24 August 2012

Building a Book, One World at a Time

I think any author sitting down to write fiction is automatically doing some level of world-building. Contemporary authors are creating towns or businesses or situations for their characters, historical authors are trying to decipher the past and envision how things were then so as to decide whether their characters’ situations fit. Every author who does it well, I think, deserves kudos just for maintaining cohesion in the world they’ve created from the start to the end of a book!

But when it comes to world-building, I really take my hat off to the Sci-Fi and fantasy writers who create entire worlds from the ground up, fleshing them out with people, countries or planets, customs, etc., sucking us into places so real we half-expect to look up from the book and actually be there. In the past, memories of how the masters tackled the task pretty much kept me away from dipping my toes in the romance fantasy or sci-fi pools. I just wasn’t sure I could get it right.

Then I had a visit from a Plot Monkey…

Well, it was more like a herd of the damn things, flying around in my head and making a blasted nuisance of themselves. Before I could explain to them I already had my next book started, they’d forced me to do a blurb for a Steampunk book. Putting it aside, I went back to the job at hand, almost, but not quite, forgetting about it.

And it might have stayed in stasis indefinitely if not for a pitch contest I entered with that blurb, where I kept advancing to the next round, forcing me to write first a full synopsis and one chapter, then three chapters, all on a time limit. Then the editor said she’d really like to see the full. With the hope of breaking into a new publishing house as a goad, and a self-imposed due-by date, I had no choice but to just dive right in. The end result, Beyond Prudence, was released by Ellora’s Cave in September 2011.

I think it was that sense of needing to get it done quickly, with no time to fret over overstepping my abilities, that really opened me up to taking more chances. When the Plot Monkeys came again, forcing me to outline four books set in a parallel world to ours where all the beings we humans think of as mythological live, I didn’t hesitate.

It still scared me spitless, but with a crap-load of research and the encouragement of one of my critique partners, Amy Ruttan, I started the series. Sending the first book out to my editor was nerve-wracking. Suppose the thought of a West African storm god and a banshee just didn’t cut it? Suppose there were gaping holes in my world?

I’m happy to report my editor contracted that book, and the next one too, which features a troll and a jinn. And a series was born. Fleeing Fate, released July 4th, 2012 as one of Ellora’s Cave’s Pricked tattoo themed books, is also Book One in my Unveiled Seductions series. Book Two, Stone-Hard Passion, was released on July 27th.

The lesson for me was not to close the door on an idea, at least until I’d given it a really good effort. While my books are short in comparison to some in the mainstream fantasy genre, and therefore aren’t as intricate, I’m finding world-building rather addictive. I think I’ll keep at it for a while, just to see where it’ll lead!
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