I remember the first night Isemay and Alena spoke to me. It was sometime between the hours of 9:00 and 10:00 pm. I had spent the day in Moreno Valley, California, and was driving back to my parent’s house in San Bernardino. I was nineteen and still living at home because I was a full-time college student and a part-time office assistant for my dad’s company. I was on the last stretch of freeway before my exit when I vividly and suddenly pictured a teenage girl with green eyes looking across at another teenage girl with blue eyes. There was anguish, sadness, and suffering in their eyes. They were a continent apart and longed for the time when they had been inseparable. The vision hit me and was gone within an instant. I blinked as I pondered it. Why had I just envisioned two teenage sisters? Who were they? Why were they so sad? Why were they angry with each other? I asked all these questions and more as I completed my drive home. As soon as I entered my bedroom, I shut the door and pulled out a spiral-bound notebook.
Thus was the first glimpse I had of a continent called Erez and the triune kingdoms that made up its core. Dueling Fates was not easy for me to flesh out and write. I started and stopped countless times. I would write a chapter and scrap it. I would draw poorly executed maps and crumple them up. For over a decade, I wrote and rewrote the first installment of Isemay’s and Alena’s story off and on. I would ignore the pressure in my skull that I needed to write their story and work on other things…or nothing at all. I wrote an entire other young adult series that had nothing to do with them. And yet…I could never get them out of my head. Finally, after a 2014 writers conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I decided it was time to take their story seriously. I feverishly typed out part one of their story, knowing that even though the story was going to be three books, I needed to get the first one done before jumping ahead of myself. In 2017, I finally felt it was ready to be sent out into the world of agents and publishers. I sent out query after query, hope sparkling in my fingers with every email I sent. But as the rejections poured in, I began to lose that hope. I sent out fewer and fewer queries until I stopped altogether. I moved the Dueling Fates Word file to a folder on my desktop and made peace with the fact that it would probably never be available in the wild unless I self-published it.
It wasn’t until two years later, when my mom asked me about it, that I considered giving it another try. Maybe the world was ready for another fantasy world now. I sent it out to a few smaller presses, not really expecting any positive responses. To my shock, I got a manuscript request, which I quickly sent…and forgot about. For months, I didn’t think on it until one night in November 2019. I decided to email the publishing company that I had sent the manuscript to, asking if they had made a decision. Once again in shock, I read an email that said they had wanted to offer me a contract months ago! I checked my spam folder. Sure enough, there was an email asking if I was interested in publishing Dueling Fates with them. That press happened to be Between the Lines publishing.
And so here I sit with a copy of Dueling Fates next to my computer, studying the cover in awe. It’s almost as though the wonderful artist, Suzanne Johnson, plucked the image directly from my brain and deposited it onto the book. For so many years, I have longed to see this book in the hands of readers and it never ceases to amaze me that a brief image of two girls became a story that has defined me as a writer. Yes, their story has changed over the years. I read my earliest notes and shake my head in embarrassment. But I never gave up on the world of Erez and the twin princesses who made their mark upon it. And now, I’m forever grateful for the people who pushed me to write it, the loved ones who told me not to give up on it, and the friends who fell in love with the story just as much as I did. I learned a hard lesson through this process – don’t give up on a goal or a dream. You never know how close you are to seeing it come to fruition.