Ready to see a novel come together in real time? All of the sweat and tears and roadblocks and victories, the inspiration and worldbuilding, and all the notes and maps and changes and lessons learned? Then take your seat, grab some popcorn, and welcome aboard. It’s sure to be a crazy ride!
What follows are excerpts from my writer’s journal after working through step 1 in Jennie Nash’s Blueprint for a Book.
So, what is this novel I’m writing, and why exactly must I write it?
A Bit of Backstory and Inspiration
For starters, the working title is Serpent of Thebares (pronounced Te-bar-es). This story takes place in a world I’ve been creating for the past 5 years or so. That world was inspired by my love of ancient history, particularly of the Bronze Age Mediterranean and Near East. I have an entire epic fantasy planned out in this world. However, this book is something different.
My main character, Thalaea, or as she’s known, the Serpent of Thebares, was born from a mix of characters I love: Xena, Robert E. Howard’s Conan, and Kassandra from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Above all else, she is at the heart of the book. Not so much the plot, but the character.
From the very beginning when she was first taking shape in my mind, there was this fire in her spirit that drew me to her. She formed herself in a world a few hundred years after the setting of my yet to be written fantasy epic. She lives in a world inspired by Dark Age Greece, Macedonia, and the Scythian lands around the Black Sea.
She showed herself to be a fierce warrior, a princess, a wife, a mother, and someone with a lot of regret, sorrows, and guilt. Someone amazing, who has so much to offer the world, but whose past has made her believe lies that she is irredeemable and deserving of suffering.
So the true heart of this story is that we have Thalaea, this beautiful, sorrowful, scarred warrior princess exiled from her land for her crimes of revenge against the barbarians who murdered her husband and son. She is in a dark place, lonely, hated by others, hated by herself, scraping by as a mercenary as she watches her world become embroiled in a war that she started. In the end, she finally overcomes this lie, lets a few people in, realizes that she can live in a way that would make her family proud, even if she is never welcomed home again.
The plot so far that enables this transition involves her stumbling upon a village, saving a child, solving a mystery, and then confronting a supernatural force to free the people from the danger they are in. Everything about the plot is subject to change. Thalaea, however, is what is essential. Her character, her transformation, is the true heart of the story.
So What Does This Story Mean to Me?
I think for one, I am connected to this character. As a wife and mother myself, I know the sorrow she must feel at her loss. She is fierce, passionate, loyal, hotheaded, good hearted, guarded, and I admire and love her and feel protective over her and feel anger over the injustices she faces. I hope for her to make it past her troubles and find her redemption.
And I want those who read the story to feel the same. And I want them to know that they are redeemable too. They are worthy and valuable and can start again no matter their past.
I guess to sum it up, this story is about that weight, that burden of guilt falling from your shoulders and finally being able to stand straight and see straight and find strength and life and purpose again. That’s the heart of it. It’s also about standing strong when your world is crumbling around you, about seeing value in yourself, and about fighting for just causes.
Why Does THIS Book Matter?
It’s because redemption matters. And hope. There is always hope. Always forgiveness. There is atonement. There is healing. There is a chance to set things right.
We have a lot of doom and gloom in our world, a lot of nihilism and purposelessness and despair, and a lot of selfishness. Thalaea’s story is an antidote to all of it. It gives the reader courage and hope and purpose.
Why Do I Care?
I care about the heart and theme of this story because we live in a hurting world and we need pictures of purpose, value, redemption, justice, courage, strength, and compassion.
I also decided upon this novel as my first undertaking because of the war in Ukraine. It has affected me, torn me up inside. People have lost so much and yet still shown so much courage to face the Russian invaders, and Russia is failing. There are atrocities and suffering, but Ukraine still stands strong. Ordinary men and women give up the lives they’ve known to defend their country. It’s a courage I doubt many of us Americans would have.
So in the face of war, I want to write this story about this brave woman who has endured so much and who will overcome. Eventually, not in this book, she will overcome the barbarian invaders who have torn through her homeland for good and restore peace. So as I write this book, I dedicate it to every woman in Ukraine, and in particular to those who have taken up arms against the Russian invaders.