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Tell Me - J Tullos Hennig

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)


Is it possible to have worked on a book for nearly 30 years?  No, strike that... a lifetime?

You see, my novel Shirewode will be released on 09 September, the second book in a duology of Robin Hood.  It is singular amongst other recent retellings of the legend, in that it melds the hard edge of historical fact with the undeniable myth and magic of a vanishing primordial forest.  It also has high romance straight from the original ballads... with a subversive and timely twist, of course.

And time has haunted these books.  It's been a bloody long haul to get here, to this place where I have two actual novels in my hand instead of promises, and good reviews in print instead of well-meaning reassurances. The duology originally began over thirty years ago as a trilogy called Greenwode, on the verge of contract with an SF/F publisher.  The main editor of that imprint died, and in the fallout a lot of things that were going to happen, didn't.  It was the beginning of a run with very, very bad luck on so many fronts--and we all know luck is a big factor in publishing.

I retreated from the field, done in.   But the writing still lay in wait.  Other books were written, shared amongst comrades, put away in the files.  And amidst them waited what would become Greenwode and Shirewode, patient outlaws in ambush.  These manuscripts, gift from a childhood of pretending to be Robin Hood... of hunting and running wild over ploughed fields and through thick forests, of shooting arrows and falling in ponds, of climbing trees and chasing cousins and half-wild ponies that stood in for Sheriff's Men...

Well, these manuscripts were determined to be my debut upon a battlefield where I never again thought to stand.  I'm no longer a starry-eyed twentysomething, and it was on mere chance and whim I pulled the trilogy-that-was from my file cabinets and thought about rewriting them... then did rewrite them.  A lot.  Then, in a process so lacking the chaos of my previous encounters that it felt like the fates were, finally, aligning beside instead of against, publication... happened.  A copy of Greenwode sits in glorious colour upon my shelves.  Not too long ago I got my just-as-glorious copy of Shirewode.  End, yet merely another beginning, Shirewode sits on my shelf next to its mate, right between Heinlein and Herriot...  and what fine company is that?

So.  I spent some years railing at whatever gods would listen (still do, sometimes), but it all comes down to this:

I'm writing better books than I was thirty years ago.

Shirewode, and Greenwode, and whatever books come after are, perhaps, the books they intended to be, all along.