The Next Big Thing (Week 25) — Shard & Shield

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In which Laura reveals intimate answers to fascinating questions! Don’t miss a moment!

Well, okay, so we’ve found the reason I am not a marketing copywriter. But stay with me a moment anyway.

I was tagged by the very talented Nicole Amsler for The Next Big Thing blog networking share, showcasing published and upcoming writers for those who want to find something new and different. Be sure and check the bottom of the post, where I’ll tag other authors you’ll want to see.

1- What is the working title of your book?

Shard & Shield. I’m not gonna lie, I kinda like the sound of it. I stink at titles, so I was pretty happy to find one I didn’t hate.

2- Where did the idea come from for the book?

Well, this is embarrassing. I shamelessly stole it.

Wait, I’m told there’s another term from the business world…. Ah, yes, researching best practices. I shamelessly researched-best-practices it.

My sister came up with a story of a mage and his daughter and their servant boy and a prince, all fighting a magical war. I took the same story in another direction, and it’s been really fun to see how the identical premise can develop in such wholly different ways. She isn’t really interested in publishing (which is a shame, because I like her stuff), but a reader could read both of these without feeling at all repetitive, I think.

But we both stole the starting premise from another source, and that I’m going to have to keep secret a while, if I want any hope of anyone ever taking Shard & Shield seriously. It’s the kind of thing which can be revealed after everyone has agreed they like it, not when their opinions are still unformed. (It’s not a book, so don’t bother guessing. You won’t, anyway.)

3- What genre does your book fall under?

Epic fantasy, I think. It’s fantasy (there’s magic and species you don’t know and stuff) and it spans two worlds, a couple of countries, and a fair amount of court and social politics, so according to this quote I highlighted last month, it must be epic.

Epic fantasy has become the literature of more. We equate it with more pages than the average book, more books than the average series. There are more characters, more maps, more names, and more dates. The stories and the worlds are bigger to contain all of this more.

— John Joseph Adams, introduction to Epic: Legends of Fantasy.

Or, more simply put:

All fiction is lies, varying only in scope and audacity. Epic fantasy is lies turned up to eleven.

— Brent Weeks, foreward to Epic: Legends of Fantasy.

4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Hrm. Not only am I fairly ignorant of most of modern Hollywood (I can’t identify most celebrity photos in check-out lanes or those “you should be writing” macros), but I don’t have a terribly-clear visual of most of my characters beyond the basics (Shianan Becknam has dark brown hair and is shorter and more muscular than his half-brother Soren). So I’m going to be bad at this.

I never pick real-life models for characters as some writers do. Character for me is far more internal than external, and physical appearance (except as it reveals internal characteristics) is very mutable and nearly irrelevant, in both fiction and real life. But hey, let’s give it a go for the sake of the game….

Okay, I’ve been thinking on this for hours now, even browsed IMDB, and I’ve got nothing. Did I mention I would be bad at this? Let’s try this another way.

The Raven

artwork NOT by me!

A friend once sent this image to me, saying it reminded her of Shianan Becknam. I can see that, though Shianan is human (no pointed ears) and of normal height (this feels short to me, though that may just be proportions). Still, he looks fairly short-tempered and efficient, and once he pulls that hair back into a low tail, he’ll be ready to stand in.

blonde girl smiling This doesn’t necessarily look like Ariana Hazelrig — Ariana’s hair is longer, she doesn’t wear glasses, and baby doll tees aren’t exactly in fashion — but it feels like her. Young, happy, idealistic, the girl next door. Sitting on a secret that could get a handful of people dead.

Or, if we went the anime image route, she might look like this…

Robin from Witch Hunter Robin Robin from Witch Hunter Robin

…because, did we mention that Ariana is also a mage of considerable talent?

The Slave Market by Gustave Boulanger

The Slave Market by Gustave Boulanger

I didn’t know this until I went looking, but Luca is in the painting The Slave Market by Gustave Boulanger. That’s him, standing on the left — the taller one, with clothes. Hard to say which trip to the auction block this might have been.

blond boy holding books

photo by imagerymajestic, freedigitalphotos.net

(Why is it so hard to find a picture of a generic blond adolescent without droopy Beiber hair…?) You might see Tam like this, a big-eyed tow-headed adolescent boy, helpful and cheerful, if prone to private smirks not quite in line for a household slave. Nothing at all to suggest he’s responsible for the death of thousands.

The Fallen Angel by Alexandre Cabanel

The Fallen Angel, by Alexandre Cabanel

And then — well, one more image. This isn’t what the marauding Ryuven look like — they have membrane wings of skin and different skeletons — but the expression is near enough. They don’t like you.

