I’m Jennifer Allis Provost, and I’m going to talk about the convoluted path I took writing Copper Girl.
I began Copper Girl with the scrap of an idea gleaned from my boring job as a cubicle monkey. While this seed was germinating, a few other ideas fluttered forth, and before I knew it, I had the makings of a story: I was going to write a YA dystopia.
Or so I thought.
In this initial version, the main character, Sara Corbeau, lived in a world that used to be full of magic, but no one believed in it anymore. Then Sara started seeing a man in her dreams, who turned out to be an elf lord from the Otherworld. Sara even had a snarky best friend, who disbelieved in everything magical, and worried that Sara was losing her mind.
Well, that didn’t work.
You see, an integral part of Sara’s journey revolves around her boring desk job. (I know, art imitating life at it’s finest) Most teens don’t have full-time office jobs, so that, along with the romance level in the book, pretty much knocked Copper Girl right out of the YA ballpark. Taking a cue from said romance level, I set out to rewrite it as a paranormal romance.
Or so I thought.
In this version, Sara and the dreamy elf lord, Micah, meet in their physical forms fairly early on, and establish a relationship. I also moved a good portion of the action to the Otherworld, and added some political drama. Since I had also added the Element-based magic system during this go-round, this is when Sara actually became a copper girl.
That version didn’t work either.
Before I started the third rewrite, I took some time to really think about the plot. So Sara worked at a lame office job, then an elf showed up in her dreams, and chaos ensued. That’s all well and good, but what was the chaos ensuing to? Then it hit me, the integral part that I was missing:
What the heck was the point of this story?
And that, dear reader, is exactly what Copper Girl had been missing. The characters were there, but the stakes weren’t high enough. I didn’t really understand what Sara wanted badly enough to defy her totalitarian government and begin using magic again. Then it hit me.
That totalitarian government had taken Sara’s brother away ten years ago, and she hadn’t seen him since.
Shortly after this revelation, Copper Girl went through its third and final major rewrite, and became a dystopian-flavored urban fantasy. Snarky best friend stayed, missing brother entered, and the rest of the story fell into place. The best part about this version was that it flowed. The words almost arranged themselves on the computer screen, and the plot never felt slow or stilted.
What’s more, it became something I really never thought it would be: a NA urban fantasy. It was really the ideal NA premise: girl, aged 23, had graduated college, moved out of the family home, found a job that sucks and has inadvertently ended up in a boring life. Then, chaos ensues, but it somehow makes everything better. It’s good chaos, ya know?
This was the story, just as it was meant to be. Finally, I’d thought right.
It took almost a year of rewrites, crumpled sticky notes, and anguished calls and emails to editors and critique partners before Copper Girl finally came together. But, you know what? In the end, it was all worth it.
The Copper Legacy
Jennifer Allis Provost
Genre: urban fantasy
Publisher: Spence City
Date of Publication: June 25, 2013
Number of pages: 248
Word Count: appx 80k
Cover Artist: Lisa Amowitz
Sara had always been careful.
She never spoke of magic, never associated with those suspected of handling magic, never thought of magic, and never, ever, let anyone see her mark. After all, the last thing she wanted was to end up missing, like her father and brother.
Then, a silver elf pushed his way into Sara's dream, and her life became anything but ordinary.
Prize pack including a signed copy of Copper Girl, swag, and a necklace inspired by the token Micah gives Sara.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
About the Author:
Jennifer Allis Provost is a native New Englander who lives in a sprawling colonial along with her beautiful and precocious twins, a dog, two birds, three cats, and a wonderful husband who never forgets to buy ice cream. As a child, she read anything and everything she could get her hands on, including a set of encyclopedias, but fantasy was always her favorite. She spends her days drinking vast amounts of coffee, arguing with her computer, and avoiding any and all domestic behavior.
Excerpt Chapter 1
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
My office, like most modern offices, cranked the air conditioning down to Arctic proportions during the summer months. Consequently, we workers arrived in the morning dressed in sandals and sleeveless tops, donned heavy sweaters upon reaching our desks, and ended up shivering by noon. Ironically, when our workday ended we were hit by a wall of oppressive heat the moment we stepped outside the main doors. No, this wasn’t a flawed system in the slightest.
