Welcome back to another edition of Origin Stories where I talk about—you guessed it—the origins of the stories I’ve written so far! In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about All That is Gold.
I suggest reading the first post in this blog series before this one, which was about Once Upon a One Night Stand. Timeline wise, we’re picking back up at the Plagiarism Haven days, which I talk about a little bit there.
If you haven’t read this story, don’t worry! I’m going to try to keep this as spoiler free as possible. But believe me, it’s a wild ride!
Acronym: ATG (I don’t include the “i” because I feel it’s a waste of time to type)
Genre(s): Humor, drama, YA
Series: The Gold Series
Summary: Quinn Barton was content with her seat in the social hierarchy at the elite Dupont Prep: not exactly on top, but high enough to get some respect. Too bad Carter Dupont, the undisputed king of the school, was keen on making her his new queen.
Before we really get into its origins, there are four main things you need to know about this story:
- It’s actually three stories in one
- Each story is based on a poem
- I wrote all three stories for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) over consecutive years
- It started as my term project for an English class in high school
There’s also one thing you need to know about who I am as a person:
- I am lazy
Now that we have those points established, we can begin!
Book 1 – All That is Gold
I started writing the first book of the Gold Series—All That is Gold—in November 2009. I was in my senior year of high school, slogging through assignments and dying to get the hell out of there. In my free time, I was writing and posting on Plagiarism Haven, and pretty much having great time with my writing buddies.
That was the year I finally participated in National Novel Writing Month, where you attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. All of my writing buddies were doing it, so I figured, hey, I’ll do it too.
(Also, peer pressure. There was a lot of peer pressure involved.)
Now, remember what I told you about who I am as a person. As a lazy girl, I knew that if I was going to take the time to write 50,000 words in 30 days, other things in my life were likely going to fall by the wayside. In my case, I knew it was going to be my schoolwork.
That’s when the idea came to me.
In my English class, we had a term project that was worth about 40% of our grade. We were allowed to choose anything we wanted as long as it displayed the main lessons of the course in a “creative fashion” and took a certain number of hours to complete. I knew then that I was going to make my NaNo novel my term project because I was determined to make my effort count for not only my own personal goal, but for a grade too.
We had to pitch our ideas to the teacher by the end of October, which was perfect timing. It also helped that I was a total teacher’s pet (and I’m not ashamed of it!!!!) so I could have told her I was going to act out a silent play and she would have let me do it.
I knew the 30 days of NaNo would count for the work requirement about a hundred times over, so that wasn’t going to be a problem. And thankfully, I already had an idea in mind for what I wanted to write about.
I was still obsessed with promiscuous rich kids at the time, but I was starting to view the influx of media about them as a bit of a joke. Everything just seemed so over the top and ridiculous, but it was so much fun. So I figured, hey, why not take all the parts I love and laugh at and put them all in a single story?
I also wanted to add a political element. Back in those days, I was a news and politics junkie, and even had lofty goals of studying political science in college (which I sort of did) so I could go on to become a political analyst.
(I, uh, did not go on to do that)
I guess there’s another thing you need to know about teenage Simone as well: she was a real nerd. And back then… hoo, boy, she was a super nerd. I’m talking Lord of the Rings obsessed nerd. I’m talking when I was in middle school my best friend and I learned how to speak Elvish kind of nerd.
That October, I was rereading The Fellowship of the Ring for probably the fifth time, and when I came upon the poem All That is Gold Does Not Glitter I was struck with even more inspiration. I knew then that I was going to base the story around the lines of the poem, and each chapter was going to be titled after a line.
Anyway, I pitched the story idea to my teacher like the world’s best scamming businesswoman. I told her I would apply all the themes we’d learned so far that year and in years past, that I would interpret a poem, and that I would include nearly every cliché and trope in YA fiction to show how they could either be twisted or subverted.
And most importantly, the story was going to be a work of satire.
For the most part, I did what I said I would. Here are some main tropes and plot devices I used in the story:
- Love triangle
- High school hierarchy
- Reverse harem
- Poor little rich girl
- Rich boy, “poor” girl
- Fake dating
- Bad boy, “good” girl
- Sexy second lead
- A bet
- Royal court intrigue
- Interrupted intimacy and confessions
- Lover scorned
- Over-the-top revenge
- Best friends “fight” over girl
- “Was it all a lie?”
There were plenty of others as well, but those were the ones I knew from the beginning would be in there. Everything else just sort of… happened.
With the approval of my teacher secured, I set off on my NaNo adventure. And oh, what an adventure it was.
If you’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo before, the only thing you need to know is that—for most people—writing 50,000 words in a month is a) very hard, b) extremely time consuming, and c) super draining. For me, the only way to get through it was to not overthink what I was writing, not reread too much of what I’d already written, and to resist the urge to edit. It didn’t have to be good, it just had to be written.
Having the poem as a guideline also helped a lot, as it gave me a starting point for each chapter. I did my best to interpret each line and make it work for the story.
Long story short, I did it! I wrote 50k in 30 days… but the story wasn’t done. Not by a long shot. Still, I turned in what I had to my teacher; I got an A and had the delight of hearing her cackle as she read it.
