Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Black River Chronicles: Level One

Almost exactly a year ago, Michael Wills, owner and head editor of Digital Fiction Publishing, asked me if I'd be interested in writing a book with him, to be published by DFP and based on an idea he'd been cherishing for a long while but hadn't yet figured out how to make real.

I'd love to say that I snapped his hand off with eagerness, because that, surely, would have been the sensible reaction.  But I had my own projects on the go, and plenty of my own ideas I wanted to pursue, and I wasn't sure that developing someone else's was a thing I was ready to devote months of my life to.

Only. then I heard what the idea was, and rapidly all my doubts went away.  The question Michael posed to me was, how do the traditional characters of fantasy, the warriors and wizards and rogues, get their start in the heroing trade?  Clearly picking up a sword or a spell book and expecting to learn on the job would be a recipe for both disaster and a short life.  So what, then, if there was a school somewhere?  An academy of sorts that prepared young would-be-adventurers for the rigors and dangers ahead?  How exactly would that work?

Within a day, I had a head full of ideas, and - something that had never happened before - a concrete idea of characters I wanted to use, cut practically from whole cloth.  I'd realised by then that, far from being at odds with the kind of things I write, Michael's concept was right within my wheelhouse, and in fact combined two of my favourite things as a writer: coming at well-established ideas from an unusual enough angle that they end up feeling fresh to me, and picking apart tropes to figure out how they might actually work with real people in real circumstances.

So Michael and I began to hammer out a plot together, and tried to figure out just how we would make that concept play; I think we both realised that done wrong it could be terribly hokey, derivative, ironical or all three.  For me, the goal was always to hit a balance between treating the idea seriously enough that it didn't feel like a gimmick and telling a fun, exciting story with the characters we'd cooked up, who I fell in love with so quickly that they were constantly threatening to run away with the plot.

And I think that's what we ended up with.  The book now known, a year later, as The Black River Chronicles: Level One, is a little bit postmodern, I guess, in the way it plays with some age-old fantasy notions and tries to get them to make more sense than maybe they were ever meant to; but mainly it's a fast, fun adventure built around, I think, the best characters I've yet written.  And hopefully it's funny too; perhaps really funny in places, if you're old enough to get some of the more obscure D&D gags.  Level One is nominally a young adult novel, in that all of the protagonists are young adults and it's all pretty much PG13, but I basically wrote it for me and Michael, and if you combined our ages you'd get quite a few teenagers out of the change - so I'm confident in saying adult readers are going to get plenty from it too.

Anyway, I realise I haven't said much about what actually happens in Level One, but I'll come back to that soon; I'll be discussing this book plenty over the coming months, if only because I'm eager to talk about it after keeping quiet for so long.  Mainly at this point I wanted to say that it exists, and in fact that it's out now: more to the point, as a sort of early adopter offer, if you grab the e-book before the end of the month it'll cost you a barely noticeable $0.99 here on Amazon US, or £0.99 on Amazon UK.  So why not give it a go?

No comments:

Post a Comment