Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I have the privilege of being one of the blogs entrusted with closing the blog tour for Blackwing by Ed McDonald bringing to you all a guest post from the author himself on this, the final day of the tour for his exceptional debut book!!!
Guest Post: A Thousand Little Pieces of Dust
At a recent panel I was asked “What made you think, ‘Yes! THIS is the idea!’”
Hard. Because to be honest, there never was a moment of idea. No point at which I knew what it was going to be. That’s not me. It isn’t how I work.
I don’t like to get too tangled up in gardeners and architects or discovery writers or any of that kind of jargon. I never really knew about the labels until after it didn’t matter. I’ve always just written things in the way that seemed best to me at the time. Sometimes that involves planning, but mostly it just involves trying to write stuff that I think is cool.
Don’t take this as advice. Definitely don’t write like me. It’s inefficient, requires you to write twice as much as you need to and then cut half of it, but it creates stories in the way that I like to.
The reason that I wrote Blackwing – the ‘idea’ if you want to call it that – was to write a story in which my protagonist, a mercenary commander who cared for nobody, would have to choose whether or not to fight a duel he couldn’t win, on somebody else’s behalf, with no possibility of profit. That was the moment that I had in mind. It would be epic. The reader would swoon in the moment of realisation that finally, this bastard of a man was doing the right thing, even though his instincts told him not to. I can still feel the scene in my mind now.
But, writing doesn’t always go like that.
Ryhalt Galharrow turned out to be a different kind of man. He cared for people. He has a heart, no matter how much he might want to try to hide it under empty brandy bottles. To be honest, if he hadn’t, I don’t think that Blackwing would have become what it is at all. It’s the heart in the book that people tend to relate to more than anything.
Second, Ryhalt ended up not being a mercenary. Blackwing itself was a late addition, after the scene had already been cut. In fact, a 50,000 word chunk of mid-section got cut, and that included the duel.
So no heartless protagonist, no mercenary, and no duel. But by then, it didn’t matter.
I never like it when authors start talking about how their characters ran off with the story, or how they lost control of it to the characters. It feels like they’re trying to add a mystical or living aspect to what is essentially a process of craftsmanship. A bit like a Japanese sword maker talking about the spirit in the sword, when really, it’s just a well-forged bit of steel. Ultimately books are whatever we make them, and those writers are using the idea as shorthand to mean that as you strive to keep a character’s behaviour consistent and in line with their imagined persona you feel like they have to act in certain ways. Of course, you can just choose to change their character and go back, changing anything necessary to keep the internal consistency, if you want to, so at no point do you ever lose control. But, that consistency is a really important thing,
When I’m striving for that consistency, I learn more (e.g. I invent more) about the characters. None of them started the story fully formed in my mind. They all grew up together in symbiosis with one another, and are as defined by the relationships and interactions that they have with one another as they are by their individual characteristics, traits and appearances.
And it was through the characters, ultimately, that the whole idea for the story came about. As Ryhalt developed, he became a man who needed his own story, fully outside of what I’d originally imagined. And by the time it all came together, what I had was nothing like I had first envisaged.
So I guess that in answer to that original question, the point at which I really knew what the idea was?
Probably when the last edit happened.
You think you know Misery? You’ve not seen anything yet . . .
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.
The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.
Blackwing is a gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch and Daniel Polansky.
About Ed McDonald:
Ed McDonald has spent many years dancing between different professions, cities and countries, but the only thing any of them share in common is that they have allowed him enough free time to write. He currently lives with his wife in London, a city that provides him with constant inspiration, where he works as a university lecturer. When he’s not grading essays or wrangling with misbehaving plot lines he can usually be found fencing with longswords, rapiers and pollaxes.
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