Twenty years ago…God, TWENTY, that doesn’t even sound possible…I was an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech, majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. I was writing what I thought at the time to be adequately sophisticated poetry, but what I now consider to be a record of thoughts and experiences that feel so distant that I can hardly believe they were once mine.
In the intervening years, I’ve crossed the country and come back again. I’ve started three careers and abandoned two. I’ve accumulated a couple of degrees. I’ve gotten married, amicably divorced, and married again. I’ve started countless projects and finished a few, planted gardens and worked on old pick-up trucks, knitted two sweaters, and gained some weight. I did not however, do any creative writing.
I’d moved on…I thought.
A couple years ago, while I was finishing my doctoral dissertation (yes, I am one of those people who can’t do anything without doing all the things), I began writing a novel. Instead of serving as an escape or providing distraction, the novel became a place where I could wrestle with the ideas that were, and still are, central to my academic work. In this, the book became a kind of hypothetical intellectual laboratory.
After several bouts of writing and tabling the novel, I realized two things. First, I discovered that I was invested enough in the project to try to put it in the hands of other people. Second, it became clear that I was on pace to write a 180,000 – 200,000-word novel. I decided to try my hand at self-publishing and to break up the work into four novellas.
WITHOUT LIGHT was born.
Rethinking the story as a four-part series revitalized my writing process and genuinely excited me. Before long I put parts of the first book into the hands of a group of very smart, very generous beta-readers. They critiqued and asked questions, gave me more than enough praise to keep writing , and made several challenging suggestions. I revised and rewrote and with wonder, watched as the first in a planned series of novellas stretched toward full novel length.
I discovered the breadth of the story I hoped to tell was far more vast than I’d every considered. But more importantly, I discovered that the process of adapting to reader feedback in a dynamic and meaningful way is exhilarating. I realized that to maximize my ability to engage in this process, I would once again have to rethink the format that WITHOUT LIGHT would take.
Intrigued and inspired by the contemporary resurgence of serialized fiction, particularly by the ways that authors who are reclaiming this form engage and interact with readers, I reconceived WITHOUT LIGHT as a work of serial fiction.
It feels completely new and frankly terrifying to be taking my creative writing seriously again after all these years. This was much easier as a 19 year old. But I have decided to just jump. There is little to lose and (hopefully) lots to learn.