Weekly Writers’ Ramble: October 17, 2014

Today we have J. F. Lewis visiting. The author of the Void City series and the new Grudgebearer Trilogy, he’s here to discuss his characters and how they came to be.
Grudgebearer cover
People often ask me where I get my ideas, especially those for the new Grudgebearer Trilogy. My new answer is: What do Final Fantasy 7, Macbeth, Slavery, NPR, and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson have in common?

The Grudgebearer Trilogy. Even if you’ve already read the first book, Grudgebearer, you may not immediately see how I got from Points A – E to Point F… which is the great thing about writing. Everything a writer sees, does, reads, or hears winds up in the soup. At ConCarolinas one year, Allen Wold was asked by an aspiring author whether he ever put people he knew into his stories. Allen’s answer was the best I’ve heard any writer give. He said (as best I can remember), “If I do my job well, every person I have ever met will wind up in my writing, but they will never know and neither will I.”

Ideas comes from everywhere and writers file off the serial numbers, change things around, and make them our own. Some ideas are hard to trace, but… Every now and again, the writer can figure out the trail. Barrone, the world in which Grudgebearer is set, first started to form in my head when, after playing through Final Fantasy 7, my friend Richard decided to run a role playing game. We talked about characters and as we went along, a winged assassin named Caius Vindalious began to emerge. When I first started writing in the world of the Grudgebearer Trilogy, he was the main protagonist, but the world wasn’t done cooking yet.

I’ve written numerous drafts of various novels set in this universe over the years, but they didn’t start to include the Aern, my race of nigh-immortal carnivorous former slaves, until I heard the title track to Bruce Dickinson’s Tyranny of Souls album in 2005. You may note, this was long before I wrote Staked, ReVamped, Crossed, Burned, or A Corpse of Mistaken Identity. My story mill sometimes takes a while before it is ready to start generating novels about a character.

Tyranny of Souls begins with a quote from the opening of Macbeth:

“When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.”

So… there’s your Macbeth, but the next line is:

“A tyranny of souls.”

That is where the Grand Conjunction and the concept that three races had to meet every one hundred years at a black obelisk to renew their peace popped into my head. It was an idea I jotted down and later discarded. But it was one to which I kept returning. One of the final ingredients struck when I heard a news story about reparations for slavery on NPR and it occurred to me how much worse attempting to right such an horrific injustice would be if those who had been enslaved were immortal… the same exact people, still around.

Imagine further that you didn’t just need to find a way to apologize to your victims, but to enlist their aid. Add in a holocaust denier, a dragon, and well… Once I started down that line of thought, the Aern, the Vael, and the Eldrennai began to form. It would take me nine years to sort it all out and get the world right, but I knew Caius’s story would have to wait because Kholster’s story came first. So… where do ideas comes from? Final Fantasy 7, Macbeth, Slavery, NPR, and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson… and everywhere else. Obviously!

You can track down @jf_lewis at jflewis.net and, though the author recommends you order Grudgebearer at your friendly local bookstore, you can also order a copy at Amazon.


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