Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: April 18th 2016
Genres: Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Zeus gave her one simple job: Kill every human. Atropos—daughter of Zeus and the third goddess of Fate from Greek mythology —spends her eternal life snipping human lifelines when their mortal lives are over. As if being a killer doesn’t make life miserable enough, she and her Fate-wielding sisters must live amongst the humans on Earth thanks to a long-running feud between their mother and Zeus. Living on Earth means they must mingle with the mortals, attend the local high school, and attempt to fit in—or at least not stand out too much.
Killing and mingling don’t mix, which is why Atropos’ number-one rule is to avoid all relationships with the humans. Caring for the people she has to kill is a fast track to insanity. However, when Alex Morgan walks into her first-period English class, she knows she’s in for trouble. He’s the worst kind of human for her to like—one with a rapidly approaching expiration date. And he makes Atropos want to break all the rules.
I turn off my desk lamp and computer, starting to get up, but then sit back down. My curiosity about Alex has been building all day. I’ve tried to tamp it down, to forget him, but I can’t. Even Chloe’s chatter couldn’t take him out of my thoughts. I boot the computer back up and give in to temptation.I search for Alex’s record in our database. What I’m doing isn’t forbidden, but I rarely bother to check on the humans once I assign their manner of death. I forget them until I see them again on their date of death. However, tonight, I want to see what kind of fate Lacey devised for him and refresh my memory about how and when he’ll die.
I find his file but just as I’m about to double click and open it, I pull back. Do I really want to know what Lacey has planned for him? He’s already faced grief and loss. What if his fate gets worse than that? Do I want that knowledge?
I think for a few moments and decide it doesn’t really matter either way. He and I aren’t going to become friends. I enjoyed our afternoon together, but that has to be the end of it. If his fate is bad, I can live with it. He is, after all, just another human. Easy come, easy go.
I double click on the file. His entire past and future lies before me. I scroll down to the end of the document, looking for the relevant part, the date of death. I don’t have to scroll far.
May fifteenth of this year.
I read the page again. The date doesn’t change. May fifteenth is a little less than two months from now. I quickly scroll back up, looking for the details on how he will die. I’m furious when I find them.
Funerals, Book Ideas, and Other Odd Behavior
Whenever people ask me where I get my ideas, I say, “Anywhere and everywhere.” Almost anything can be the seed of an idea for a story. Yet for all that I mine for ideas in every aspect of my life, even I never expected to get an idea at a funeral. But that’s exactly where Broken Fate first appeared in my head.
It was the funeral of a relative who died way too young. Like any sane person, I hate funerals, even more so because I tend to be a snotty crier. Once the tears start, it gets embarrassing. I do everything I can to keep myself together until I can cry in private. So there I was, trying to distract myself from thoughts of death, when I found myself thinking of, well, death. Specifically, what kind of nonsensical, cold, cruel system would claim someone so young?
I remembered the unit on Greek mythology from my freshman English class. That was where I first heard the myth of the three Fates: The first spins human lifelines, the second assigns them their destinies, and the third kills the humans by cutting the lifelines.
My brain locked on the third Fate. How bad would that job stink, I thought. All you do is kill people, day after day. And you’re immortal, so it never ends. You’re just a cog in the business of life and death. After a while, you wouldn’t even care any more. Your days would just be snip, snip, snip. It’d be like working on a never-ending assembly line.
Beyond the fatigue, you couldn’t possibly have any relationships with humans because loving people you have to kill is insane. “Hey, let me love you so I can kill you and then be sad.” Um, no. But what would happen if one day you did fall in love with a human, and that human had a very short shelf life?
There it was: The idea for Broken Fate. I spent the rest of the service working it out in my head, thus averting the snotty crying crisis.
I wanted to write it down, but that’s not cool in the middle of a funeral. After the service, I reached for my phone, but since we’d carpooled to the service it was still in the car back at the house. I dug around in my purse for a pen but I didn’t have one.
I kept chanting, “Fate, Fate, Fate,” in my head until I caught up to my cousin at the reception.
“I need to use your phone to send myself an email.” I said.
She looked at me strangely, but fortunately my family is great at overlooking weird behavior. She handed over her phone and I sent myself the following:
“Fate, business, crappy job, how could you love someone if you had to kill everyone, person with rapidly approaching expiration date.”
So a novel about death was born at a funeral. Since I can’t separate the funeral from the book, Broken Fate has become a weird, bittersweet, and humorous last memory of my relative. That’s strangely comforting.
