Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Many Lives of Kingdom Come

by special guest Jane Jensen.

I’m thrilled and excited to have my first release with Berkley Prime Crime hitting the market. Kingdom Come is a murder mystery set in Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Holding the paperback book in my hands is the culmination of a long journey. This is a story that wouldn’t die, and one that struggled to find its proper form like a morphing shapeshifter.

Besides writing books, I also design computer games under the name Jane Jensen. Kingdom Come, with a female detective, was first conceived of as an adventure game. I wanted to do a mystery/thriller that had a strong romantic element to it. You would play the role of the female detective trying to uncover who dunnit. Romance is something I don’t feel we see enough of in games, so the romantic aspect of the story was critical. The game proposal was for a live action game in order to best represent the romantic/erotic elements of the story. But it was a risky project, and an expensive one, and we didn’t find funding for it.

Here’s the front of that original pitch:

The proposal sat on my hard drive for a year or so, like so many other game proposals. Those who pitch film scripts or game concepts know that many of them will never get made. However, “Kingdom Come” would not let me forget it. I had developed most of the plot while working on the game pitch, and the story haunted me.

You see, I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania myself, having moved back here after twenty years on the west coast. This was a story I wanted to tell, a story about how I feel about this little area of land, the charm and pull of it, the old and the new, the good and bad. I have a love/hate relationship with the conservativism of the area, and while I admire the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle, as a modern woman (who loves modern tech and speaking my mind), I could never go there mysefl. To sum, I had feels about this story that kept prodding me in the arse like a bad spring in a car seat.

So I sat down and wrote the story out as a novel. Initially, though, I decided to change it so that the main detective character was a man and the romantic subplot was a gay romance. You see, I also write gay romance under the nom de plume Eli Easton, and I already had a publisher that would take the story. All I had to do was write it and it would be released fairly quickly.

But when the first draft of the novel was done, I still wasn’t at peace. Although I liked the tension of having a mature, gay Amish man who had been trying to live his life by the rules, and a brash male detective who was openly gay (Should I still write that story? Maybe I should!), the original bones of the story didn’t sit quite right in that guise.

I had first developed my detective as a female character, and, holy crap, she was not happy to be usurped. There was also a certain level of sympathy and understanding that she had to the victims as a female, right or wrong, that was missing from the male detective. The gay aspect was interesting, but it seemed to struggle with the murder mystery for dominance instead of being mutually enhancing.

So I sat down and in one week rewrote the protagonist back to Elizabeth Harris. This, this was the story. I was pretty sure of it now! But the bad news was, I no longer had a publisher. It was not an “Eli Easton” book. It also was way more of a murder mystery by now and less of a romance. So the search began with the help of my agent. A year later, the manuscript found a home at Berkley Prime Crime, and as of January 2016 it is finally published!

I don’t know if you’ll be able to see the bones of the previous versions in this book, but I feel like the changes the story went through made it a much stronger piece than it would have been otherwise. The various iterations, shelving, and picking back up, made me really focus on the important elements at its core. I have since written a sequel to Kingdom Come, another Elizabeth Harris mystery, that will be coming out in August 2016. I hope you like the series.

Please do drop me a note at eli@elieaston.com and let me know!

I will be posting a review of Kingdom Come on the blog this Friday, January 8th. Please drop by!

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