I should think that all writers have a story in their skeleton cupboard. A tale they are either fond of or hide it in the attic somewhere because they can’t bring themselves to burn it. This novel tends to be either the first one they ever wrote or riddled with obvious personal parodies to their own lives.
My ‘secret story’ is both of these things and is about to be unleashed on the world. Good luck.
As all well-told retrospective stories go, it was the year 2003 and I was 11 years old. Having grown up as an avid Buffy the Vampire fan and in the company of Buffy fans, it was a shock for tiny Willow to move to another part of the country where no one shared her fan-girl-joy. For the next two years she spent her life mostly on the phone to her best friend, Natasha, discussing how life was awful without each other.
But there was salvation on the horizon. One day, a wonderful realisation struck Willow like a doe prancing through the African planes… She could immerse herself in fiction.
Abandoning the third person complex, I went on to unwittingly write my first piece of fan-fiction. I did not find out what fan fiction was until I was 16. Mitch and I were scared of each other when we were younger, which is a sad thing indeed. So, this awful first novel was written bit-by-bit and after each chapter I would call Natasha and read it to her.
Here is where the punch line comes. The main characters of this little ‘novel’ are Natasha and myself (using my middle name, because there couldn’t be two Willows). We became the heroes of the world of Buffy.
I hand wrote 50 pages of the thing but I cannot bring myself to re-read it! Despite this need to cringe as soon as I look the first page, the plot is reasonably sensible. Natasha ends up falling in love with Spike and I get Angel, possibly our only dispute about the series – who is the better man? And the ending is a quick war in the Hellmouth that suspiciously resembles Lord of the Rings: Return or the king, and lar-dee-dar, we save the world.
I even drew a front cover for it:
Because I’m a brave soul, I’ll include a scanning of one of the pages – both pages didn’t fit, I’m sorry.
It’s painful reading. The spelling makes Oxford babies cry at night and the constant jumping from place to place within the space of two sentences confuses even me.
At the age of 14 I rediscovered this story, lost in the mists of dust and socks. The first chapter is the good part. I read it and thought, ‘this isn’t so bad. I could rewrite it.’ So I did. Kind of. I lost interest half way through the chapter and it stayed incomplete for another year until again, it was rediscovered.
At the time, I was living with my mother, step-father and four younger siblings in Marnhull, which is a beautiful little area in the south of England. Chickens and horses plodded in the field outside my window and I had a window seat (exaggeration: it was just a giant window sill) to doze on. One sunny summer day, I decided to explore my characters. They could no longer be the ‘Willow’ and ‘Natasha’ I’d started with.
So, I made my own note book out of ripped-in-half A4 sheets of paper, bound them together with a pipe-cleaner (and a paper flower for aesthetic reasons), and proceeded to write a brief background about them. As their back stories evolved, so did their friends, their family, their fears, their enemies until I had fifteen new characters, a new religion, gods and a creation story. With the help of my sister Melodi (we shared a room together) we thought up names, places and character details. Baklava Mountain was a joke between us because I’m a dork and she found it funny, and now it will forever stay. A baklava is a super yummy Turkish sweet.
For some reason I wrote my notes increasingly smaller until no one could read it but me. I have to hold the paper really close to my face to read it. I think if you zoom in enough you can read it too (not that you’d want to).
Every night I read what I had written to Melodi and during the time before she became a teenager, she was just as invested in the characters as I was, which is nice. When we lived in the Turkish mountains, she and I sat in grape trees and discussed character developments and justified plot points. Although she’s grown older now and doesn’t like to talk to me any more (because I’d kill her street credibility, el-oh-el) I have a lot to thank her for. She was a wonderful sound board, an engaged listener and put up with my obsessive talk about writing.
After three years of planning, drawing and writing I have a third draft of the story in the works. From ‘Natasha and Hannah, the Vampire Slayers’ it has become Scars in the System. An epic three part fantasy novel with original characters, intricate politics, a messed up religion, racial messages and six invented worlds. I hand wrote 400 A4 pages (still in multi-coloured ink, might I add).
Given the origins of this novel it is heavily broken and still badly written, especially towards the beginning. Sometimes I think Scars in the System will be edited until the end of time, but I’d like to think it could be publishable one day. But also I’m too afraid to tackle the monster it’s become.
And that’s the evolution of my no longer Secret Story.
The main characters, drawn by moi, in their ridiculous costumes:
Kiyoko Feng and Natasha Dupont