“I’m only going to get sicker. Days like this, where we can do anything fun are going to be rare. If you spend time with me, you’re going to have to watch me go downhill. Hell, soon, I won’t even be able to go to the bathroom by myself. And then, I’m going to die. Which is fine for me, but you’ll be left behind. That’s a lot of crap to dump on a friend, much less a potential girlfriend.”
“I understand. Don’t think I didn’t think about all of that, too, because I did. But I’ve decided to deal with what comes when it comes. I can live on a day-to-day basis. I’m pretty strong,” I say.
“I can see that,” he says. “You’re not like the rest of the kids in school, are you? There’s something inside you that’s different. I just can’t figure out what it is.”
“Don’t look too hard,” I say. “You’re likely to end up disappointed.”
I turn away from the busy birds to face him. He reaches up, gently cupping my face in his hand. I start to pull back, startled, but then I close my eyes and lean into his hand. I can barely remember the last time anyone touched me with such tenderness.
“There’s not much love in your life, is there?” he asks, resting his forehead against mine. “You don’t know gentleness.”
Shaking my head, I keep my eyes closed. I am not going to cry in front of Alex, but he’s breaking down my carefully erected defenses, simply by seeing through them.
I feel him tilt his head, and his lips touch mine. I resist the urge to run. His lips are soft and tentative, as though he’s afraid I’m going to run away. Or smack him. When I do neither, he intensifies the kiss.
I reach up and place my free hand on the back of his neck, twining my fingers in the thick, soft hair at the base of his skull and pulling him closer. He moans softly against my mouth before pulling away. I’m simultaneously disappointed and relieved that he ended it.
Fate’s Not in Kansas Anymore
I’m a sucker for abandoned places. They feel suspended in time, as though they’re just waiting to pick up where they left off. Abandoned amusement parks are especially interesting to me. When places that were so full of life and joy go silent and are left to rot, it seems especially poignant.
The Land of Oz theme park in Beech Mountain, NC is one such place. It wasn’t a theme park in the sense that we think of them today. It didn’t have huge rides, for one thing. It was more of a themed hike through the woods with opportunities to visit locations from the film and interact with the characters. It was only open for ten years before it closed, the victim of larger parks, economics, and changing tourism patterns, among other things.
After it closed, everything was left to rot. As you’d expect, it became a target for vandalism and theft. What the vandals didn’t destroy, nature did. But then something wonderful happened: In the 1990’s, a development group decided to build houses on the property and, as part of that development, resurrect some of the park. Reopening it as a theme park wasn’t feasible, but neither did it have to suffer such pitiful neglect.
The developers, with the help of former employees and visitors, have since restored parts of the park. My favorite part of the restoration story is the official “brick amnesty.” The developers asked anyone who had any bricks from the Yellow Brick Road to please return them. No questions would be asked. All they wanted were the bricks. They received a surprisingly large number of them back.
Today Oz opens for one day every October and welcomes visitors, former employees, and Oz fanatics for a celebration of the park. Proceeds help with further restorations. You can also rent Dorothy’s house for short stays, have a birthday celebration in the park, or even get married in Oz. Here’s a short video that shows a bit of the park:
When I needed a location for some of the most significant scenes in Broken Fate, the idea of using the park popped into my head. It was especially appropriate for Alex and Atropos, both avid readers and lovers of the original Oz books. It’s fitting that some of their happiest and saddest moments happen in a place that saw much joy, but also its share of sadness.
I took some liberties with Oz in Broken Fate. For one thing, the characters experience some locations that were destroyed and no longer exist. For another, the scenes in the book are written as though the park is still an abandoned ruin, not the improved version that exists today. I used the park as a metaphor for the idea that everything, no matter how awesome, dies eventually. I hope I captured the tension that exists between remembering what was, accepting what is, and finding beauty in the difference.
If you want to learn more about the park and see some great archival photos, you can visit the developer’s website. http://www.emeraldmtn.com/LandofOz/landofoz.html
When he struggles to sit up, I help him. He looks down at the blood and goo splattered on his clothes and the wounds on his chest. Then he looks at me and takes in the blood splatters on my clothes. Finally, he looks toward the cave entrance and sees my sword standing at attention there. Turning to me again, he asks the only reasonable question.
“What the hell was that?”
He follows it with
the only other reasonable question and the one I’m dreading more than any other.
“And what the hell are you?”
My heart breaks a little at the betrayal in his voice. I was a fool for thinking I could keep my true self a secret.
“I always knew you weren’t normal,” he says. “Always running off, missing school, never talking about yourself except in the most general terms, never mentioning your family. I knew there was something you were hiding. But I never dreamed it would be this, this—” He falters, unable to find the right word to describe what he’s just witnessed.
