It’s hard not to see this cover and not go: That’s an awesome cover (which is why I left it so big on this post). I think Steve Youll has done some great work for Spectra over the years, but this is by far and away my favorite of his covers for one of our novels, and it couldn’t have happened to a cooler book. I’m sure Anne, below, is going to talk about how Havemercy came to be, so I’m just going to say this: Jaida and Dani are the kinds of authors that make me jealous, because they, well, they’re authors at such a young age and I’m not!
Honestly, though, they’re authors and I’m not for a good reason–they have great ideas, and know how to articulate them (for example, they came up with clockwork, magical dragons, and I didn’t–’nuff said). More importantly, they create amazing characters. If Rook isn’t one day one on the lists of fantasy heroes that everyone has to know, I’ll eat my hat.
My Yankees hat. And if you don’t know, that’s a serious claim for me (I really like that hat!).
Also want to point out that since this is Dragon Week on Suvudu, this is one of the most unique dragon stories I’ve read in a long time.
So here’s Jaida and Dani discussing the book, and Anne talking about Havemercy and the unusual story of how it came to be.
“We wrote Havemercy while one of us was living in West Coast Canada, working the morning shift at Starbucks, and the other was at college in New York City, studying Japanese in the morning and suffering through college math requirements in the afternoon. Every moment that wasn’t dedicated to all our actual engagements and deadlines was devoted to writing this book. We breathed, ate, drank and even slept this book–which is a good thing, because we certainly didn’t have time to be eating anything else, much less sleeping. Five pounds, no sleep, and three weeks later, we had something on our hands that was more than just a fun pastime, an exercise in co-writing, something to distract us from what we were supposed to be doing.
The inspiration for Havemercy was a story overheard at a sensitivity training class about female hazing in the very male-dominated world of firefighting. We built the entire book around one scene we absolutely had to have: a group of fighters refusing to be trained, sensitively or otherwise, but especially sensitively. We still remember hashing out what, exactly, those fighters should be. At first, they rode steam-powered motorcycles through the air, but after a couple of minutes that just didn’t seem cool enough. Why not dragons? one of us asked.
Apparently, it was the best question we could possibly have come up with.
We started with the airmen, grabbing names we’d overheard and names from real life to create a group of wild, oftentimes violent eccentrics, all for the sake of that one sensitivity scene. After that, the book began to take form. We added to the world, keeping it based on those initial principles; we threw in more characters to balance the airmen out, and yet more characters to add to their cacophony. The whole thing took place through email in a frenzy of excited planning and ideas that came too fast to write them down. Half-words and sentence fragments and a list of names were our only outline. We wanted to get started, before the rush got a chance to fade.
The main problem was going to be writing it out–or so we thought. Neither of us had ever really finished anything before, both products of the internet generation, short stories, and immediate gratification. And that’s probably one of the reasons we wrote so fast. Neither of us knew how the story was going to end, and both of us desperately wanted to. Halfway through the book, we realized at about the same time that if we let our characters down and didn’t find some way to share them with other people, other readers, we were never going to forgive ourselves.
Havemercy was a learning experience, and a pretty spontaneous one, at that. No matter what we’d change–and we’ve learned by now there’s always room for editing!–the excitement of that first moment when we both agreed on metal dragons is something we’d never trade, not for anything.
–Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett, July 2010
“Havemercy probably has one of the most unusual genesis stories of any book on my list. And it starts with two young women–neither yet twenty–meeting online. One commented on the other’s blog post, and this led to a conversation–and soon, a friendship. Despite the fact that one was in college in New York City, and the other was a Starbuck’s barista in Vancouver, Canada–about as far away physically as you could be–they quickly learned that they shared the same likes and dislikes, and so decided to write a novel together, combining all the things each of them loved.
Three weeks later, Havemercy was born. Now, for most nineteen-year-olds, this probably would have been the end of the story. But not for this pair. Somehow, an agent heard about the collaboration and requested the book. It was that good, so she took it on. Then she sent it out to various editors. It was that good, so I took it on.
To this day, I remain amazed (and slightly jealous; I didn’t publish my own first novel until I was deep in my twenties) by the depth and maturity of their talent. They write like seasoned writers twice their age, with a keen sensibility about human nature and a wicked sense of humor. As soon as I finish writing this, I will start reading and editing their fourth novel, and I can’t wait to see what that holds!
The only really sobering moment, personally, was meeting one of their dads at a launch party once, and realizing he and I were probably the same age. (Eeeee!).”
–Anne Groell, Senior Editor, Spectra
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