Thursday, May 12, 2011

First Book Stories: The Fear Principle by B.A. Chepaitis

I hope you're enjoying our week so far. When I decided to put together this special feature, I had no idea how popular it would be. We're tightly booked this month. Today's guest is B.A. Chepaitis. Her book, The Fear Principle, is a sci-fi mystery with romantic elements. She is currently promoting this book through Pump Up Your Book!

Writing The Fear Principle by B.A. Chepaitis

The Fear Principle and the other books in the series started with the character, Jaguar Addams, but she came into my life in her own special way, through a mingling of dreams and a real event.

First, I had a series of dreams about a being that was both a woman and a jaguar. She was always protective, either putting herself physically between me and danger or telling me something I needed to know. These dreams were followed by a very intense dream that had me actually enter the heart of a jaguar who saved me from a killer in a rainforest.

I wrote in my journal about these dreams, but didn’t use it in any fiction until something totally unrelated happened in the real world. A close friend of mine gave birth to a baby girl and I was driving to visit her and her new daughter. At the time I was seriously considering whether or not I wanted another child. I was listening to Eurythmics, a song called No Fear, No Hate, No Pain, when I felt the stirring in my belly that always signifies a new idea. Suddenly, Jaguar Addams made herself known, fully herself, sitting in her living room on the arm of a couch, swinging a leg back and forth.

She said, “Listen. You’re not going to have a baby. What you’re going to do next is write me.”

I pulled off the road and started writing. First I wrote a long poem that said goodbye to having a daughter. Then I started writing the first of the Jaguar stories.

The road from there to publication was rather twisted and unruly. I wrote about 250 pages of short stories in a two week period (yes, really. It was very intense), but I couldn’t sell them because they were too long . The shortest was forty pages, and no magazines wanted that. Then, while I was at a sci-fi convention I had a drink with editor Laura Gilman, who was interested, but said she’d prefer novels. So I took one of the stories and made it into a novel, which was first published by Penguin and now is re-issued in its 13th anniversary edition through wildside.

And what did I learn from this? Two things: First, when you have an idea that powerful, keep writing it and sending it out until it comes out right. Second, if you meet an editor, instead of throwing your manuscript at them, buy them a drink. These, I think, are rules for writers to live by.

Barbara Chepaitis is the author of 8 published books, including The Fear Principle featuring Jaguar Addams, and the critically acclaimed Feeding Christine and These Dreams. Her first nonfiction book, Feathers of Hope, is about Berkshire Bird Paradise and the human connection with birds. She’s writing a sequel about Eagle Mitch, a bird she helped our US troops rescue from Afghanistan. Barbara is founder of the storytelling trio The Snickering Witches, and faculty coordinator for the fiction component of Western Colorado’s MFA program in creative writing.

Facebook site for Barbara -
Facebook site for Jaguar -
Barbara’s website:


Cheryl said...

Thanks for being our guest today.

Pat McDermott said...

What an eclectic collection of books you have, Barbara. All sound intriguing, especially Jaguar and Eagle Mitch, and I love the name "The Snickering Witches." Cheers!