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Last year, after getting dropped by my publisher, I struggled with writing for a while. Now, I’m finally back at it with the first book I’ve written since GAUNTLET, the sequel to my debut ARENA. This new book is set in a completely different universe than my ARENA series, and now that I can see the end of this book in sight, I thought I’d let some of my readers ask what they want to know most about it.

I just want to remind everyone this is a work-in-progress. The book is not complete, and once it is, my agent has to try to sell to a publisher. There’s no guarantee this will become an actual novel on bookstore shelves (but I will try my darndest to get it there.)

I really hope I get to share this book with all of you some day. For now, here are some hints and details about the story. Thanks to everyone who sent their questions in via Twitter.

First question comes from Jesse Leveille (@Packman_Mtl).

Great question! Yes, I’ve had this book in my head for a while and the inspiration came from a few sources.

Source one: “Make urban fantasy epic.”

A long time ago, I read a blog post where the author was challenging authors to write an urban fantasy book with “epic fantasy world-building.” Unfortunately, I read that post about six years ago and I can no longer find the original blog or author, so I can’t link it here. Still, I found it a fascinating challenge and set to build my own world on these parameters.

The story and world grew from there. Eventually, it became this weird mash-up of urban and epic fantasy elements to a point where I’m not sure you could call it urban fantasy anymore, which means I think I failed the original challenge of the blog post. I’m not concerned though because I’m madly in love with this world I’ve created.

Source two: Classic 1940s film noir.

If there’s anything I love more than urban fantasy, it’s noir urban fantasy. However, I’ve found that most noir urban fantasy novels seem to limit their “noir inspiration” to the gritty detective, the femme fatale, and some foggy streets. Many shy away from other traditional elements of classic film noir, like nihilism, an amoral society, and the futility of victory – if there’s any victory to be had.

Don’t get me wrong. I like books with the “Hollywood ending” – where the bad guys/girls go to jail and the good guys/girls get rewarded. BUT, I’ve found there’s an imbalance of noir fantasy books that feature this kind of plot line and not enough that highlight the moral ambiguity and non-Hollywood endings that were hallmarks of classic film noir.

I love these elements because, in my opinion, they make the story less predictable and formulaic. So, into the story pot they went.

Source three: my evolution as a writer.

Becoming a traditionally published author and going through the process of turning a blank document into a 400 page novel on a deadline changed my perspective on writing. When I wrote my debut novel ARENA, I was a complete and total pantser. (If anyone hasn’t heard that term before, a “pantser” is a writer who doesn’t plot out their novels beforehand and write “by the seat of their pants.” Hence the term “pantser.”)

Writing my second novel GAUNTLET on the publisher’s deadline meant I didn’t have time to muck around, chase plot bunnies, or get stuck halfway through the book. So, I took to creating a rudimentary outline for my novel. This helped me hit my initial editing deadline, but the book still needed a lot of work.

As I worked my way through revision after revision of GAUNTLET, I realized that the more I planned, the better I could make the book in less time. (Just to be clear, I’m not saying being a pantser is wrong. Lots of authors write their books this way throughout their entire career. I simply discovered that I write better as a planner instead.)

So, when I started writing my third book, I planned and researched every faucet of the novel. This has allowed me to create a much denser plot and world than ever before.

Next question comes from Annalee Back (@animeanimanga1)

The story is based in a separate universe than ours, where the laws of physics work differently. It is set on a tiny world (smaller than most moons in our solar system). It’s mostly a water world with two landmasses. An epic, sprawling city covers both islands from shore to shore. That being said, it is a fantasy story – not sci-fi.

There are some “Earth-like” elements here and some things really not like Earth at all. There are various government systems comparable to ours (democracies, monarchies, and tyrants). There is a police force that enforces the laws of this world and works to keep the peace between the city’s nine districts. Currency, education, and general society exists similarly to human standards in the 1940s.

However, since there is so much water on this world, their technology developed differently than ours to harness the resources of the ocean. Paper products are made from seaweed. The power and energy to fuel electricity and cars is harnessed from the filtration of saltwater.

Out of everything, the most different may be the people. This world is filled with non-human creatures and beings capable of magic. Not “Harry Potter” style magic where you can wave a wand, cast a spell, and hone your craft. Instead, you have beings who can manipulate people, objects, or even matter. You have what you’re born with, and sometimes it’s more of a curse than a blessing.

Our last question comes from Glenn (@Glenn_sccc)

Wow, great questions. I’m going to break these down into two parts. First I’ll discuss the size of the book and then I’ll address the character question.

I’m shooting for around 100-120k words for this book. That might be a tough squeeze given the amount of world-building here. For reference, ARENA was 102k and GAUNTLET was 118k. So, not a tomb but not a novella either. 100-120k is pretty safe for the first book in a SFF series, but we’ll see where it ends up.

I’d love for this to be an entire series but that depends on a lot of things (for example, if a publisher wants a series, how the book sells, etc.). ARENA was intended to be a standalone and the publisher asked for more. Sometimes, you can try to plan these things out as a writer but it’s not always under your control.

As for short stories or other material, I may have already written a short story in this universe…

Character that surprised me…

The original draft of this book, which I wrote years ago, had only one viewpoint character: Gavin Walker, a member of this world’s version of a police force that works to keep the peace between the city’s nine districts. He was a perfect starring character because his job is inherently rife with conflict and naturally intersects the various denizens in this city.

As the story grew, I realized this world was too complicated to show from just one perspective, so I chose two additional characters as viewpoints. One of them, a woman named Larsa, completely surprised me. She’s a member of one district of the city that is very patriarchal and threatening war against another district in the city. (Just an FYI – there are matriarchal and egalitarian districts in this city as well). As a woman in her district, however, she’s somewhat invisible — but she’s far too intelligent to let any of that stop her. So she outmaneuvers and outsmarts her way up the ranks of her society. While I love all my characters, she might be pulling ahead as my favorite.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their questions. As this book continues to develop, I hope to share more with you as time goes on.

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