SALT LAKE CITY — Local young adult fantasy author Emily King went from having her editor reject her book to her face, to having the very same novel come out this June.
"You just never know in publishing," she said in a recent interview.
After publishing her series "The Hundredth Queen" through Amazon's traditional publishing house, King, who resides in American Fork, traveled to Seattle to meet her editor in person for the first time. He proceeded to turn down the proposal for her next book on the spot.
King had intended to write a Pinocchio retelling, but the idea morphed into a Batman-esque revenge tale with an antihero character as the protagonist. She'd originally written it as a standalone, and her editor wanted her to do another series. Also, the main character had a clock heart, and Amazon had recently put out a story with a similar premise.
So, King decided to let that book go and spent the summer coming up with new ideas. As she finished the fourth book in "The Hundredth Queen" series, her agent told her that her editor had actually agreed to pitch the Pinocchio retelling if that's what King wanted.
"I said, 'That's the book I want to write,'" she said. "'If he's willing to take it, I will turn it into a series.'"
And that's what happened. Now, "Before the Broken Star" (Skyscape, 294 pages, ages 12 and up), the first book in "The Evermore Chronicles," hits shelves June 1. In the speedy nature of Amazon publishing, book two, "Into the Hourglass" will be out in August, and King has already submitted book three for editing.
"Before the Broken Star" tells the story of Everley, the only survivor of her family's assassination after she was saved by the insertion of a magical clockwork heart inside her chest. Now, she's devoted her borrowed time to taking out the powerful navy admiral responsible for her family's death, even if it means following him to a dangerous, fantastical island from which few return.
Enslaved and forced into marriage, the tough-skinned Everley embarks on a quest for revenge and truth, only to discover there's much more to her story than she'd ever thought possible.
A few Pinocchio-like elements still remain in the final version of "Before the Broken Star." There's a character meant to represent Jiminy Cricket, and Everley's clock heart has a regulator bell that rings when her heart rate goes up, including when she lies — a callback to Pinocchio's growing nose. There are crickets, a whale, a blue fairy and a pair of characters nicknamed the Fox and the Cat, all of which hearken back to the original Pinocchio tale.
"Some of the inspiration is there," King said. "But it's not a reimagining and it's certainly not a retelling."
Most of all, King wanted a character like Everley, who had limitations as far as what she could or couldn't do because of her clock heart that made her feel as if she weren't a "real" person. In the end, like Pinocchio, she would be granted full humanity.
Everley is a lot harsher and more direct than King's main character in "The Hundredth Queen" series, she said. Her clock heart is a big secret she has to hide and it's kept her from forming close relationships.
King said that it was a challenge to explore Everley's "journey of recovery from someone who has been so damaged to someone who becomes whole."
"I had to admit some things about myself, some of the things that I feel in my life that maybe I haven't completely moved on from," she said. "I had to see how (those feelings) would look in my life too and experience it through Everley's eyes."
King first started writing seriously after her second child was born.
"I felt like my brain was oozing out of my ears," she said. "I needed something for me."
After six years and several manuscripts, she landed an agent with a young adult thriller novel that never sold. Then, she got the idea for "The Hundredth Queen," but her agent wasn't interested in fantasy. So, she queried again and soon got her current agent, who sold "The Hundredth Queen" in just a couple months.
"I'm really glad that I stuck to my guns and wrote the book," King said. "It ended up being such a great thing for me and my career."
The mother of four children, King said she's managed to develop her writing career with the help of a very supportive husband, and to this day she's amazed every time someone spends money and time on her books.
"I underestimated how valuable that would be in my life and how appreciative I am," she said. "I would write no matter what, but it is really fun to see people become invested in my characters and in my world."
If you go …
What: Emily R. King book signing
When: Tuesday, June 4, 7 p.m.
Where: Provo Library, 500 N. University Ave., Provo
Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.