Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In the End is My Beginning

So, I could write a post about how beginnings and endings were actually a really big, conscious decision in Scarlet's story; Robin Hood's legend spans many, many years, and Scarlet's history is superimposed within that. Making the two match up was like using a level on a book shelf, trying to get the perfect calibration so the bubble was in the middle.

I could also write a scathing rant about how I am always viciously disappointed by books that don't really have an ending, that just melt into the flip of a page when really, I have to wait eight months and $9.99 for the next page to appear. I hatehateHATE that.

But when the topic of endings and beginnings comes up, there's only one thing I can write about. The title of this post is actually a quote that Mary Queen of Scots was said to have embroidered over and over while her cousin had her imprisoned in the tower, which is fitting, because beginnings and endings always remind me of Scotland.

To start off my senior thesis at the University of St Andrews in St Andrews, Scotland (pic below!), I used the following quote from Louis L'Amour: There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.

I also kind of feel like Dumbledore said some permutation of this quote in Harry Potter.

First off, in a totally impersonal way, Scotland is an amazing place where history is interwoven into the present. Ruins of stone houses become the grazing grounds for sheep, and houses that still stand after centuries become the off kilter and retrofitted homes for current inhabitants. History is never held at a distance, under a glass case. It informs every layer of the present, every cobblestone on the street, every tourist who comes to visit the grand relic of a cathedral that long since lost its roof, though never lost its grace.

But that's not what really matters, is it? Yes, that impressed me about Scotland, and contributed to the instant sense of belonging I felt there, but when I was graduating college it did feel like everything was ending. In so many ways, it felt like my life was over, and it was a feeling I had grown accustomed to. When I was young there was a great sense of loss hanging over my head; losing grandparents, my parents divorcing, the tragic deaths of three girls in my high school, even something so simple as switching schools and feeling the palpable loss of a support system of friends. Going to college in that magical place th
at was so far from home and knowing at some point I would have to leave was bittersweet and a little tragic.

In theory it should have been the start of an exciting new time in my life, the accomplishment of everything I'd hoped for, and instead it felt like loss.

So when I found that Louis L'Amour quote and started to write my thesis, there was a tiny thread of hope in me, that maybe somewhere in the sadness and loss, there would be a new life for me, a new adventure, a dawning happiness.

My senior thesis was a creative writing short story accompanied by a full academic breakdown of the writing process and significance behind the piece; that piece was also my admission piece to my master's program that I completed (also in Scotland) after undergrad.

During that master's program, I wrote this snappy little two page piece in the ranting, wild voice of a small, shadowy girl thief that eve
ryone thought was a boy and was blackmailed into helping save people by a man that had caught her stealing.

I wrote it because my teacher hated everything else I wrote, and I essentially did it in a fit of anger. But anger can be inspirational, can't it? Few other emotions are so strong and totally pure.

A few years later, I went back through and read that piece again, and I realized that it wasn't just a rant; it was a novel.

The guy was Robin Hood, and the girl was Scarlet.

So after all, maybe in the end I found my beginning, and maybe when I thought everything was finished, my life and my dreams truly started to bloom.

Just maybe.


AC Gaughen is the author of SCARLET, a retelling of the Robin Hood legend. You can read your heart out on February 14th, 2012. And in the mean time, you can follow her blog, or check SCARLET out on Facebook or Goodreads.


  1. Cool.

    As for the Harry Potter reference, what's engraved on the Snitch is "I open at the close."

    Kind of what you're saying, right?

  2. Great story, AC! Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities in the world--so atmospheric! And I love that SCARLET began as an ire-filled short story. Very cool!