“Disgusting? Frightening? Horrifying?” I try to finish for him, hanging my head in shame. “You’re right. It’s all of that and more.”
He thinks for a moment, and I see the most amazing transformation pass over his face as he processes what just happened. He actually smiles at me.
“No, no. The word I’m looking for is badass. I had no idea. I mean you were so cool with that sword. And those horses! That was so awesome.” His smile is huge now. He’s thrilled by what he’s seen, not scared.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I end up giggling a little hysterically. Here I am expecting recriminations, fear, and hatred, and he’s complimenting me? This guy is crazier than most of the gods. I force myself to stop laughing and to treat this mess with the seriousness it deserves.
“You’re not traumatized? Scared? Afraid to be in the same room with me because I might do to you what I did to the Keres?”
“No. I’m a dead man anyway. Even if you intend to kill me, it doesn’t matter, does it? But I would like to know what you really are and what that was about.”
I hang my head. “I’m not supposed to tell you,” I say, knowing the right course of action is to flush his memory immediately, not engage him in conversation.
“Hello,” he says, motioning to the still-bleeding wounds on his chest. “I’m the one with holes in me, here. I deserve to know the truth, don’t you think?”
He’s right. Even if I can’t let him remember it forever, in this moment, I owe him the truth.
“You’re not going to like me when I’m finished,” I warn.
“I’ll judge that.”
I inhale and decide to begin with the simplest yet hardest fact. The one that will turn his admiration of me into hate and fear.
“My real name isn’t Sophie. It’s Atropos.”
When that doesn’t get a reaction, I press on. “I am the third goddess of fate. I am the one who cuts human lifelines and ends your mortal lives.”
The Easter Eggs of Broken Fate
People often ask, “What elements of your novel come from your personal life or experiences?” Well, I try not to base my characters on people I know in real life, simply because I don’t want to deal with the backlash. “Why did you make me into such a jerk?” is not a question I want to answer. I also don’t include actual events from my life for the same reason. I don’t want to hear from some outraged family member who’s upset that I aired our dirty laundry.
Objects and animals, though, are another story. I frequently include things from my life in my stories. Partly this is due to the fact that things I already know are easier to describe, and partly because it’s just silly fun to stick little bits of my life into a book. Here are just a few of the things in Broken Fate that were culled from my own life.
The shears. Atropos’ shears have alternating rubies and emeralds on the handles. Why? I chose alternating rubies and emeralds for my sorority pin in college.
Everyone said it would be ugly and too Christmas-like, but when it came everyone thought it looked great. Several girls ordered their pins to match mine the next year and by the time I graduated, there were probably twenty girls who had pins like mine. Who knew I was so trendy? (My awesome cover artist at Clean Teen Publishing, Marya Heiman, even worked the stones into the cover.)
The car. A friend of mine had a fully restored 1959 Thunderbird that I lusted after. I begged him to give me first dibs on it if he ever wanted to get rid of it, reminding him of my interest regularly.
Yet when the day came to sell it, he sold it without telling me. I’m still bitter about that. Since I’ll never get to drive it, I let Atropos enjoy it.
The dog. Maggie, the beagle-corgi mix that Alex adopts in the book, is modeled on one of my dogs. Sadly, the model for Maggie died before I could finish the book. I now have another dog that doesn’t look a thing like Maggie. However, it’s nice that “Maggie” lives on in the book.
The books/bookshelves. Alex and Atropos are both huge readers. All of the books featured in Broken Fate are personal favorites of mine, as well. You can read more about the books of Broken Fate on my website at http://jenniferderrick.com/fiction/broken-fate/books-of-broken-fate/. Alex’s bookshelves are also modeled on those in my childhood bedroom. Like Alex, it’s a wonder I didn’t die young, crushed by books.
These are just a few of the things in Broken Fate that were mined from my life. There are others. I think of them like Easter eggs in movies. If you’re ever reading the book and you find something else that you’re curious about, you can always contact me at JenniferDerrick.com and ask whether it’s real or fiction.
Jennifer is a freelance writer and novelist. As a freelancer, she writes everything from technical manuals to articles on personal finance and European-style board games. Her interest in storytelling began when she was six and her parents gave her a typewriter for Christmas and agreed to pay her $.01 per page for any stories she churned out. Such a loose payment system naturally led to a lot of story padding. Broken Fate, her first novel, earned her $2.80 from her parents.
Jennifer lives in North Carolina and, when not writing, can often be found reading, trawling the shelves at the library, playing board games, watching sports, camping, running marathons, and playing with her dog. You can visit her at her official website:www.JenniferDerrick.com.
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