It still amazes me to think that I have finally completed a journey that has spanned the last five years (though progress had not always been consistent), culminating in the result of just over 140,000 words. After 666_blessings
has finished looking through the final chapter and zapping all the typos, I will post it on this lovely website most of us here frequent
, and change the status to complete. But of course, being the excruciatingly sentimental person that I am, I cannot simply walk away without another word. I am compelled to share my thoughts because, after all, this story has been close to my heart for so long.
Five years ago, when I was in Year 11, I sat down in Mr Brauner's Extension 1 English class and listened to him talk about the animal imagery used in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew
. The dogs, the hunting, the taming, the falcons, the predators and the prey. He talked about how a nobleman at that time was judged by his collection of predatory birds, of how he established his power by being able to tame falcons and hawks. As Mr Brauner spoke, my mind, always on Sailormoon, wandered to a place where I've never quite been before. I saw glimpses of scenes: a burning village, a bitter woman, a powerful, manipulative prince. Up until then, I had written a handful of short Sailormoon stories that were mostly playful and fun, and never lasted more than 10,000 words. But this was different, this idea needed more because there was so much more to say.
And so it began. I went home that day and wrote a prologue. I had always wanted to write an effective prologue, and by the end of the few hundred words, I was pleased with how it had turned out. I posted it on FF.Net, and to my great surprise, the response was quite overwhelming. Encouraged by this, I set out to write the next two chapters, finding every word more enjoyable than the next. By the end of the third chapter, I had written over 16,000 words...and I still had a long way to go.
It was then that I realised the task I had set out to do was far more difficult than I had initially thought. I wanted Serena and Darien to fall in love, but it was almost impossible when her hatred for him was so strong. This wasn't like the other stories, where the two had to overcome petty little differences and their disdain for a teasing nickname. This was murder, war, death, and beyond all, the fierce loyalty one strong woman had for her own country. Serena's life had been forced to intertwine with not only Darien's, but the Shitennou and the Senshi who were also her enemies. What I needed to do was somehow take Serena on a journey where she reconciles with nine people she initially despised, and creates unique bonds with those individuals. And then, when all ten of these characters finally found their respect for one another, and most importantly, for Serena, I would have to tear them apart with the revelation of Darien's identity. I knew how I wanted the story to end, so I wrote a detailed sketch of the last scene (it's changed considerably since then, but the essence is still there). But I had no clue as to how I could take them through their journey and reach those last words, where the present tense of the verb in the title changed to the past.
I started giving up then. Year 12 was looming, and with it, the set of assessments and examinations that determined my entrance to university (although, admittedly, I didn't really put much effort into my HSC, but that's very much beside the point). I was not mature enough of a writer to be able to pull this off. Serena had every reason to hate the people who surrounded her, and no reason to give them any concessions. I got ideas for other stories, simple ones that did not deal with such an abundance of human suffering and emotion, and I pursued them without a second thought. I loved this story, but it had to be abandoned. I simply did not have the ability to do it.
The first year of university came and went. Immersed in my extracurricular activities, my school work and my job, I gave only a fleeting thought to As the Eagle Flies
, and posted a chapter out of necessity. The second year passed just as quickly, but this time, for some unknown reason, I found my interest renewed. I started thinking of ways to continue the story, but they were stopped short by the beginning of 2008. I went to Japan for half a year on study exchange, and discovered another dimension of Sailormoon that took my breath away. And when I returned to Australia, for no particular reason that I can pinpoint, I decided to seriously tackle this story that I had started so many years ago. I wrote as much as I could, and with the support and encouragement of my sister Wendy and my good friend and editor Alan, I had another chapter. I made a decision to spend more time writing, and when November came, I took on the NaNoWriMo challenge. But instead of starting a new story like I had in previous years, I continued with this one. Little by little--or rather, with bursts of productivity followed by days of inactivity--I wrote and finished it.
I had never intended it to be a happy ending. I started feeling guilty about where the story was heading when some of my reviewers showed their enthusiasm for a happily ever after, but being the stubborn person that I am, I was firm in my resolution. Darien could never be forgiven for what he had done to Serena, but his actions were not entirely of his own accord. The ending is his atonement and her acceptance. The last words do not form a perfect cadence, but the long, single B played by the cellos and the double basses in the final movement of Tchaikovsky's sixth and last symphony. There was no other way, and though I gave a few thoughts to having an alternative ending, I knew that I would adhere to the vision I had five years ago.
I hope that if you were saddened or angered by the ending, that you would forgive me. If life was less cruel, if truths were less beautiful, then I would change it.
Now that the first draft has been completed--and I know all too well that it's only the beginning--I'm equally relieved and scared. I know that there are many inconsistencies throughout the story (not to mention the occasional typo that Alan missed), and perhaps a couple of sections that should be rearranged, shortened, or omitted altogether. I am not Charles Dickens or Elizabeth Gaskell, nor was meant to be; I know all too well the necessity of revising the entire piece. The structure itself is somewhat unconventional (although it's rather foolish of me to say that in these postmodernist days), with extended rising action and no denouement. I could brush up on the POV, especially in the earlier chapters, and reconsider the nuances of the cultural divide that I tried so hard (and succeeded less than I'd hoped) to depict. The warfare requires a bit more research, and more afternoons spent with boys who are happy to talk about military tactics ranging from Rome to Agincourt. (Unfortunately, the boys I talked to about the matter weren't too keen on fantastical battles, and glared at me whenever I interrupted their historically accurate recounts with questions about Helm's Deep and the specifics of Aragorn's weapons...) But despite its many flaws, I am proud to have finished this story, one that I hope will provide pleasure to many readers and fans out there. I never thought I could accomplish such a difficult feat, and now that I know what I'm capable of, I'm going to retreat back into the world of fluff (literary, not from the machinery of industrial Victorian cities in Northern England).
On a final note, I would like to extend my thanks to all the people who have made this possible. Wendy, my beloved little sister, whose task of being my first reader also includes being spoilt as I ramble on about details of the story before they are properly formed. Alan, my editor and partner in all things insane, who took on the arduous task of picking up hundreds of typos and whose only reward for his efforts is a bag of
chocolate chip cookies. Jonathan, my first editor; Sid, provider of helpful insights and marvellous dinners; Mona, who has waited patiently as I worked on writing this story instead of her long-outstanding personalised porn. The genius of numerous writers who have influenced me and whose works to which I have alluded in the story: Shakespeare, Caedmon, Cleland, Richardson, Fielding, T. S. Eliot, Ian McEwan, Oscar Wilde, and Vienna Teng (who is a singer-songwriter, which makes her doubly awesome). And of course, to all the lovely readers and reviewers whose comments always leave me with a smile, or something new to think about. Thank you for taking this journey with me.