the BOATK books. Apparently, I’m quite incapable of writing a book that has a sexually aggressive dragon in it without adding some motherfucking angst. I don’t even know how it happened. It just did. I didn’t even realize it had happened until my editor starting leaving messages in the manuscript accusing her of making her cry and have feelings in a book called Unicorn Star Fucker, for fuck’s sake.
Wookie cry face?
But it’s okay!
Because I keep my promises.
And I promise that there is a happy ending here. Of course there will be, because this is a fairy tale (however fractured it might be) and everyone knows they have to live happily ever after.
But up till that point, there will be gay fairy kings who want to gay fairy marry Sam, a drag queen named Mama who runs a gay brothel in a dark city, a bard who sings a twelve verse song called “Cheesy Dicks and Candlesticks”, Dark Wizards who want revenge, inappropriate obsessions with corn, questions on whether rimming is as awesome as it sounds, a dragon’s keep, a meeting of the Ryan Foxheart Fan Club City of Lockes Chapter, deep discussions about whether riding horses is racist to a unicorn, and a half giant who never gets to be naked when he wants to.
And all the while, you’ll get to see two guys who are so fucking oblivious about the way they feel about each other that you’ll want to knock their heads together and scream at them to JUST FUCKING KISS!!!!!!!!!
By the time you read this, you’ll be only two days away from going on this stupidly epic (or epically stupid) journey of mine. I know it's taken us a while to get here. The dedication in the front of this novel reads as follows:
To those that have patiently waited for me to find my footing again, I say thank you.
This book is for you.
I hope it’s worth the long wait.
I know it was for me.
(Oh, and FYI—you want to know how I pitched this book to my publisher? Legit, this is the complete email I sent:
I have a new book for you.
It has gay unicorns and 170K words.
They are going to take my Lambda Award away from me for this.
I regret nothing.
See, kids? Dreams really do come true!)