I had never written anything in journal format before Lost Under Two Moons. In fact, I hadn’t even ready much in journal format up to that point. I preferred a solid, sensible detached-third-person narrative style, and had used that for all of my prose fiction since grade school. But Richard Park’s story in Lost Under Two Moons turned out to be quite different.
First, some history. When I turned nineteen, I put all of my other life-plans on hold and went to the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was during this exciting, frightening, and often lonely time that I became a dedicated journal-writer. Every day I faithfully recorded the major events of the day, along with many emotions which often had no other outlet. Whenever I felt feeling alone or isolated in a familiar yet foreign environment, I gained a deep appreciation for the process of recording my thoughts and writing through my difficulties.
I didn’t think of any of this consciously when I started the first real draft of Lost Under Two Moons. I was simply trying out an experiment on a project that had failed to ever get past the first page or so of an attempt. I chose an empty, heavy-duty spiral notebook and began writing entries as if I were stranded on an alien world. Nearly two years later, I had the entire first draft contained in that now ratty, war-torn notebook. I still have it.
There were some unique challenges that came with the journal format, but the biggest problem was how to handle physical danger. After all, what tension could there be if we knew that the protagonist not only survived the latest adventure but was apparently healthy enough to write a detailed entry in his journal about it? My solution was to draw from my experiences on my mission. While I was rarely in real physical danger on the reservation, the extremes of stress and emotion meant that some of my entries were erratic, scattered, and even cryptically fragmented. This gave me the idea that while Richard might still be able to write about his day, we don’t know what condition he is in while he’s writing. I could also use the way that he wrote to add tension and tell more than perhaps even he realized he was saying. The ending result proved to be very visceral and surprisingly personal for me.
Would I use the format again if I were to write the book over? Absolutely. It’s the only way I could tell this story. Richard’s adventure is as much one of the heart as it is of the body, and while the process was much harder than a regular narrative would have been, I think that the worth of it is clear to open-hearted readers.
“Keltin, is there such a thing as a snow mirage?”
“What are you talking about, Jaylocke?”
“I’ve heard that in the desert, you can get so hot and thirty that you begin to see things that aren’t really there. Do you think you can get the same thing out here?”
“I doubt it. Why?”
Keltin turned to look where his apprentice was pointing and saw that one of the evergreen trees on the far bank of the Wylow river had been festooned with decorations. Delicate glass ornaments hung from every bough as small woodland creatures scattered silvery strands of tinsel along the green needles. Keltin turned back to Jaylocke as the squirrels and rabbits began laying brightly wrapped packages around the tree trunk.
“I think we’ve been out in the cold too long,” he said.
– (not from) Into the North
“No! I don’t want to!” shouted Vin, the talking sword. “You can’t make me!”
“I can, and I will!” said the knight holding Vin. “Now get in there!”
“No!” screamed Vin as he was plunged into the still body before him. “You monster!”
“Oh hush and carve the turkey,” said the knight.
– (not from) Magic, Mystery and Mirth
“Huh,” said Keltin.
“What is it?” asked Bor’ve’tai.
“Nothing,” said Keltin, looking at the still beast he’d just brought down. “I’ve just never seen a serpent stag with a glowing red nose before.”
– (not from) The Beast Hunter
Well, Journal, there’s good news and bad news. It’s Christmas Day, and against all odds, Santa did come! Unfortunately, instead of six months of food and a shotgun, he brought me dress socks and a sweater with a bird on it.
– (not from) Lost Under Two Moons
Norman Mailer said “if you have to pick [the title] after the book is done, it’s like trying to buy the right wedding ring.” This was definitely the case with my first novel. In fact, the book didn’t even have a working title until the first draft was finished. For the longest time, I called it Other World: Survival, but I never really liked the name.
It wasn’t until I started assembling a BETA read team that I finally decided to pick a title. I knew it would have to be something unique while being easy to remember. I started brainstorming any titles that might even remotely work. Vague, obscure, clichéd… it all went into the list that I then sent on to my test readers to vote on.
After I sent out the list, I realized that I was actually hoping that one title in particular would win. I started to worry that no-one else would like it, but when the results came back I found that it had gotten the second-most votes from my readers. That was good enough for me, and the book was known from that point on as Lost Under Two Moons.
Having said all that, I thought it’d be fun to share some of the possible titles that were sent to my BETA readers to consider. Here are some of the more interesting ones:
A Journal from Another World
Alone In an Alien Nowhere
Alone With The Bigamouths
Cry of the Bigamouth
How I Survived Other World
I Want to go Home
“I’m Not on Earth Anymore”
Journal from Another World
Letters from Another World
Lost on an Unknown World
My Life on Other World
No Man’s Land
Other World Castaway
Stalked by Bigamouths
Survival on Another World
The World of Mr. Screech
…and perhaps the oddest of all…
Utility Knife On Another World