My son is a big fan of ‘Game of Thrones’, not just the television series, he reads the books as well. He had hoped that I would enjoy the series with him but after the first season I just lost interest. The fact is that I am bored with medieval based fantasy. When I told him this he replied; “well why don’t you write one of your own then?”
Now it might seem a bit strange to be starting a new project in a totally different genre when I am still finishing off a previous novel based in historical fiction. ‘The Blade’s Fell Blow’ is actually coming along very nicely with the second draft approaching 70,000 words. I am not creating any new characters or plot devices. I am polishing the work and filling in the gaps, not to mention completing the research. This is all necessary but it is not quite creative and it is the creative act that I enjoy most about writing. I should also mention the fact that I seem able to compartmentalize things, like two different books I am writing, without any trouble whatsoever.
I have done this previously when I was finishing ‘For Rapture of Ravens’ and started work on ‘Eugenica’. Again these were different books and at the time I felt that I needed to get away for a short while from 1066 so hopped over to an alternate version of 1932. I thoroughly enjoyed the process, the second volume of ‘The Sorrow Song Trilogy’ was published and I felt driven to finish the third after ‘Eugenica’ was completed.
Writing four books that are set in the past, even an alternate one for ‘Eugenica’, required a lot of research, but I expected my new project not to be so demanding. In this I was both wrong and right. A good fantasy is rooted in the real world, that is, there are points of references that are common both here in this reality and also in the new fantasy world. You can see this in the ‘Harry Potter’ series where even mundane aspects of everyday life take on a new lustre when imbued with the magic of wizards and witches. Accepting this meant finding such points of references and then adhering to them. This was not too difficult, it just took a bit of thinking on my part.
The next stage was the same as with all my previous books; the story. I write a first draft that is very rough, no chapters or anything, just a mad dash to get as many ideas down as I can. When I am happy with this I start the second draft, which is the one that will, hopefully, become the final manuscript. It became clear as the second draft progressed that although there was very little in the way of research required there was an entirely new aspect to writing for me to master; the creation of an entirely new world populated with diverse peoples living in unique cultures. I had to create everything, the geography, the history, the societies, religions, cultural clashes and an awful lot more that, as an historical author, I simply looked up before.
It seems to me that with a work as speculative and imaginative as a fantasy novel creating a world that feels authentic, or at least believable, to the reader is paramount. I know that as a reader myself I have sometimes found such worlds to be shallow and unconvincing and I lose interest as a result. In my own opinion many fantasy authors have just taken J.R.R. Tolkein’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ and copied it! I can see why, Tolkein got it right so why do the hard-work over again? Well, Tolkein also wanted people, artists of every kind, to use his work as a springboard of inspiration but it seems few authors have taken it that way. I think that this is one, if not the biggest, reason why I am bored with medieval based fantasy. I also think that my son was perfectly right to challenge me to create something new.
I have given my project the preliminary title ‘Queen of the Mountain’, chosen a particular period in history, which is not medieval, to base it on, and started drawing maps, writing notes on all the cultural aspects that a new world needs, and all the usual writer’s legwork; back-stories for main characters, style-sheet (perhaps even more crucial when inventing names for almost everything), plot developments, etc. The second draft has now reached 40,000+ words, which I am very pleased with. It is still very rough and there is a lot of work on the background material to do but I am happy with the way it is going. When I finally complete ‘The Blade’s Fell Blow’ I will spending all of my time on ‘Queen of the Mountain’ and I may actually see two books bearing my name published in the same year, or is that another fantasy?