Molly Neely’s inspiration for her first published novel, “The Sand Dweller,” came from an unlikely source.
She was watching “Twilight” based on Stephenie Meyer’s young adult novels about vampires and was a little disappointed.
“I’m kind of a purist; I’m like, ‘Really? Glittery vampires?’ ” she said.
So, the Clovis High School class of 1992 graduate set out to write her own vampire novel.
What resulted wasn’t a vampire novel at all.
“While researching, the stories usually write themselves,” said Neely, who identified more as a bibliophile than a writer.
“The Sand Dweller” intertwines the stories of Malachi, the immortal, half-demon son of the devil’s greatest general, and Caleb Glass, a young priest plagued by a tragic past. The paranormal thriller highlights the values of patience, sacrifice and determination.
“In researching vampire lore, I knew I wanted to go back as far as possible, and everything kept leading me to Egypt,” Neely said. “What we consider to be contemporary monsters and lore, you’d be surprised how much of it started there.”
Neely tried to imagine how the very first vampire would “happen,” she said.
“If you go by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it was actually a curse, so I said let’s go down that road,” Neely said. “How would somebody be cursed?”
Neely, an active member of St. James’ Anglican Cathedral, said she takes faith very seriously. Naturally, she decided her story would be about a biblical curse.
Although her novel is a work of fiction, she thoroughly researched and stuck to scripture, even consulting her priest at times.
“I wanted to make sure that anything I wrote down would jive with what scripture says and what my church’s canon believes,” she said. “I wanted from the beginning to make sure that whatever I wrote down was honoring that faith.”
With her novel complete, she shipped it off to nearly 200 publishers in the U.S. and UK.
“I was so happy when “The Sand Dweller” was finished. I finally finished something!” Neely said. “I’m so grateful that I finally broke that cycle … You get real stuck in mortgage, bills. Life gets very mundane if you don’t do something with it.”
Then, she waited.
“When I first started, I had no idea what I was doing. I thought it was like you see in the movies — you wrap it up, mail it off, somebody loves it and all of a sudden you’re published. That’s not how it works at all,” she said.
Week after week, Neely would come home from her job at Walmart — she has worked at the store at Peach and Shaw avenues for 21 years — to find a rejection letter in her mailbox.
She saved her rejection letters — all 87 of them — in an album at home.
One day last year, she gave up hope.
“I came home to two rejection letters in the same day,” she said. “I prayed for a bit and I told God ‘I’m done. It’s been almost 3 years. I’ve got this honkin’ manuscript that nobody wants. I’m a professional quitter anyway, so why not?’”
But when she checked her mailbox days later, she found a letter from Black Opal Books offering to publish her novel.
“The date printed on that letter, the day they put it in the mail, was the same day I gave up,” she said. “My novel really focuses on patience and waiting for God’s timing … The moment that I quit waiting and being patient was the day He finally decided to make an example out of me.”
“The Sand Dweller” will be released Sept. 10 on Amazon, www.bn.com, and digitally on Smashwords and for Nook and other devices. The book is available for preorder at www.blackopalbooks.com.
Neely intended to write for the Young Adult audience, but her publisher said the subject matter in “The Sand Dweller” is geared toward the emerging New Adult genre.
“It’s a very cool gateway into adult books,” she said. “The nice thing is that it’s starting to be an age group that’s getting attention right at the moment that my book is getting published.”
Neely is now working on a psychological thriller and hopes to have it ready for publication next year. She is also thinking about a sequel to “The Sand Dweller.”
“I would love to pick up where he leaves off,” she said. “So much of the novel takes place in the past. Malachi is a very old person. There’s a lot of ground to cover; but we end in the present. So that’s all new territory for the character to live in the now.”
Neely lives in Tarpey Village with her whippet, Devo, and her husband, Lyle, who also works at Walmart.
“You really can get anything at Walmart if you look for it — you can even find a husband,” Neely said, laughing.