I finished the first draft of The Dream King’s Daughter at 1:23 p.m. today, at home, after a remarkable pace of writing. The story clocked in at 50,414 words.
In mid-September, I started nursing a single scene idea. I got the picture of a young woman driving with her father. He’d swept her away on the promise of visiting a favoured relative, but there was some edge of fear in his eyes. How much fear becomes clear when the daughter falls asleep, and wakes up the next morning, still in the car, but riding past a different landscape. Her father, she realizes, has driven through the night.
From there, I just asked questions: what was the father running from? Why was the daughter in danger? I picked the most interesting answers that came to mind, and set about answering the questions they raised. Other ideas materialized and were added: the daughter living in a sort of witness protection life, working as a waitress in a country town (an idea, I must admit, I came upon during an episode of Heroes), and finally, the girl’s ability to see people’s dreams.
At nine months from first word to first draft, The Dream King’s Daughter is perhaps the second fastest novel that I’ve written. Rosemary and Time (the original title for The Unwritten Girl) came faster, going from first word to first draft in just five months, although that story required another four years of revisions before it was published. I hope The Dream King’s Daughter won’t take as long.
The Night Girl and The Dream King’s Daughter share a lot: female protagonists, a slightly surreal take on the world, but in other respects, each has strengths the other does not. The Night Girl has more depth, I think, but The Dream King’s Daughter has more energy. It’s how I managed to average over 5000 words a month over the past five months. The story will need a number of revisions before it’s ready for prime time, and some ideas may be just too surreal for some readers, but I hope everyone appreciates the action.
What’s next? Well, right now, I have a commission from the Science Solves It people to write up 3500 words on “extreme environments” by the beginning of June. Then, I expect, I’ll be working on edits for The Young City. After that, it will probably be about getting The Night Girl into submittable shape. We’ll see what happens. Mount Royal is still on the backburner. Maybe I’ll take it off of there when I’m ready to get cooking.
Here’s a scene from The Dream King’s Daughter’s final chapter:
Aurora kicked open the door to the back apartment and dragged a large suitcase onto the gravel. It scraped over the stones, raising a trail of dust as she manhandled it to Matron’s station wagon. Then she opened the back and shoved the suitcase inside.
Slamming the car shut, she turned, and bumped into Britney.
Aurora looked down at the little girl, looking up at her, her doll tucked under her arm. Then Aurora knelt down so her face was level with the girl’s and gave Britney a smile. “Yes?”
Britney grinned, and flung her arms around Aurora.
Aurora’s breath caught, but she returned the hug. They held each other a long moment, before Britney pulled away, and darted off for home.
Aurora watched her go, and then turned back to the station wagon. She got in behind the wheel and put the key in the ignition.
She hesitated then, and looked out over the hood at the diner. She bit her lip and fingered the keys in the ignition.
The passenger side door swung open, and Polk poked his head in.
“Can I come with you?” he asked, looking shy.
She craned her neck to look past him. He’d brought his own suitcase. She narrowed her eyes at him. “Did Matron and my parents say it was okay?”
He shrugged. “They… sort of suggested it… And if they hadn’t, I would have.”
She pursed her lips a moment. Then she patted the passenger seat. “Get in.”
Polk beamed, tossed his luggage in the back seat, and slid in beside her. He leaned forward and played with the controls of the car stereo.
Aurora caught his arm. He looked at her. “Yes?”
“Are you okay?”
He shrugged. “I’m fine. Are… you okay?”
She took a shaky breath. “I… hurt a lot of people, Polk.”
He frowned. “It was just a dream,” he said seriously.
“No. It wasn’t.”
“It wasn’t you,” said Polk, turning away.
She gave his arm a squeeze. He looked back at her.
“Yes. It was,” said Aurora.
“Well…” He chewed his lip. “It’s over now, and you’ve got it all under control. That’s what’s important. Right?”
She took a deep breath. Then nodded. “Right.” As he turned away, she said, “Hey.”
Her looked at her again, and she leaned across the seat and kissed him. He kissed back. Time slowed down for them. Aurora savoured every lengthened second, the pressure of his lips, and the taste of him on her tongue.
When time sped up again, she leaned back, a little out of breath. “So, you still have your powers.”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s just that… well, I napped once. I dreamt that all I could see was the inside of my eyelids.”
She sighed. “Matron should have warned you about that.”
He shrugged. “Why? I would have done it anyway.”
“Really,” he said. “I just wouldn’t have screamed as much. Maybe.”
She looked him in the eye and saw nothing but the blue iris surrounded by white. It was like listening to music with the bass off.
But he was still Polk. There was still music there.
“I’m sorry I took your dreams away,” she said.
He grinned at her. “No you didn’t. My dreams are sitting right here in front of me.”
Aurora slapped him upside the head. “Sap!”
He rubbed his scalp. “True, though.”
Despite herself, she felt herself blush. So she faced forward and turned the ignition of Matron’s car. The engine roared to life.
“Where are we going?” asked Polk.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Let’s just follow our dreams.”
He nodded. Aurora put the car into gear. They drove onto the road in a spray of gravel, and turned south. As they passed the diner one last time, Aurora gave it a wave.
Her parents and Matron stood at the door. They waved back.
And somewhere high above Saskatchewan, the last of the cloud city floated apart and disappeared.