Annalise Meriwether, a kindhearted eleven-year-old girl with purple hair and eyes, first appeared to me on July 28th, 2016. She was chasing a fluffy white cat in a top hat and monocle through a midnight field and looked scared to tears. A curse marked her left palm in the shape of a broken black heart. The moonlit sky was cracked in half. Black wolves prowled the dark forest’s perimeter, ethereal white crows cawed overhead, and the fields surrounding her were charred black. The atmosphere was tense and darkly magical, yet Annalise gave off this aura of lightness—a sincerity, gentleness, and unwavering optimism I instantly loved. I knew right away, wherever this enchanted girl and white cat were going, I would follow.
Despite being panic-deep in edits on The Land of Yesterday, I opened a new document and wrote, Annalise wants to be queen of her destiny and defeat fate. Allegory of what it’s like to follow your dreams and fail, time after time, and still get up to do it again. From this opening scene, I began to see the whole story unfold . . .
Once upon a time, in an ancient world above the sky, there lived two powerful enchantresses, the Fate Spinner, and her twin sister, the Spinner of Dreams. The first bestowed each person’s unbendable fate. The last gave each person their heart’s most precious dreams. Yet something changed the night Annalise was born—something so dark and wicked, the town of Carriwitchet broke with her birth. And everyone, including the coldhearted Fate Spinner, saw the newly born child, Annalise Lorien Meriwether, was to blame.
I saw Annalise’s impoverished parents, Harry and Maddie Meriwether, and all the love they held in their eyes for their sweet daughter. I saw their decrepit black house, in the shape of a bent witch’s hat, and the desecrated town of Carriwitchet surrounding them. I felt the hatred of the townsfolk for Annalise—the girl who destroyed their town and bore the Fate Spinner’s curse. I saw a train composed of magic and thousands of white crows carrying hundreds of magical cats. And inside that white-feather train, glimpsed a terrified, three-legged black fox with a secret dream—of opening a candy shop with his husband and escaping his own cruel fate. But it wasn’t until a monstrous labyrinth appeared in the enchantresses’ realm that I realized where all the players in this fairytale were going and why. That Annalise and the fox, and those they met on the way, were travelling to the Fate Spinner’s labyrinth to battle creatures more insidious than the mind could fathom for a chance at their greatest dreams.
Yet as fantastic as this fairytale sounded, the scope of emotion and mind and heart it would take to create this dreamworld was really intimidating! It all looked and sounded so wonderful in my head, but that was a far cry from actually getting those impressions on paper. This world was much bigger than that of my debut, and I wasn’t sure I was talented enough to pull it off. Plus, all the same doubts, fears, and questions plaguing Annalise were swirling inside me, too.
Am I doing the right thing? Am I brave enough for this?
Am I strong enough to face my fears and go after my dream?
What if I fail?
Still, experienced authors always say that writers should challenge themselves. And something told me this story was worth it.
After drafting twelve chapters of the fantasy I’d originally titled, THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, it was clear that Annalise and I shared anxiety, panic, intrusive thoughts, and PTSD. Immersing myself in her pain each day only to dive back into my own was extremely difficult. At times, juggling her battles and mine at once got very dark for me. But I swear, this girl was so good and kind and brave, and so overflowing with hope despite her cruel past, her dangerous present, and the uncertainty awaiting her future, she helped me remember why I started this book. Why writing a story about a cursed girl going after her dreams was SO important to me.
I’d been a girl just like Annalise and would’ve loved a book-friend like this.
And if I needed this story, there must be other kids who needed it, too.
A little backstory. The first book I ever wrote was an adult creative non-fiction that revolved around my family’s true history and touched on my traumatic childhood. One of the first agents I queried with it said in her rejection, “Nobody wants to read about children in danger.” I’ve never forgotten those words. Not because they’d rejected my first mess of a book, but because with that one seemingly innocuous sentence, they’d made me feel like all the grit, hope, and strength I’d forged within myself was worthless. That what me and my family went through didn’t matter. That kids’ stories didn’t matter. That girls should remain silent, and their traumas hidden. In the years since that rejection, I’ve heard similar things from adults regarding mental health addressed in kid lit. Statements like, “No kids are going to want to read dark, scary, and sad books.” But guess what? Kids living in those situations crave mirror-books voicing their experiences. They are desperate to know they are seen. That they matter.
That they are not alone.
As a child, I sure could’ve used books with middle grade protagonists who got panic attacks battling dragons. Middle Graders with PTSD making friends. Kids with depression being brave. Middle Graders with autism saving the day. Children finding strength and joy, darkness alongside hope—stories where kids like me got to be the heroes. Maybe if I’d had books like this growing up, it would’ve given me the daring to think if this anxious girl can face her fears and go after her dreams, maybe I can, too.
Climbing inside of a book that understands the reader’s unique struggles can make all the difference in that reader’s health, outlook, and world.
With Annalise’s story, I hoped to show readers that no matter what life throws at you, how different or fearful you felt, or how much you had to overcome, a secret magic is born from dreaming big dreams and not giving up. That a special power grows from the struggle. That one’s differences are often their greatest strengths.
That dreams really can come true.
Thank you so much for reading a little about me and Annalise and how The Spinner of Dreams was born. I can’t wait to share Annalise’s story with you!
K. A. Reynolds is a poet and author from Winnipeg Canada currently residing in Maine. Her superpowers include: battling monsters, reading amid pandemonium, and saving spiders from certain peril. When not typing, daydreaming, or caring for the elderly, she enjoys swapping bad jokes with her numerous offspring, herding various furry beasts, and reading strange and colorful tales expertly crafted by other imagination astronauts in love with words. Visit her at www.kareynoldsbooks.com.