Behind the Curtain
I’m honestly far from sure how many people will ever be interested in the story behind the story, but, much as with the books I have chosen to write, I’ll ask forgiveness, rather than permission. It’s a task I feel compelled to undertake, even if few ever choose to peak behind the curtain.
There were a great many things I had not intended when I began. In retrospect some were perhaps inevitable. I didn’t set out to write what is now Book I. I certainly did not intend for it to become Book I & II, or for the first chapter to suffer the same fate. I set out with two twins once identical, now night and day. A clash over propriety, and a terrible chiding pun that will see print one day.
Darling Mercu did not even exist until an NPR story about the Imperial Russian court (I still can’t track down who inspired his character. I keep trying!) Yet the story I intended to tell, has still shone through in all these things I did not intend. A story about love, family, sacrifice, and how far astray of our intent things can go. About powerful women, and complex social politics. Adventure and folly.
Order & Entropy is in many ways the story of my life, and by that I do not mean it is in the least bit auto-biographical, but rather that it is a story shaped by the same forces that shaped me. Matriarchies and patriarchies, heartaches and foolish love. It is a world built around the existential threats we all face, and those that only some of us will ever need to confront. Questions of right and wrong, and the quest to understand the nature of this fleeting life we live.
It is a story that has grown alongside me for half my life, and which has roots further back all the way before my teens. It is a story born out of telling other tales. A hall of echoes from whence came a world, and words that have echoed in my head more times than I can count, “I am Katrisha, daughter of the moonlight, and the winter frost…” A phrase I have little doubt was inspired by the phrase, “daughter of the moon, Nokomis.”
My opening has been through many variations. Often spiraling around ideas of the scope of existence, and yet the mundane certainty of the silliest things.
An old version of the forward:
The sun rises in the East, and sets in the West. From this a great many other things might be deduced; at least so far as the manner in which mortals are apt to name the places they tread. Whatever the locals might call them, the names invariably mean the same. One needs a constant after all, amidst the vast irregularity of even one cosmos. For our purposes, this will suffice.
Of course there will always be the odd obstinate world which insists to spin upon its side. Fortunately, and almost always, no one lives there. Still, this might be resolved, so long as one is content to call a year a day, bares little mind to compasses, or obnoxiously meandering suns. Ah the sacrifices we make to reconcile an ever capricious existence.
There are a great many things about the world of Thaea that may differ from our own. Most however, remain all too familiar. There are people there, seemingly human, or human enough. They eat, they sleep, they develop self deluded notions of their own importance, and further attach righteous truth to their own beliefs. They have never heard a word of English, and I will beg your indulgence that any allusions to the contrary, are matters of further translation. All this, such that places named with the unoriginality people are apt to use, shall be at times evident, or otherwise noticed, eventually.
Our story begins in a little farm house near the borders of Avrale. It lays a ways south of the ruins of Ashrook, quite aways north of a place called Broken Hill, and some distance from a small village named for a brook, where mint was once known to grow.
The Current Forward:
The mysterious narrator. I’ll be specific that I know who is telling the tale, and I’ll also admit I have backups if I change my mind. The number of backups seems frustratingly to want to grow every dozen chapters. I am none the less fairly sure of the fate that has gifted our storyteller a limited sort of omniscience. A glimpse into the scope of history, and particularly the lives, and loves of my heroes. It is a fate as tied to the storm, the hand of a god, and folly of prophecy, as any of the others.
The very opening line however runs much deeper for me. The open question of faith, central to my life. We are raised to believe one thing, and one day find cracks in purported truth. We are all invariably biased. We want to believe, or not to believe. We cling to religions both fantastical and secular. We identify ourselves with a cause, even as our fellow travelers betray our principles. We make excuses, cut deals, and bargain with our own hearts to make it somehow ok. To make what we have done in the name of belief, acceptable. To not be wrong.
Jovan 7th, 636 E.R.
There are a terrible many things I could say about the opening. About the day Wren was born, and Meliae died. I always knew, however trite, that my three heroes were orphans. Long before the world took shape, when they were little more than a fancy, I knew that my three sisters, or at least two of them, grew up in the tutelage of a court mage, and one was raised apart.
Yes. Three sisters; Kat, Kia, and Kit.
The sisters three, to make a vaguely Shakespearian allusion. The three Fates we hear about now and then. This was the fancy that rose around the idea of them. For reasons I will cover eventually, Kit, sweet, harmless little Kit, would face a terrible fate. To be born a boy.
Well after the first draft of what is now Books I & II was written, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to change the gender of one of my characters for almost purely aesthetic reasons. I won’t go into why just yet, but pained as I was to give up my sisters three, Kit was always the weakest character. Really she was just your standard issue sweet harmless healer, save her fated troubles with Andrew. Which had always been core to her story arc.
Wren was the only character who got more complex, more interesting, and deeper by being male. So many fewer conflicts would have plagued the life of any of five other options I considered. Wren did not just re-balance some aesthetics in the story, he fundamentally deepened everything. He was one of the most painful choices I’ve ever made as an author, and one that I have never regretted. I also barely changed the characterization one bit for the switch – even if how the world will likely read it changed entirely. Consider that a moment.
Adel and the Dragon
I wanted to establish out of the gate that dragons were a prevalent part of the world. Dragons have always played a deep seated part in shaping the world of O&E from the earliest inspiration, and musings.
I loved the imagery from the start of a mother defending her home and child, defiant of a dragon larger than a horse, with nothing more than a farm implement. A deeply quixotic, tragic tale, and yet the idea that, “she faired a bit better than most knights might have” sung to me. Further it set a tone of recurrent tragedy, for those that perhaps deserved far better.
When it all started I needed a name. For some reason Ashton struck me, although originally Aiston was the pick, but I decided to go with something that felt a little more familiar, given how many other ways I would challenge my readers. So it was I planted there a lone, and out of place tree on a hill, of some northern farm. How much more this humble landmark has come to represent with time, and iteration. Yet so far as I can remember, the wind always answered a little girls plea. Chance or a benevolent hand? Who is to say.