I wrote a book about caribou and death.
I wanted it to be a fun, romping story about a Christmas world. Somewhere along the line those intentions went horribly awry, and became what I have now: 90,000 words of heavy prose and sad characters. Periodically I’ll hear things like “Your blog is hilarious, so I can’t wait to see how funny your book is!” and I just—
Oh, honey. No. The blog represents the trash gremlin side of my personality. You get jokes and awkwardness. Meanwhile, the book represents the other 10% of me, which is dressed in the mourning attire of a Gothic Victorian widow. You get deep moral ponderings about the nature of mankind’s existence. You get dark themes and mildly creepy symbolism. You get caribou.
The story came into existence in October of 2020, when Anna and Jesse returned from their honeymoon and waxed eloquent about the stuffed caribou head on the wall of their cabin. A decapitated animal should not spark inspiration, yet in that moment, I felt the very strong desire to write a book about caribou. (I tried to explain this to my boss when he asked about it. He looked confused.) The book has a name (not that I’m going to tell you yet, because Suspense™), but for reasons untold, my brain refuses to refer to it as anything other than “that caribou story.”
Thus, the working title Project Caribou was born.
If you haven’t already noticed — it’s a book about caribou and death.
People ask me if That Caribou Story is anything like my last project, Aeterna (which never saw completion), and I’m not sure what to say. Aeterna was the book of my beginning writer days and the story of my heart. I understand the characters’ souls in a way I’ve never experienced with any other project, and they are as much a part of me as I am of them.
Project Caribou, on the other hand… If Aeterna is the childhood friend, Project Caribou is the cool and aloof kid who hangs out by himself on the swing set. I tried to extend the hand of fellowship, but my efforts were brutally slapped away. The story didn’t like me. The characters wouldn’t let me into their heads. I felt like I was in a trust fall with strangers, hoping against hope they’d catch me even as my back hit the floor.
Yet, despite how terrifying plunging into a new story is, I plunged. I wrote. I finished. 90,000 words later, I have a manuscript full of heavy prose and sad characters. They finally let me in a little. I think I might understand their souls.
I’m never sure how much I should reveal about my writing before I’m absolutely certain publication is in the story’s future, because marketing is not my strong point and social media is confusing. People make a production out of everything. They have title reveals. They have cover reveals. They have character reveals. They have first-line reveals. They have second-syllable of the first word of the first plot-twist reveals. They have too many reveals, and every single one is blown to such epic proportions, you feel like you’re finding out the gender of someone’s unborn baby that you neither knew or cared about until the very moment of revelation.
Meanwhile, I sit in the background with glazed eyes.
Marketing is a construct of the devil.
I want to talk about my story. I simultaneously want to keep everything secret because of Suspense.™ But I also want people to know about its existence, for obvious reasons. I don’t want to randomly drop a book on your head a year from now and expect you to care. I want to talk about my story. I want to tell you everything about it so we can get excited together. I want to ramble about my characters and bewail my editing problems and yell about how great outlining is and how terrible plot holes are. I want to shove a million pieces of art at you and a million more snippets.
But I also feel caught in the cycle of pointless reveals. Because marketing is a blight of the devil.
I think we can get so trapped in the way other people do things, we forget that the creative experience is made in part by our own timing. I am not a social media guru and have no desire to take part in seventy-million inane reveals, and the great thing is, I DON’T HAVE TO. We attach ourselves to unwritten stories not because of the hijinks or the tricks or the little pranks marketing tries to pull on us, but because we care about the author, the idea, and sometimes even the characters. (At least, what we’re allowed to see of them.)
When the time comes for publication, I want you to feel like you’ve been part of the process. I want you to remember the ups and downs and random in-betweens of this story, to feel as connected to its creation as I do.
Writing a novel is a journey full of misery and sleepless nights, so if I’m going to suffer, you might as well suffer with me.
ALL THAT TO SAY, you’ll be hearing a lot more about Project Caribou in the future. And if you’re especially lucky, you might even get a real title.