After a long delay, my new novella, The Secret Thief: A Modern Fairy Tale, is finally getting its turn.
The story of a 10-year-old boy, who is haunted by a monster that can reach into his mind and steal his secrets has been through a lot of iterations since I first conceived it in late 2003/early 2004. It’s also had a number of delays in making it to the public, none of which were its fault.
I first wrote the story right after finishing Little Girl Lost (which would ultimately become Little Red Riding Hoodie: A Modern Fairy Tale) in 2003. Everything I’d read at the time said you should write your next book while you’re trying to get the current one published. So as I wrote query letters, attended writers conferences, and generally worked my butt off to try to find an agent for LGL, I wrote a story about a 10-year-old named Billy Johnson, who had been tricked into telling a few secrets to the new girl in school, only to discover later that she is a monster who feeds on secrets. Once she has her hooks into him, she can forcibly take the information she desires.
That initial draft was only 10,000 words. When I couldn’t find any takers for Little Girl Lost, “The Secret Thief” got abandoned. I didn’t feel I could publish a short story, and I started working on a new novel.
About five years later, I’d written a play, and I was thinking about ways to get my stage work produced. It occurred to me that “The Secret Thief” might make an excellent show for young actors, and I set to adapting the short story to the stage. I had to make some plot changes, since some of the events in the short story were too mature for young audiences/actors, but I put together a pretty decent one-act play and offered it to the youth education director at the community theater I was working at then.
She quite liked it. We talked several times about her producing it with the theater’s Advanced Company of older child actors. But for a variety of reasons, we never made it past talking about it.
The Secret Thief lay dormant for several more years.
Then, in 2012, I published “Sleeping Beauty: A Modern Fairy Tale.” It was early in my indie publishing career, and I used the story as a vehicle by which to experiment with various promotional methods of getting my name out there.
“Sleeping Beauty” was easily my most successful publishing venture of the time, and I realized I might be onto something. I had originally intended for “Sleeping Beauty” to be a one-shot short. But since it was doing well, I decided to create an entire line of Modern Fairy Tales.
My initial plan was to adapt Beauty & the Beast to modern times as a short story along the same lines as “Sleeping Beauty,” and then I would clean up “The Secret Thief” and publish them all in one volume entitled, The Secret Thief and Other Modern Fairy Tales.
But when I was writing B&B, something happened. It grew from short story to novella. It took much longer to write as a result, and I published it in October of 2013. I still figured I could collect everything into one volume, but I’d have to see when I got around to polishing “The Secret Thief” in 2014.
Billy’s story was on my 2014 publishing schedule for September. But then Amazon announced the Kindle Unlimited program. The most important part of the subscription service from an authorial point of view, was that you got paid after a reader made it through only 10% of the book. That made shorter books lucrative.
I had already planned on writing a serialized memoir about my childhood in the 1970’s, and with KU now a thing, it made sense to go ahead with the memoirs right away.
So I switched plans and wrote the first first two mini-memoirs, “Secret Identity” and “Naughty & Nice,” publishing them in October and November of 2014, while pushing “The Secret Thief” back to February of 2015.
And then Amazon announced the Kindle Scout program. You could submit a publish-ready manuscript, and they’d put it up for crowd-sourcing to see if it was popular enough for them to publish it under their own imprint.
So I pulled Little Girl Lost out of the drawer, rewrote it, and submitted it to KS as Little Red Riding Hoodie. I ran an excellent campaign, but they decided LRRH wasn’t for them. I didn’t want to lose the momentum I’d built with the KS campaign, so I published LRRH in February of 2015.
Which pushed “The Secret Thief” all the way back to August of this year.
But it’s finally here. I’ve expanded it and developed it further, taking elements from the initial short story and the stage adaptation, and making still other changes. It’s a 20,000-word novella now, and I’m pretty pleased with it. I’ll probably revisit that stage adaptation at some point in the future.
For the time being, The Secret Thief: A Modern Fairy Tale is finally getting its shot. It’s a creepy story about children having to fight a monster essentially on their own. The beast is insidious, worming her way into Billy’s life and taking over without him realizing what she’s doing until it’s too late. There are lessons about courage and friendship and the power of secrets. I hope it resonates.
It’s been a very long journey for a story I conceived innocently back in 2003. Here’s hoping it’s been worth the wait.