A friend on Facebook compared me to a busker or modern day minstrel sharing their stories in a public forum with no assurance of pay which makes me feel a little better. After all, of all the Robin Hood characters, I've always had a soft spot for Alan-a-Dale . . .or was it Will Scarlet. . .Actually, I like Alan for his romantic tendencies (he gets the girl) and Will because in most versions he's a little bit of a rebel firebrand. . .and I just realized where I got the character Will Alison from in the book I'm currently writing. I hate it when I unintentionally plagiarize something, though I guess Robin Hood is considered public domain. No one can copyright Robin Hood. It would be like copyrighting Santa Claus.
But anyway, I think awhile ago I mentioned that the story of Sir Percy (the "Ordinary Knight" portion of the "Tale in Two Parts.") has a special place in my heart and I thought I would take a moment to endeavor to explain why.
First off, while I only recently published A Tale in Two Parts, I actually wrote them several years ago. I finished The Ordinary Knight in late 2005 and The Invisible Princess in early 2007. During this period of time there were other significant changes in my life.
For me the most awkward time in my life was 17 to 19 (so roughly 2002-2004). I was somewhat of a lost child after high school because, while I knew what I wanted in life, I only wanted things that I had no control over. I wanted to be a writer, but that doesn't happen over night and while I was constantly writing and sending out manuscripts, cover letters, and sample chapters, I was getting what most writers get: rejection letters. I wasn't crushed by this. I expected it to happen. I even joked about starting a collection of them or whatnot, but even so it left a big question as to what to do next.
I also really knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom someday, but for this one kind of needs a husband and kids and the whole shebang. . .
And I was also desperately in love with a young man who during this period informed me that I was "more like a little sister" to him.
So I knew what I wanted but everything was just out of reach. I thought about going to college to bide time, but I hated it. Maybe if I had gone to a real college (where I would've actually been challenged) it would've been different, but the thought of college loans with no clear goal in mind (there isn't a degree that guarantees you a job as a fiction writer and we all know the jokes about English majors working in coffee shops) made me physically ill, so I just did the community college courses I could pay for out of pocket, which wasn't much, and I was bored and frustrated. I didn't know what I wanted to do with myself, but I knew it wasn't this.
So after a year of taking fewer classes every semester, I left it behind and started working. I did a year at a local restaurant as a barista and about a year and a half at a bank as a customer service rep (in a phone center) before I found the happily ever after I actually wanted. I liked both jobs and did well at them. I even brought in what I considered to be a living wage at my bank job, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Sir Percy's story started out as a free-write in one of the last classes my mother convinced me to take at the community college, a creative writing class I really didn't want to be there for. I was sulking, working part time (at the restaurant at this point), but I just knew I belonged somewhere else. What I really wanted was for the boy who had left for the Marine Corp after giving me the "little sister" line to come back and tell me he was wrong, he couldn't live without me, etc.
But he didn't and I felt so lonely. I couldn't understand why God wouldn't take the way I felt about him away from me even though I prayed for it over and over again. I thought I was doing something wrong. That I was supposed to give him up so I could move on with my life and find my place in the world. Sometimes I would think I was there, but then something would bring up his memory. Maybe I'd even run into him on the internet where we would occasionally chat even after I had done my embarrassing revelation of adoration and met with his dismissal. Maybe I'd just hear his name from a mutual acquaintance, but whatever it was I'd find myself dreaming of him again, longing to see him, wishing that somehow he would come back and love me.
So there I was free-writing what started out as an ridiculous short story about a young knight who had been shoved in a corner and given an unexciting life due simply to bad luck.
And then I started over and wrote about the kind of love story I wanted to have.
I wanted a friendship that grew into love with a steady man, a man with common sense. I wanted a man who loved me for me. I wanted a man who was willing to work for something, stand up for something. . . and it really wouldn't hurt if it looked a little bit like the young man I was still pining for even though he was across the country doing Marine stuff.
The Ordinary Knight is basically my version of the perfect courtship complicated by fairies. I added in two characters representing the sort of men I wanted to avoid (the player/cad and the shiftless coward) and a life or death conflict for drama, but really at heart this story is simply the love story the young me was longing for. I used it to write myself out of my 19-year-old slump and a little after my 20th birthday, I finished it and printed it off for the first time.
Several months later my beloved Marine came back to town on leave and swept me off my feet, but there is a little more to that story which doesn't involve Sir Percy at all and I won't get into it here. Let's just say that somehow I had guessed right, and my happy ending felt a lot like the one I had written for the lonely princess Percy befriends and eventually marries in the book. I can't imagine a better way to fall in love than with a long time friend who is also your hero, be he a knight or a devil dog Marine.
So that is why Sir Percy has stayed with me all these years. The Invisible Princess has her own origin story, but it is much less personal. Percy was my premonition of the love story I was born to live out, and it will always be precious to me because of that.