5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m so bad at single-sentence synopses…. It’s a skill I have not yet developed!

A bastard soldier must save the mage he loves, though it means betraying his kingdom and his royal father.

Okay, that’s lame.  Here’s my elevator pitch instead:

King’s bastard Shianan Becknam buries himself in his military career to avoid the family which views him as a political liability. His position leaves him few trustworthy friends, which is why he so values his budding friendship with state-employed mage Ariana, but their relationship is dampened by his knowledge of her treasonous secret. When the artifact they hoped to use to end an inter-dimensional war is damaged, Ariana and her servant are trapped in the other side of the rift — and to make matters more deadly, Becknam knows her cheery twelve-year-old servant boy is really one of the enemy, disguised as a human.

Becknam desperately wants to find a way to rescue Ariana, but he has his own challenges — the family which first sold Becknam’s servant Luca into slavery now wants him back, but Luca doesn’t want to go home. Also, someone is trying to kill Becknam.

Now bastard, mage, and monster must set aside prejudices and rivalries to find an end to centuries of conflict, or they all die traitors’ deaths as their people’s wasted armies face off once more. 

6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Well, Shard & Shield is with an agent right now, despite #8, being considered for representation. (All body parts with enough flexibility are crossed.)

7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

That’s not exactly fair, because I wrote almost the entire trilogy — tetralogy — trilogy — tetralogy — okay, the latter part is still in revision and I’m not sure if it’s going to shake down into three books or four. I hope three, if I’m good enough.

Anyway, I wrote mostly the whole thing at once, and it took about nine years. Add a couple years for edits and revisions. And there will be more on that front!

8- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

True story — I was asked this question during my live pitch, and in my panicked reaction I nearly flubbed the whole thing with a bad case of the stupids.

See, I really, really hate this question — there’s no way I know to answer it without sounding rudely like, “Yeah, I’m the next Martin or Rothfuss or Tolkien” — and I had honestly never considered that I might be asked. So I didn’t have an answer.

So I flailed, and I gabbled out the only thing I could think of, which was was, “I have been told that my work reads similarly to [Big Name Author].” Which was true. (In fact, my first copy of Big Name Author was bought for me by someone who thought our styles were comparable.)

And my brain gave a warning growl. Don’t you dare sound like an interloping self-aggrandizing wannabe.

And so I tried to fix it, and I quickly added, “And I know him.”

What I meant to say was, Look, I have a reason for even using that name, it’s not just me being grabby or self-important, we’ve talked for hours about story and stuff, honest. And that’s true, and he even gave me some feedback on Shard & Shield. But what actually came out was, “And I know him.” Vizzini in The Princess Bride

And my outraged brain shrieked like Vizzini in The Princess Bride. “YOU MORON! DID YOU JUST NAME-DROP?! You idiot. I cannot work under these conditions. I refuse to speak with you again until this is over and you have apologized.”

And so my brain left me. And there I sat, having just babbled and then name-dropped and now with no brain at all, jaw hanging like some sort of panicked fish. And the agent just looked at me, wondering perhaps how I’d managed to get around all day without a babysitter.

So after all that, do you think I’m going to try to answer that question again?

…Okay, okay, it’s totally like A Game of Thrones got together with The Name of the Wind and had a love child who looked like Assassin’s Apprentice and grew up to be good friends with Nightlife.

9- Who or what inspired you to write this book?

More than anything else, this story is about love and family — both family by blood, and the family you make when your blood family isn’t family.

I mentioned once to my sister that readers must assume I come from a truly dysfunctional family, given some of the family situations in Shard & Shield. She argued that I couldn’t have written them without coming from a good family.

And I do. My family is awesome, and when my friends have trouble with their relations, I get upset on their behalf. So maybe this is a result of that in some way, I don’t know.

boy pushing Shard & Shield

“Please, sir, won’t you take a look at my book? It’s got everything except pirates!”
(photo by imagerymajestic, freedigitalphotos.net)

10- What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…

All of the above except the giants, really, and you can add slavery, war, disguises, magic, and more. Seriously, sign up to keep track of it. It’ll be fun!

But wait, there’s more!

Check out these blogs next Wednesday, November 28th, when more talented writers take their turn to post about their own works-in-progress!

Kelly Baugh | Craig Schmidt | Elizabeth

PS: The agent did request the full manuscript. I guess he figured there was maybe a chance it might not read like a panicked fish wrote it.

Recommended:

Epic, an anthology edited by John Joseph Adams, is stuffed full of lying fiction turned up to eleven.

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15 Comments

  1. Interesting…. Can I join the line to buy a copy?

  2. No pirates? I’m out. (somebody had to say it)

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