There was a moment in The Lightning-Struck Heart that I knew there was no going back. It was a point in which I had to decide if I wanted this to be crack or if I wanted this book to be mega-crack.
It really should have been a harder decision than it was. Frankly, I am a little embarrassed about how easily I caved into mega-crack.
Can you figure it out?
Sure, there are plenty of moments that I’m sure you had while reading that made you go TJ got into the good shit when he was writing this. And I almost wish I could use that as an excuse, but unfortunately I can’t. This book shows just how exactly my mind works, probably more so than anything else I’ve ever written. It’s not a pretty sight, and is undoubtedly very strange, but I think I was tired of holding back.
I’ve been criticized that the humor doesn’t stop, allowing readers a moment to breathe, that it can be overwhelming. That is certainly a fair criticism that I would never dispute. My humor is not for everyone, much like the books I write are not going to be for everyone. And that’s okay. I will never write a book that is universally loved because not everyone likes the same thing. One person might think my books are funny while another thinks they are overwrought and boorish. But I like that dichotomy, because it shows just how varied people can be. I like quick dialogue. I like a rapid fire pace. And I won't change or apologize for that.
The point of no return?
The Gary/Kevin sex scene where Gary’s safe word is Sam.
Yeah, I think that even I was slightly horrified that I decided to go that direction.
And when Gary and Kevin started their long-term relationship and were magically inclined to believe that Sam was their child?
I don’t even know, man. That was a thing that happened and I honestly stopped and stared at the screen for a while, finally saying, “What the fuck is going on here.”
Below, I’m going to discuss a few things in the book. Obviously, there be spoilers ahead, so beware. I’ll also discuss the future of Tales From Verania, so you know my plans for my merry band of crack babies.
Now, be honest with me. If someone had told you that the favorite character out of a fantasy book full of characters would be hornless gay unicorn named Gary who ate sass for breakfast, would you have believed them?
Yeah, me neither.
But here’s the thing. I’ve said before that without Gary, I wouldn’t have written this book because Gary was the first voice I heard. And I knew when I started writing him, almost from the very first chapter, that he was going to steal every single goddamn scene he was in. He wouldn’t have had it any other way. And the fact that he was in almost every single scene? Well, that just made it all the more important for me to write him as best as I possible could
To me, Gary is a fierce, independent unicorn who don’t need no mens, but there is something fragile about him. I didn’t delve into a lot of the mentioned past abuse he and Tiggy underwent at the hands of Koklanaris, but I think it was a very serious thing that went on for a long time. And the fact that his horn is missing (and just how did that happen?) only added to the insecurities he must have had. All of which he hides under an exterior shell of bitchy wordplay.
And Tiggy, man. I was honestly surprised just how many people loved Tiggy as they have. Nearly for every mention of Gary, Tiggy is sure to follow, and that makes me happier than I could ever say. For a while, I was worried Tiggy would be overshadowed by the others, given that he is a half-giant of a few words, and the words he uses could make him seem simpler than the others. And that would be a fair argument, though that was never my intent. Tiggy doesn’t have the mind of a child, nor is he one. I think that’s just how he is. He’s not stupid. He’s not an imbecile. He’s Tiggy.
Favorite Scene & Easter Eggs
Writing comedy can be very difficult, especially when writing some of the bigger scenes with multiple lines of dialogue. I by no means am a master at it, but I’d like to think that I have the hang of it by now. Certainly, I’ve had enough practice.
And the bigger scenes can be like set pieces in an action movie. You know, those big, huge spectacular spectaculars that are meant to make your eyes widen more than any other part of the movie.
In comedy, think the awkward dinner scenes in the BOATK books. Or the first date between Paul and Vince in TMIR with a certain hippo video.
These scenes generally become my favorite because they take so long to work on. I am proud of them by the time they are done, because I really want to make them shine, so later, when you’re finished, they stick out in your mind as being some of the parts you remember the most.
My favorite comedic set piece in TLSH?
I could almost say the river scene with a wet Ryan and how Sam has wood. Or Kevin’s introduction, where Sam learns his name for the first time.
But honestly, there really is no contest, because for me, it will always pale in comparison to the chapter titled Are You a Foxy Lady or a Sam Girl?
God, do I love that chapter.
Lady Tina DeSilva, man. Sam’s arch nemeses. She is a fucking hoot.
The idea of fan clubs and shipping just intrigues me. Why is that a thing in our culture? Why do people ship characters from a TV show or movie or book, either because they are actually together in whatever media they are in or not? There are literally millions of Tumblr pages dedicated to shipping characters and I don’t know why. But I love it. And I wanted to use that, in a way, in TLSH (also, I should point out that shipping of book characters plays a big part in my next book, How to Be a Normal Person, out this October, /end shameless plug). But since this was a fantasy setting, there was no Tumblr.
So a fan club was born.
There are fans.
And then there are superfans.
The ladies (and Mervin) are superfans.
There is a bit of a Gary Stu quality to Sam, because everyone does seem to be charmed by him, whether or not he’s actively trying. I am aware of that. It was really rather intentional. Lady Tina represented a counterpoint to that because they despise each other. And that’s not going to change. Tina will always hate him and vice versa, because I think that anything else would be a disservice to the antagonistic relationship they have between them.
That scene, though. When they see Ryan for the first time and all of them scream, even Sam?
That just cracked me up.
And you may have noticed a few (more than a few) references in the book to other things. So far, people have found the Hustle & Flow reference, the Top Gun reference, the Super Mario Bros. reference, and Friends (Russ and Rochelle!) reference in the book. There are a few that haven’t been pointed out as of yet. Easter eggs like that make me happy (especially the Super Mario Bros. one), just because they really have no place in a book like this. But I put them in there, anyway, just because I could.
The Future of Verania
Inevitably, (in this case, on the first day, JFC) a question gets asked on a book like this.
When is there going to be a sequel?
I honestly didn’t set out to write a series.
I have too many other books going on.
But by the time I’d finished, I saw just how big of a world I’d written here. And just how many stories there could be.
And then there was the fact that I didn’t want to leave Verania. I enjoyed my time there far too much to say goodbye just yet. This book came at a time when I needed to write something happy more than any other point in my life. It helped put my sanity back together and gave me a purpose.
There will be sequels.
Two, in fact.
I can’t say when. I have a few other long-awaited things to do first (BOATK4) (BURN2 yes, I hear you Burn fans, you can put down the pitchforks now), but there will be more stories here. That idea of a destiny of dragons intrigues me, as does what exactly a cornerstone will do to protect the one he loves.
But that seems like a little while off yet.
And I just don’t want to wait too long.
Coming next month, right here, I’ll be releasing the very first Tales From Verania short story. I hope to make this a series that I’ll publish a story every few months on.
The first subject?
Lady Tina DeSilva leading a fan club meeting after the events of TLSH, and trying to keep Rystin alive. And by the end, she will have her own destiny to fulfill.
God, this got long.
I tend to do that.
If you’ve read all the way to the end, and did the same with TLSH, I thank you. If you have yet to read it and just read a shitload of spoilers, I say thank you (and also, what the fuck). The sheer amount of you that have embraced this book like you have was not something I expected. Because of you, I get to keep on doing what I’m doing.
PS: I’ll see you next month when we do this whole book release thing all over again when I start teasing—er, promoting How to Be a Normal Person.