I have a forthcoming novel officially titled The Beanstalk and Beyond and unofficially the Autobiography of Jack the Giant Killer – volume 1.
It covers Jack’s adventures with the cloud giant at the top of the beanstalk, of course, but also Jack’s quest to stop the Northwest Wind and his encounters with the Three Princesses Who Died – but Not Really.
That is book one, and I have been promised – verbally at least – the opportunity to write more. We may touch this subject repeatedly within this blog – hence this page.
My first query letters started with the pitch that I didn’t write this at all.
This huge pile of ancient documents I’ve been trying to translate is breaking my heart. I had hopes to discover some rare historical insight into Dark-age Britain. As I picked my way through the mish-mash of Latin and Anglic script, though, what emerged was a first-person account of Jack and the Beanstalk. Even if every word is true, giants in the clouds with magic harps will never pass for Serious History. So much for my half-hour of glory on C-Span!
Nobody bought that.
Truth is I discovered by chance that Jack was a recurring character in British, and by extension Appalachian folklore. I was in 5th or 6th grade, about the same time I discovered Dungeons and Dragons. My attempts to make him into my character didn’t work out for game design reasons, but in the process I cobbled the disjointed series of tales about him into a loose biography of sorts: which tale happened in which order.
It seemed that no one else had done this; that Jack’s life beyond the beanstalk was a scattering of obscure folk tales, and that’s it. So I took upon myself the task of compiling a more credible biography. One source placed Jack the Giant Killer as a contemporary of King Arthur, and that became canon to me. Index cards and notebooks piled into a shoebox until I’m a grown adult whose wife is asking “What’s with all this stuff?”
I heard myself saying, “That’s all stuff about Jack the Giant Killer. I’m writing his autobiography. That’s going to be my first novel.” She knew, or should have known, that I would always have a novel-in-progress.
Keeping with the spirit of the ridiculous lie told in my early queries, the first draft of Jack was written by hand, in ink, often by candlelight. About halfway through, I shelved it and wrote a play about the beanstalk instead. That went nowhere for a lot of reasons, but it did greatly improve the dialogue of the second draft – now done on computer because free time evaporates with maturity.
The stories mainly take place in Arthurian Briton, circa 500 AD. A good deal of effort has gone into some historical accuracy, but they are called the Dark Ages for a reason and, more importantly, there are fantasy elements that are clearly made up. So this is fantasy more than history, but it is Hard Fantasy. The myth and magic have limits and rules which I am aware of, even if the characters are not.
I did all of this because it amused me to do so, for I am that sort of nerd. It is my hope that any reader would find my efforts worthy of the time they spend reading it. There is only way way to find out.