That day, I wasn’t having it. I had the grand idea of spending my lunch hour outside, away from the icy wind stiffening my fingers and chilling my neck. After I unwound myself from the afghan I kept in my desk (and only used in the summer months), I gathered up my lunch and my phone and headed out for an impromptu picnic in my car.
What I hadn’t considered was that the office runs the air conditioning so cold because it was, well, hot outside. Very hot, in fact. So hot that the cheese was melting in my sandwich and the lettuce looked like something that had washed ashore months, maybe even years, ago. I was parked in the shade and had taken down my car’s convertible top, but I still couldn’t manage to get comfortable. I’d already shed my sandals and cardigan, which left me wearing my sundress and…
I glanced around the parking lot of Real Estate Evaluation Services, the ‘go-to firm for all your commercial real estate needs’, according to the brochures. No one, human or drone, was taking a noontime stroll, and, by virtue of my being on the far side of the lot, no cars were near mine. Most of my coworkers didn’t even have cars, so the lot was rarely more than half-full. What was more, from where I sat, I couldn’t even see the office.
I took a deep breath and channeled my inner wild woman, then leaned the seat back and slipped off my panties. Removing that small bit of cotton made an incredible difference, and the heat became somewhat bearable. Enjoyable, even. Was that a breeze?
Ignoring my decrepit sandwich, I fully reclined the seat, set the alarm on my phone, and closed my eyes. A nap. Now that would make today bearable.
Suddenly, he is there.
Kissing me, holding me.
I know I’m dreaming, because he’s perfect. His lips are soft but insistent, his hands gentle. I glide my fingers across his back, feeling thick cords of muscle, before sinking my fingers into his hair. It’s superfine, like cobwebs, and when I crack an eyelid, I learn that it’s silver. Not gray or white, but the elegant hue of antique candlesticks and fine flatware. Cool.
I squeeze my eyes shut again, not wanting the dream to end any sooner than it has to. He kisses me once more, and I can’t help melting against him. His hand travels up my leg, up past my hip… shit! No panties!
I try twisting away, but he already knows. I feel his mouth stretch into a smile, and he moves to nuzzle my neck. “What’s your name?” he murmurs.
“Sara,” I reply. “Yours?”
“Micah.” By now, his hands have traveled to my waist, and he slides one around to stroke the small of my back. “Why did you summon me, Sara?”
“I didn’t,” I protest. “I don’t know how.” I would say more, but he nibbles a trail from my neck to my shoulder, and pushes my dress to the side. As for me, I let him .
Micah raises his head, and I get a good look at him for the first time. His eyes are large and dark gray, like thunderheads, his features chiseled into warm caramel skin, and his unruly mop of silver hair seems to float around his head. He wears an odd, buff-colored leather shirt, made all the odder in this heat, and matching leather pants and boots. Boots?
“You did summon me,” he insists. “My Sara, you must tell me why.”
“Does it matter?” I ask. I pull him back to me, kissing him with all the passion I’ve never felt with anyone during my waking hours. Micah kisses me back, fingers deftly unbuttoning my dress while his other hand rubs my lower back. I’ve never felt so free, so alive as I do in Micah’s embrace, and I have no intention of rushing this. None at all.
My phone screamed for attention, thus ending the best dream that had ever been dreamed. Ever. I fumbled to silence it, then shook myself back to reality. I still felt warm and glowy from the dream, almost after-glowy. It wasn’t until I stretched and got tangled in my clothing that I noticed anything was amiss.
The straps of my dress had slid down around my elbows, and the dress itself was unbuttoned to my waist. What’s more, my bra was all askew and a nipple was dangerously close to freedom. I shot a quick glance around the parking lot as I fixed my clothing; luckily, there was no one around, either of the human or robotic drone persuasion. I hoped no one had gotten an eyeful of how I was apparently fondling myself in my sleep.
Some dream. Soon enough, I got the top half of my dress squared away and reached into the passenger seat, only to come up empty. My panties were gone.
Great. Either one of my coworkers had found me sleeping and stolen them, or a randy squirrel had absconded with my delicates. Hoping for the latter, I stuffed my feet back into my sandals and returned to the office and my ever-growing mountain of paperwork.
