Guys, gals, nonbinary pals, I am thrilled to finally announce the publication of my next series! The Comes in Threes series presents three polyamorous love stories set in the fictional small-town setting of Mapleton, Massachusetts. Book 1, Three-Way Split, releases on August 20, 2018. Book 2, Three’s the Charm, releases on November 19, 2018. Book 3, Three For All, releases in early 2019. All three books are being published by Entangled Publishing as part of their Scorched line. Fitting, since these are scorching hot.
This series is special to me for a number of reasons, but especially for the way my life and experiences informed my writing process. Hence this post: I want to announce the series here on the blog, but I also want to tell the story of the series that almost wasn’t.
Comes in Threes: Origins
I decided to write about polyamory when I was first exploring polyamory in my own life. My husband and I opened our bed for some threesome fun starting in late 2015, and that unexpectedly led to more when, a year later, we found ourselves both falling for a mutual friend. Having our relationship turned upside down led to a lot of anxiety and deep conversations. I found myself questioning everything I had ever thought about my marriage and about monogamy itself. Because I’m a writer–and a masochist–I thought, “these moments of personal upheaval are good romance novel conflicts. I should write about this.”
Although my own situation is a MFF, a man with two women, the menage books publishers are acquiring most readily are MMF, two men with one woman. Since I was interested in traditionally publishing this series, I decided to write with the trad market considerations in mind, and planned for three MMF novels.
The Book 1 Roller Coaster
After sketching out a synopsis for all three novels, I began working earnestly on Book 1 in the summer of 2016. Not long into the process, I realized the character arcs weren’t developing smoothly. The characters had weak motivations, and I had more world-building to do than I anticipated. I scrapped what I had and started over with a different outline and a somewhat clearer sense of direction. That, too, began to lead me astray, as my outline that had seemed so robust became flimsy when I started actually digging into the scenes.
In the midst of all this, I was dealing with my own conflicting feelings about polyamory. Because life isn’t a romance novel, my polyamorous situation didn’t resolve itself neatly in a single plotline. As a result, I was doing a lot of journaling and soul-searching. I was trying to figure out what I wanted from my relationship(s) and how best to communicate my needs. Writing a complex love story while wrestling with my own complex love story felt, at times, like the universe’s cruel joke, or maybe some well-deserved karma.
The main complicating factor in my novel was the sheer number of relationships. A two-person relationship has one relationship to deal with: the relationship between characters A and B. That relationship builds and develops by A and B figuring out what they want and how to get it. A polyamorous triad, however, involves not one but four different relationships:
- A and B
- A and C
- B and C
- A, B, and C all together
In my original plans for the book, I was bringing three characters from a place of complete unfamiliarity to a solved romantic triad. I couldn’t seem to make it work realistically in the scope of a ~75,000 word novel.
In the late spring of 2017, when I had been writing and rewriting this novel for what felt like a million years (but was actually about nine months), I sat down via video chat with my amazing agent, Saritza Hernandez. I couldn’t make this book work, and was about ready to give up.
Sary, in her Obi-Wan Kenobi wisdom, told me not to give up, and gave me some real, concrete suggestions for solving my problem. One solution was to set up two characters in some kind of relationship from the outset, even if it wasn’t romantic, so they weren’t starting from zero. She also recommended I choose one primary character whose arc would take precedence over the others. Not everyone in the story needed a significant, life-changing arc; some arcs could be smaller and still be meaningful. Finally, she pointed out that my books succeed when I let them instruct: Purely Professional provided an introduction to BDSM, Playing Knotty to body positivity and bondage, and the Slices of Pi series to the overlap of geeky and kinky. Comes in Threes could do the same for polyamory.
With this sage advice, I started over–again–with an outline that finally felt right. This led–again–to a near-total rewrite. When the book finally went to my editor at 77,000 words, those 77k were the final result of over 300,000 words of drafting.
All Uphill/Downhill? From Here
I never know if it’s supposed to be “all uphill” or “all downhill” to indicate things are getting better. When life is going downhill, it’s bad, but it can also mean easy: it’s way easier to travel downhill than uphill. But up generally means positive, so wouldn’t you say “all uphill”? The internet is no help in deciphering this riddle. It’s just like the proverb “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” Is moss something a stone wants, therefore indicating that being a rolling stone is bad? Or is moss undesirable, and therefore the proverb entices one to roll? How can we even know the motivations of the stone in this scenario?
Three-Way Split underwent a number of revisions before I sent it to the editor, but I also revised it significantly after her feedback. The final result is a book I’m very proud of. It does justice to my original intent and, I believe, to the complexities of human relationships.
Neither of the other two books in the series, Three’s the Charm and Three For All, have given me anywhere near the trouble as Three-Way Split. Both books include established married couples including a third in their relationship in different ways. Both books have been simpler to write than Three-Way Split.
“You Chose This”
I have learned a lot about polyamory over these past few years: from reading, workshops, and my own personal experiences. In writing the Comes in Threes series, I wanted others to see some of the different aspects of polyamory. Everything doesn’t revolve around jealousy. Loving more than one person at once can be a real mindfuck. My characters learn that, and as I continue to learn it anew with each new day. It can also be wonderfully fulfilling in ways I never thought possible.
I am still part of this lovely polyam not-quite-triad. Sometimes, when we are all being obnoxious to each other, she will lean over to me and say, mischievously, “You chose this.” And I did, and do, with each day. I choose not only my relationships, but also the writing challenges I undertake.
When I was deep in the difficulties of writing Three-Way Split, I sometimes said to myself, “You chose this,” and it felt like a curse. But now that this I am sending these books out into the world, the words feel like a blessing. I chose this, for all its challenges, and I’m very glad I did.