The Long Road
by Kenneth G. Bennett
The Gaia Hypothesis, proposed by NASA scientist James Lovelock, says that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth make up a single, self-regulating entity. In other words, the Earth itself is a living thing. A vast “super-organism.”
I love this idea. When I first read about it I wondered how it might be woven into a novel. In my imagination, and in conversations with writer friends, I took the Gaia Hypothesis one step further and asked: what if Gaia (the Earth) is not simply alive, but also sentient? It occurred to me that a lot of so-called primitive cultures believed this very thing.
On a backpacking trip with my son Eli (age 11 at the time) I started to share the story of THE GAIA WARS. Eli liked the story a lot, so I kept working on it, incorporating reader feedback and things I learned at PNWA conferences and elsewhere.
Agents at the 2009 and 2010 PNWA conferences loved the concept of the book and asked for sample chapters. Two agents called to express interest and discuss the project, which was very exciting. No one offered to sign me, though, and the process seemed to be taking forever.
With the tools available through CreateSpace, I decided to push ahead anyway. I worked with an editor, two different proofreaders (because I kept tweaking the text), a cover designer and a formatter, and finally published in August 2011. The second book in the series, BATTLE FOR CASCADIA, came out in November 2011.
I enrolled the books in a YA blog tour organized by Novel Publicity in late 2011, and more than fifty bloggers read and reviewed the books. The vast majority of the reviews were favorable, thankfully, and that gave the books a big push.
Kirkus Reviews reviewed THE GAIA WARS in January 2012. Their review was also positive, and included this quote, which I’ve used everywhere: "A solid first entry of a promising, imaginative new young-adult fantasy series featuring a well-crafted character." -KIRKUS REVIEWS
There will be a third book in THE GAIA WARS series, so I decided to pitch the series to agents at the 2012 conference, along with another, unrelated thriller. I told agents about the blog coverage and about positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads but they were more impressed by the Kirkus review, and the fact that Kirkus put THE GAIA WARS in their “Critics’ Picks” section, than anything else. The Kirkus Review is also what caught the attention of Identity Films, and is the reason they called about optioning the books for Hollywood.
I hired a Seattle-based intellectual property attorney to review the option agreement and completed the deal in early August 2012. (Read the article in VARIETY). I also met and signed with the fabulous Emily Keyes, Literary Agent at the L. Perkins agency, during the 2012 PNWA conference. I’m really grateful to PNWA for putting together such fantastic conferences and for opening so many doors for writers.
I learned so much with these first couple of books. For one thing—even though I’ve made my living as a writer (advertising) for the past twenty years, I underestimated how challenging it would be to write a novel. It’s incredibly hard work, but also a total blast. A couple of things I’ve discovered along the way:
- I have to spend time on my current book project every day, even if I’m slammed with other work. Longer breaks make the project feel stale, and it becomes harder to reengage. My goal is 1,000 words a day, plus some editing of earlier sections.
- I believe my writing improves in direct proportion to the volume of great books I’m reading.
- I’ve learned that I need to quit all browsers and email programs, shut off wi-fi and turn off the phone when I write. The dogs and chickens still make noise, but I can live with that.
- I use a “rolling outline.” I don’t like long, detailed outlines. I much prefer starting a book with a strong idea and discovering the story as I go. However, I do find it helpful to quickly outline the action or scenes or events in the chapter immediately ahead.
My goals now are to finish my new Northwest-centered thriller, EXODUS 2021 (almost done) and get to work on the third book in THE GAIA WARS series.