Speaking of the mountain there was a fresh sheaf of reports on my desk, ready for sorting. My title, if it can be called that, is Quarterly Report Collator.
This impressive moniker means that I have the ability—no, make that the responsibility—to place various documents and reports in their proper order, usually alphabetically. I’ve even been known to utilize ascending numbers when the occasion warrants, a feat those who get paid far more than I do cannot seem to manage. As long as they keep paying me, I’m fine with my place on the food chain, low though it may be. It sure beats the alternative--a luxurious but caged life as a sellout government shill, performing spells on command as if they were parlor tricks. My family may have lost much, but we still have some pride left.
I dove right into the heap of reports, for once appreciating the mindless work since it gave me the mental space to dwell on my dream lover. Why would a man in my dream claim that I’d summoned him? And what was with his getup? Micah had looked like he should be playing the part of a swashbuckling hero in a trashy romance novel, not hanging around in the parking lot of a midsized corporation specializing in commercial real estate acquisitions and liquidations.
And his name: Micah. I was certain that I’d never heard it before, which puzzled me. If I were going to create a dream lover, wouldn’t I give him a regular name like Tom or Joe? A name I was at least familiar with?
I swiveled in my chair and called up my search engine. We are not, under any circumstances, supposed to use this bit of technology that is standard issue with each and every one of our ergonomically correct workstations. I’m not quite sure what the punishment for internet usage is, but I’ve always imagined ninjas dropping out of the ceiling and hauling me off to their lair. After enduring a mild torture session, I’m given a cup of hot sake and sent on my way.
I could have waited until I got home. I had a nicer computer and better, faster internet access than the office does, but I couldn’t wait. Not while the image of Micah’s thundercloud eyes still burned in my memory, inciting not-safe-for-work thoughts.
I typed in Micah: define, and the results page immediately listed a bunch of Biblical references. Mmm, not exactly helpful. I clicked around for a while until I found one of those sites that specialized in the meaning of names. It read thusly:
Micah ( mī ' kə ) he who resembles God.
Huh. My dream man was certainly attractive, but I didn’t know if I’d go so far as to call him a god. Then I remembered that there was a type of stone called mica, which also seemed like an unlikely source for me to pull a name from. In the midst of typing mica: stone, I was interrupted.
I glanced up and saw Floyd, the office sleaze, hovering at the edge of my cubicle. Better and better. I clicked off the browser and nonchalantly swiveled away from the keyboard. To throw the ninjas off my trail, of course. “You and Juliana heading over to The Room tonight?” he asked.
The Room is a local hangout, stocked with stale beer and watered-down liquor, not to mention a floor that has never, ever been mopped. Not. Even. Once. But it’s cheap and close to the office, so we all go. Since I started working at REES, I’ve been a regular. “We haven’t discussed it.”
“Everyone’s going,” Floyd pressed. “C’mon, I’ll buy you a drink. You like gin and tonic, right?”
I heaved the stack of reports from my lap to my desk and uncrossed my legs, squarely planting my feet in order to deliver the Keep Away From Me speech to Floyd yet again, when I remembered my lack of undergarments. Quickly, I snatched my afghan from where I’d tossed it before lunch and spread it across my lower body like a shield.
“Whatever,” I mumbled, which Floyd counted as a victory.
“See you there,” he drawled. I hate him.
I spent the rest of my shift with my thighs clamped together, having mild anxiety attacks whenever I stood. Or sat. Or reached for anything. Needless to say, by the end of the day I was more than ready for something eye-wateringly alcoholic. Juliana, my best friend and REES’s office manager, was game, as she usually was, and we made it to The Room in time for happy hour. Normally, I feel like I’m in her shadow, what with her long, dark hair, matching eyes, and the body of a pre-war pinup girl, but tonight I didn’t care. Right about now, a little overshadowing was just what the doctor ordered.
After a few bowls of pretzels, and more than a few cocktails, I confessed my al fresco state, to which Juliana and I clinked glasses and downed a few shots in honor of my missing panties. Floyd, the scum, welshed on his promise of gin and tonic. I really do hate him.