When I started, Dreamwood was a story about werewolves. In fact, werewolves resurrected from their teeth. (It was not a Daughter of Smoke and Bone-type resurrection by teeth, because, um, sadly this predates it by a million years. Instead it was me trying to figure out how to take the idea of the contagion of the werewolfâ€™s bite and see what I could do by stretching it out in time, through the power of magic werewolf DNA as it were.)
Anyway, I wrote and rewrote a story where Lucy Darrington, my plucky heroine, tries to figure out whoâ€™s responsible for these wolf attacks in this remote logging settlement. Her father was away doing research on some doomed trip to South America.
Dreamwood, a rare and dangerous tree had been in the story from the beginning. But it didnâ€™t occupy the place it does now.
One of the changes the story went through was reimagining the entire thing with different stakes, and now without any werewolves.
I was very fond of them. Iâ€™d cooked up some awesome descriptions of what they looked like, how they transformed. And I really loved their personalities and air of menace they lent to everything. In fact, I loved them so much I wrote two completely different drafts with two completely different sets of villains turning into werewolves. Determined to keep my werewolves!
The problem was that they didnâ€™t fit into the story at all. They were not Lucyâ€™s problem to solve. They were instead something like a volunteer project she took on. (These darn werewolves!) And solving the problem of them didnâ€™t solve any problem she had.
This was a fundamental misunderstanding on my part about how stories work.
It was very hard to give them up. They were cool. But I believed my editor when she told me they werenâ€™t working. (And maybe she was also thinking that by the time this book came out thereâ€™d be werewolf fatigue among readers).
So I went back, and I thought. First, I had to come to grips with the idea. And then I had to do lots of thinking. It felt unproductive. It took months. Werewolves were so frightening, I had confused them with a threat to Lucy. So I had to understand what really mattered to her. What would threaten her. What would push her to the brink.
And the answer turned out to be â€¦ a tree.