How the Faeries Saved the Night Girl

toronto-path-underground-city.jpgThis photograph was taken by Damian Baranowski.

The Night Girl, as you may remember if you are a regular reader of this blog, took some time to get from initial idea to publication. Over sixteen years, in fact. At one point, I'd almost given up on the project. But something happened.

For one thing, some agents I talked to, including my rep for Icarus Down saw something in the work, and encouraged me not to abandon it. I obviously felt something too. So, in 2013, I went in and rewrote The Night Girl from the ground up. Many scenes I re-used whole hog, but lots of things were on the table: Fergus's job (going from barista to cab driver), Perpetua's relationship with her mother (her mother made appearances in the early drafts; no longer), and the ease with which Perpetua found a job and an apartment (she had an apartment in the first version, and needed to find one in the second).

But one of the biggest changes was the relationship between Perpetua and Earthenhouse, and one of the things that brought that about was the arrival of faeries into the mix of humans, goblins and trolls.

Faeries did not have a role in the initial version of The Night Girl, despite them being a part of the lore I dipped into when I crafted my tale of goblins and trolls seeking to eke out a living in the human economy of Toronto. They had used their beauty and glamour to marry themselves into the human race, assimilating -- not the best of fates, but better than the alternatives the goblins and trolls had to contemplate.

And in the first version of the story, that gave me no main antagonist except for Earthenhouse, who was also Perpetua's mentor. Now, I'm sure there are many good stories out there where the mentor is also the primary antagonist, but it wasn't working here. Despite Earthenhouse rocking the boat slightly to try and give the goblins and trolls more within the human economy, he acts as a defender of the status quo, determined that humanity should not wake up and see the goblins and trolls around them, lest bad things happen. When this fails, then he swings and tries to bring the status quo down around everybody's heads. In some ways, I think this is understandable, but it wasn't quite right. Why would Earthenhouse spend so much effort trying to maintain the status quo if he ends up deciding to destroy it?

That's when I remembered the faeries. What if we brought them back? Instead of assimilating in with the humans and disappearing, what if they didn't disappear? What if they were beneficiaries of the status quo, sharing Earthenhouse's fear of humanity waking up and seeing the mythological creatures around them, but still enjoying their positions of privilege?

Suddenly, Earthenhouse has something to fight against from the start, and his progression of revolting against the status quo gets a more natural progression by giving it a further starting point. He's rocking the boat, and he knows he's doing that. He's defying the faeries, but he has to do that to help his goblin and troll brothers and sisters get a better life. And when that fails, well, his act to bring down the whole rotten system is a mere escalation of what he was trying to do in the first place.

The faeries also gave me a new primary antagonist in the form of Christina Bell, the main advocate for the faeries but one who, like everybody else in the story, is not a true villain, as everyone is motivated by fear and misunderstanding, and a desire to both hold on to what is good, and to make things better. It was a lot of fun having Perpetua stand up and talk back to this woman; it had a lot more edge than her more jovial relationship with Earthenhouse.

The result was a significnat expansion in the word count, from 64,000 words to around 85,000, and a more complicated but, in my opinion, more complete story. And after sixteen years of shepherding its creation, one which I'm proud to finally see in print.

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