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  • Writer's pictureblaine daigle

Falling in love with the story I was terrified wouldn't work.

November 10th nears ever closer, and as it does I find myself looking over my initial scrivener drafts of A Dark Roux. For context, I write all my first drafts and do my first edits in Scrivener, before converting it to a Word doc for beta readers and submission. As I look over the childhood of the book nearing its release, I can't help but feel a monumental swelling of pride at what it has become, what it has to say, and what it means to me.

I always refer to A Dark Roux as my little problem child. It gave me hell. The initial story was about our protagonist, Rhiannon, returning home to Cypress Landing (then called Cypress Point) to convince her very much alive mother to leave the crumbling LeBeau House as a hurricane bore down on the small town. She was joined by a longtime friend who we find out at the end is really the undead source of all the family's troubles. The final showdown takes place as the hurricane makes landfall.

That was it. No Rhett. No Beauchamp family. No ferryman. No insight into the Summer of 99'. Everything that gives the story its beating heart was missing.

I think many people assume that stories just sort of emerge from an author's imagination and that the edits we perform are just to clean up grammar and conciseness. This could not be further from the truth, and A Dark Roux is a testament to that. I was almost 30k words in when I realized that the story was flat. It had scares, atmosphere, and a little southern attitude. But it had no heart. I spent a lot of time, as my wife can attest, trying my damnedest to find that heart. And through this process, I was terrified that the story would not work. That it was dead in the bayou, never to be seen. Stops and starts punctuated a frustrating experience filled with imposter syndrome and a loss of confidence.

Then I realized my mistake. I'd spent so much time focusing on writing a "Southern Gothic" story, that I had never fleshed out why it was important to me in the first place.

This is a story about legacy. It's a story about siblings. About family dynamics. About culture. About the darkness that lingers in certain places once the sun goes down.

But, above all else, this is a story about atonement.

When I realized that, everything opened up. The hurricane was removed. The Beauchamp family was added. The antagonist changed completely. Miranda LeBeau went from a living character to a dead one whose lingering legacy paints the edges of this story. Rhett was added, and suddenly Rhiannon's character blossomed from an angry child to a loving sister, and everything clicked into place.

Rhiannon and Rhett LeBeau are my two favorite characters I've ever written. The strength, weakness, light, and darkness within both of them felt more real, more intrinsic than anything I've ever written. The moments between them felt honest, and their interactions with the Beauchamp family made my heart sing and cry simultaneously.

So, the story was submitted, accepted, and signed in about a two-week period. At this time, The Broken Places was entering publication and so most of my focus went towards promoting it. But once I had the chance, I spent a chunk of time revising and editing what had already been accepted. Carving out the edges of the story, and finding more frustration as I wondered if this new one lived up to The Broken Places.

But as I finished the self-edits and prepared to send them off for official work, I found myself almost tearing up. Because the story spoke to me in a new voice. A deeper, more mature, and heartfelt voice. I felt, for the first time, that this was something special. It's hard to describe the feeling that took over as I smiled through those final pages. I think the best way to say it is that, simply, I fell in love with the book. This little problem child I'd struggled with so much had grown, matured, and was finding its footing in the world.

Then, it went out for reviews. Both critical and those in my personal life who wanted to read it. Almost exclusively, they responded with the same answer.

"This book is even better than your first."

The initial responses have been overwhelmingly positive. It seems readers are starting to love these characters as I do. It seems that if you loved the atmospheric tone to The Broken Places, you won't be disappointed here.

But while I truly hope my readers love this book, I take comfort in knowing that I love it. I'm proud of what this little problem child has grown up to become.

So, come November 10th, A Dark Roux will be released to the general public. I hope everyone takes a trip down the bayou and enjoys their stay at the LeBeau House. But be wary, something may not want you to leave.


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