Looking back on Assassin’s Gambit

This is sort of a Mother’s Day post, although I’m getting to the subject in a roundabout way.

Even though I never officially announced it here, I think most if not all of my 4.6 loyal followers are aware that my novel Assassin’s Gambit sold to NAL/Penguin last week in a 3-book deal. Yay!!

I’m already hard at work on revisions, and I’m taking care of other things too. I’m temporarily retiring my WIP (which meant writing down some notes on revisions I intend to make, but now won’t be able to make for several years, and will probably forget between now and then if I don’t write them down), and booking a trip to Nationals, and broadening my social media presence, and that sort of thing.

I have also enjoyed looking back on the genesis of Assassin’s Gambit. One of the great things about blogging is that you’ve got a record of things as you did them. I blogged about the day I started drafting Gambit, and I continued to blog some of my thought process throughout the drafting process. I still have those blog posts. I keep two blogs. This is my public blog, which I try to keep interesting to a general audience, and the other is my personal blog where I will dump just about anything including videos of my kids playing the piano (consider yourself warned!).

The drafting posts are from my personal blog. Here’s the post from my first day drafting the novel (which I started on November 24, 2009), in which I quoted the opening line, which has not changed at all during revision, although it may change during editing.

And here is another post I wrote a little over a week into drafting where I talked about setting up a parallel between the Caturanga (chess) game the hero and heroine play and the military/political strategy that becomes important later in the book. I didn’t know at that stage of drafting how I was going to set up that parallel; I just knew it was going to be there. And what’s cool is that when the editor from NAL called me to discuss the book, this is one of the things she said she liked about the book–the use of the chess-like game as a metaphor for everything else that was going on. And I know, because I have that blog post from one week into drafting, that I set that up early.

There was also a scene she mentioned that she particularly liked, which happened to be a favorite of many of my critique partners too. It’s the scene where Vitala and Lucien first meet and play Caturanga.

I don’t remember if I blogged about it–probably not–but that scene came directly from a personal experience I had. My boys used to play tournament chess, and in the chess world there’s all this crazy jargon that only chess players know. So my boys would come out of the tournament room after a match and enthusiastically explain how their game went, using this crazy jargon. All the other chess players understood it. I don’t play chess, so I didn’t understand a word, but I could pick up the emotional undertones. I could tell that this was good, and that was bad, and if so-and-so used this kind of opening, it meant he was a bold player, and if so-and-so used that kind of opening, he was overly cautious. And so-and-so always used the same opening, so he was predictable, and so-and-so changed it up every time, so he was terrifying. It was fascinating to listen to a conversation that I could understand emotionally but not intellectually.

I realized I could replicate that experience in my novel. I invented a Caturanga jargon and had Vitala use it in her close third-person internals, so the reader had no idea what was really happening on the game board, but they understood how Vitala felt about it and what it meant to her. And in an indirect way, that scene communicated how thoroughly Vitala understood the game.

So it’s Mother’s Day, and I’m bringing this blog post around to say that if it wasn’t for my kids and all those chess tournaments they dragged me to or I dragged them to, that first-meet scene between Vitala and Lucien would not exist in its current form. And maybe this book wouldn’t even be sold.

So happy Mother’s Day.

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2 Responses to Looking back on Assassin’s Gambit

  1. Jessi Gage says:

    Great post, Amy.

    I can relate to oweing your kids your thanks for how far you’ve come as a writer. I was pregnant with Titus when I started writing Wishing for a Highlander. The heroine is pregnant. I thought, there’s not many pregnant romance heroines out there, so I might be insane for trying this, but I just have to make her pregnant. Wouldn’t you know, Wishing for a Highlander was my first book to land a contract.

    It’s awesome and scary how much our kids influence our craft. I hope I make my kids proud with my writing and that they will be able to see how much my heart for them is revealed in what I do.

  2. Amy Raby says:

    Good point about your pregnant heroine in Wishing for a Highlander!

    Parenting is a grand adventure. People tend to downplay it and act as if it’s all about changing diapers and packing lunch boxes, but bringing up my kids has exposed me to all kinds of things I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise, from tournament-level chess to my younger son’s rocks & minerals obsession to camping adventures in Boy Scouts. And lots of these details have worked their way into my novels. My old office job, much as I loved it, would never have been such a fruitful source of material.

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