It’s my pleasure to welcome back my Running Wild Press colleague Amelia Kibbie, this time for a guest blog. This is a very opportune time for more than one reason. First: Running Wild Press is offering all of their published catalog at pennies above cost for paperback and 99 cents for eBooks from today, March 27, 2020 through May 1, 2020. Full details and recommended purchasing locations are here.
Even more importantly, Amelia’s book Legendary is a story where kindness, love, and courage shine light through a time of fear and uncertainty. I loved it, and it’s a good book to read in these uncertain times.
I first encountered Amelia’s writing in Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2, where I met and fell in love with her characters James and Arthur; their story continues in Legendary. Amelia tells how this story came to be.
“Legendary” is a book that almost didn’t happen.
It took a series of unexpected events to bring this novel to life. This is the story of my story.
I love to cruise writing websites to look for contests and calls for submissions, as many of us probably do. I saw a call for submissions for an LGBT romance anthology called Heart of Steel. The submission guidelines requested an LGBT romance featuring knights. As a lover of fantasy and someone who understands the importance of representation, I was ecstatic to write something for the anthology, and read the stories others had written.
I wanted to write something different, something unexpected. How could I include a knight without setting my story in medieval Europe or some kind of Lord of the Rings rip-off fantasy setting? The idea came to me that a character in the story might not be a literal knight, but could have a heart of steel regardless. What if someone in modern times found a suit of armor and put it on?
I thought about the kind of story that I needed to read as a young person. A story with LGBT protagonists who were realistic, not stereotypes. A story with a same-sex romance that ended happily. So happily it was cheesy, like a fairy tale. A legendary ending. Because LGBT characters deserve the chance to have such an ending, and readers need it in their minds and hearts as well, especially those struggling with their sexuality and how their families and society might react.
So, I wrote a story about two outcasts who find each other, and the legendary love that blossoms. James and Arthur are bullied by their peers for different reasons, and this cruelty increases tenfold when they are sent out of London with their classmates to avoid the Nazi Blitz. Arthur, empowered by the legends of King Arthur Pendragon, finds the courage to don the armor and stand up for James.
Authors often love the things they write, their darlings, I suppose — but there was something about this story that gripped me and wouldn’t let go. I rarely cry, but I cried as I wrote the ending, and simply talking about the story would get me emotional. Imagine how I felt when the story was rejected by the anthology.
I continued to submit it, even though it was an awkward length and a niche genre. Rejection, rejection, rejection. Then, I heard about Running Wild Press’s anthology of stories. Expecting a rejection, I sent them my story “Idylls of the King.” When it was accepted, I cried again. At last, James and Arthur’s story could reach readers.
I thought my heart would explode right out of my chest when, one day, I got an email from Lisa Kaestner, editor of Running Wild. She said, simply, that she’d like to see a novel based on the characters I created in “Idylls of the King.” I worked closely with her to develop an outline that she felt would produce a book that Running Wild would be interested in publishing. I brought readers forward in time to James and Arthur as young men in 1950s London as they struggled with prejudice and rough patches in their relationship as they travel cross country to solve the mystery of a close friend’s dying words. I included the original short story as a flashback. Three drafts and two beta readers later, I had a manuscript for Running Wild’s Benjamin White to edit. Long story short, my book was published in November of 2019.
I wanted to share my journey for a couple of reasons. First, if you are a writer, don’t give up after a few rejections. Often, you’ll hear stories about famous writers being rejected multiple times until finding success. Yet, there’s always some part of me when I read those stories that doesn’t believe them. But I’m here to tell you as a real person that you shouldn’t give up. Keep submitting! Keep querying!
Secondly, if you truly believe in representation in fiction for a marginalized community, it’s your duty to keep submitting until someone says yes. We need these stories in the hands of readers who come from these groups, especially young readers. Write the book that you needed in the past. You never know what kind of impact you may have on someone’s life.
Thank you so much for sharing Legendary’s journey, Amelia. Readers, you can contact your local bookstore to order this wonderful book for delivery. (Amelia recommends M&M bookstore if you’re near Cedar Rapids.) You can also order it through Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. And you can connect with Amelia on her website, www.ameliakibbie.com, at her blog akibbie.wordpress.com, and through Twitter @ameliakibbie, Instagram @hollycat83 and facebook https://www.facebook.com/ameliakibbie.