As I sit down to write tonight, I keep thinking about how I wound up here. And the answer isn’t as straightforward as I’d like for it to be.
How I wound up working on a real, live, actual book doesn’t start with the story you’ll one day be able to read, or even the story before that. It starts with a story about a flock of chickens. Talking chickens, stuck somewhere in the mountains, attempting a migration home.
I liked to think of it as “Warriors, only with chickens.” The cunning among you will immediately spot a flaw in my clever plan: Chickens are well equipped to become dinner, and poorly equipped to do anything else. There’s a reason why you never read a headline that say “Chicken kills family of six, eats them with gravy.”
You’ll also never read about “Flock of Chickens learn to pick locks, break out of government lab and go on rampage.” My kids have a flock whose most aggressive act is to make us breakfast.
But I wrote the story.
And when my magnum opus was done, I figured that while I waited for agents, editors, and Hollywood to form a rioting mob in front of my house, I might as well keep writing.
So I wrote about vile monsters, genetic tampering, and misshapen, un-socialized abominations. Also, middle school students. When that was done, I had the good sense to sit on it.
See, for reasons I couldn’t quite put my beak on, the chicken story didn’t garner rave requests. It gathered form rejections faster than a strawberry grows mold. Eventually, I gave up on it.
The seeds for “Free Agent” began almost three years earlier, when I ventured out to get a last minute Christmas gift, well past the time when sane people should be out getting gifts. If you find yourself going to the mall at 8:30 p.m., it’s a good time to remind the person it’s the thought that counts. And you thought about going to the mall to get them a gift, but came to your senses.
As I turned into the mall, I caught a glimpse of a woman, her trench coat wrapped around her, pushing her way through the crowds.
And that image stayed with me for a long time, for reasons I couldn’t explain. It might have been the worried look on her face, or the fact that her eyes seemed to peer through the crowds up ahead.
Flash forward about a few months. That night, I opened a fresh Word document and wrote down two lines of dialogue. The first belonged to a woman, who worked for the Fairy Godfather. The other was his.
“I’ve got it, Grim.”
“I’ll believe that when you actually do.”
Who were these people? What was she after? Why?
Everything grew out from there.