I also posted each chapter to Plagiarism Haven as I wrote them, so I had an even bigger audience laughing along with me.
Well, most of them were laughing. At least the ones who realized it was satire and the whole story was essentially a joke were. To this day, no matter how many warnings I post at the beginning of the story, there are always those people who can’t (or refuse to) acknowledge that, and end up taking it to heart. Those people take what happens in all three stories as a personal affront, as if they were owed some sort of grand romance and were offended when they didn’t get their fairytale. (Wrong series, y’all)
Look. I have never and I will never say this story/series is a romance. Does it have romantic elements? Yes. But its main genre is not romance, it’s humor. It’s a book of political intrigue told in a high school setting. It would serve people well to remember that.
Book 2 – In the Realms of Gold
For the purposes of posting on Wattpad, I combined all three books into one under the title of All That is Gold. However, the second story in the series is called In the Realms of Gold (or IRG, because once again didn’t feel like typing an extra “t” or “o”)
After finishing ATG (book 1), I knew I wanted to continue on with the story, but where I’d ended it before seemed like the perfect stopping point for a book. Plus, I was a little burnt out from writing so much in a month and I had other writing obligations I had to get back to, like Once Upon a One Night Stand.
So I waited about a year and then jumped back into the next book for NaNoWriMo the following November.
Once again, I took a poem and interpreted it for the story. I wanted to stick with the “gold” them, so I searched for one that had some mention of it. I ended up going with John Keats’ On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer (1816)
Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
This one was a hoot to write.
Without giving too much away, things get Rich Kid Crazy in this book and I really went all out with the opulence and the spending. It was supposed to be both a fun adventure and a commentary on how f*cking messed up the consumer culture we live in is. These kids jet off to a place that was essentially built from the ground up using modern slave labor and have the time of their lives.
There’s a plot twist near the end of this story (which I won’t give away) and I’m often asked if I had planned it from the beginning. The answer is yeah, pretty much. I dropped hints in one of the earlier chapters of ATG; some people picked them up immediately, while some people only saw them upon rereading, but they were always there.
By the time I finished book 2, I was both excited about the plot to come in the third book and simultaneously ready to move on to a new story with new characters, one where I didn’t write the whole thing in 30 days.
I was also in my first semester of college, which made getting that much writing done at a time when I had midterm exams nearly impossible. But if you’ve read the story, you know I include excerpts from On War by Carl van Clausewitz, which I did mainly because a) it fit the plot, and b) I was reading it for one of my PoliSci classes. Once again killing two birds with one stone!
Book 3 – Nothing Gold Can Stay
The next November, I started Nothing Gold Can Stay, the third and final book of the series. I picked another poem and set to work. I think you can tell from the title of the story that I picked Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay (1923)
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Things had taken a dramatic turn at the end of book 2, and there was essentially a war being held in the theater of high school. It was very interesting to write, but I was so, so tired of it and ready for it to be over.
That year, ladies and gentlemen, was the first year I didn’t win NaNo. I didn’t hit 50,000 words. I think I maybe got 35k, which makes NGCS the shortest of all the books in the series.
Once again, there’s a plot twist at the end of this book. Again, I’m asked if I had it planned from the beginning. My answer is no, not the very beginning, but it was something I was strongly considering when I was writing the first book, and I planted hints towards it just in case I eventually wanted to go for it. I might talk about this “twist” in another post (when I’m willing to include spoilers) but it has to do with taking a very common trope and subverting it.
Anyway, I know a lot of people hate the ending, but I personally love it. I feel it helps reinforce the satirical nature of the series and remind people not to take things so seriously. Because if you do, this one will slap you straight across the face.
ATG definitely isn’t a favorite of mine, but I can look back and appreciate the work I put into it. However, I feel such a disconnect from those characters at this point in my life, like they’re people I used to be friends with, but never spoke to again after we graduated from high school.
I’ve thought about rewriting it many times—heck, I did start rewriting it back in 2014, but ultimately, I couldn’t get past about chapter five. Maybe one day I’ll be able to return to it, but for now, it can remain in the past.
After all, nothing gold can stay.
- If you read the Origin Stories post on OUAONS, you know I used to title my series based on what neighborhood in Washington, D.C. they were mainly set in. This one was in… drumroll please… Dupont Circle! Which is where I got Carter Dupont’s last name from. So creative, right?
- I’ve never really edited any of these stories. I’ve read them all in full maybe three times? Once when I was originally turning in my project (but that was only book 1), once when I was posting to Plagiarism Haven, and once more when I was posting to Wattpad. Y’all get to read them in their messy glory.
- I did a lot of fashion research for this series—aka I did so much online shopping. I’ve always been interested in fashion, especially designer stuff, but I’ve never personally had the budget to buy it for myself, so my filthy rich kids got to live out my dreams. When I was posting this story on Plagiarism Haven, I even went so far as to link pictures (and prices) of the items I was talking about. Sometimes I even put together full outfits, and I had so much fun doing it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the second installment of Origin Stories! I’m still planning to go in chronological order, so next time I’ll be talking about my short story Turnpike.
Is there anything else you’d like to know about All That is Gold and its origins? Leave a comment below! (But please, no spoilers!)