Edge of the Woods is my first novel in nine years, and it’s being released in April 2021. I started writing it in late 2015. At the time, my concept was simple: A fluffy smalltown boy-meets-girl romance with a simple twist: The girl was a werewolf. It was meant to be fun, playful, and not take itself too seriously. The original working title was Summer Moon.
But then something happened: 2016. I know there’s kind of a meme about it, but 2016 was traumatic for me on both a societal and personal scale. Large portions of it are blacked out in my memory. I was so stressed that I missed the fact that I had a fever for a while because my temperature was constantly elevated from anxiety. And on a national level, fascism was coming out of the woodwork everywhere. Globally, even, though of course the US presidential election of 2016 put a rather fine point on it for me.
Through all this, my writing shifted. The tone of the story became a bit darker, and it morphed into territory more traditionally occupied by paranormal and contemporary fantasy. (I keep comparing it to “What if there was an X-Files episode about True Blood?” and honestly that’s kind of the space it occupies.) The plot became about a young woman who feels massively underqualified for the position she finds herself in, facing an influx of supremacists, bigots, and usurpers who are actively trying to dismantle the delicate balance of her world. She’s working in partnership with a man who is already disillusioned and jaded by his past with a toxic and abusive family and also a toxic and abusive ex-career as a police officer. It’s not intended as an allegory or metaphor, but rather a reflection, and the themes are unmistakably influenced.
I do want to take a moment to address one of my MCs’ profession, though. While he’s an ex-police officer, Leland is still in law enforcement (sheriff’s deputy) during the scope of the story. LEOs have been a romance category for a long time, and they currently are not in favor — for obvious and very understandable reasons. I know some people can’t currently engage with any media that centers law enforcement officers, so I wanted you to have a heads-up about this one. If you want more details about how it’s handled so you can weigh your options, that’s below, including some mild spoilers, so I’m hiding it for those who don’t want spoilers at all.
[SPOILERS – Highlight to read]
Leland comes from a rough background, growing up with an abusive father, a toxic mother, and a little sister he raised mostly by himself. He got into the police force because it was one of the highest paying jobs he could get without a college degree and he’s still looking out for his little sister. But because Leland has morals and a protective streak a mile wide, this didn’t work out too well for him. When you meet him in the beginning of the story, he’s just left the force after a particularly traumatic incident where he tried to protect a young boy from excessive force from his coworkers and had that force turned on him as well. He’s taken a job as a sheriff’s deputy in a very small town, hoping it will be different enough to allow him some peace and quiet while still making enough money to take care of his sister as she prepares to go to college. Unfortunately, he still encounters plenty of problems even there.
As a queer woman with law enforcement officers in my family, I’ve been skeptical of the profession for a long time, so this career choice for Leland was never about romanticizing it. However, as a white person, I also understand I’m not the primary target of most of the militarized police violence happening, and I don’t want this to blindside anyone who might pick up the novel. Also, if for some reason you were expecting to find a story that treats the profession as romantic and swoon-worthy… You should know that’s unapologetically not the case here before you get into it.
And if you have any specific concerns you’d like to ask me about, I’m fine with answering them to the best of my ability. The story may have morphed into “not a cutesy romance anymore,” but I still want to minimize trauma.
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you in April!