Friday, September 20, 2013

BR (Before Realmspace)

Now before I start this post I would like to clarify something. I don't use a quill to write! I've never used a fountain pen and my biro writing is barely legible. I use a word processor like most people, although I do have a friend that writes everything out in longhand before transcribing into a word processing program.

I titled this Before Realmspace, because I was once asked when I posted about completing Realmspace if it was my first novel and I have a friend in a writing group who is very happy (as he should be) about completing his first full novel.

I've been writing for almost as long as I can remember. I was reading at about four years of age and the writing soon followed. Initially it was things for school. I think we called them compositions back then. Then when I was seven I decided to write a book.

My inspiration was a concept called Digit Dick. Dick was a Tom Thumb like character who used to travel around Australia, interact with the local fauna due to his size and the fact that he could somehow understand them and have adventures in keeping with wherever in Australia he used to be.

One of the covers of Digit Dick and the Lost Opals. This was his Northern Territory adventure.

I was quite taken with the idea of Digit Dick, tiny characters like that seem to resonate with me for some reason and I decided to write my own version. I don't think I got past a couple of hand written chapters in a en exercise book, but the bug had bitten.

It took me a few years, but I embarked on a big fantasy epic. This was also handwritten. I couldn't tell you how many pages or words it was, but it took a few years and it was a fair mass of paper when I was done with it. It was really it was, but in my defence I wrote it between the ages of twelve and fifteen, and I was no child prodigy.

With that experience behind me I filled exercise books with short stories. Pretty much anything that took my fancy, some were good, some were bad, some were so so. What they did was teach me how to write, as did what I read. I don't write much short work now, the ideas don't seem to come the way they once did.

That and what I was reading as well as my age at the time led me to write something with the rather unwieldy title of The Coolest Guy I Know. This would be marketed as YA these days, it was basically a novel length character study and not publishable.

I took the ideas from that, fashioned them into a proper story and wrote The Misfits. It was a very standard coming of age YA novel. That one did get sent to a publisher and they even sent it out to readers after having a positive reaction to it. The final verdict was that there was not quite enough there, but it was encouraging.

I followed it up with another YA coming of age piece called Take It To The Limit. That one I didn't even try and get published. It wasn't good enough and I knew it.

I read a lot of fantasy, but apart from the first epic I had never really tried a full length novel in the genre. Tom Deitz is a guy whose work you don't hear about much these days (he passed away in 2009), but in the 80's he wrote what would in the here and now find themselves in the YA fantasy section of the bookshop (they didn't have such a thing back then) about a Georgia teenager; David Sullivan and his friends.

The cover of Windmaster's Bane, the first of Tom Deitz's David Sullivan books.

The David Sullivan books were essentially YA novels with magic added. David and his friends regularly had dealings with the Seelie and Unseelie courts of the fae. I thought if Deitz could do that, why couldn't I?

My first effort along that like was called There's a Bunyip in the Lake. I set it in Australia (fantasy is rarely ever set in my home country) and used some local myths and legends to give it the magic component. It was a lot of fun, but it did have problems. I had an idea for a sequel, but never got around to writing it. It was another one I never attempted to get published.

From that I moved onto something I called Darklight. More than anything else I've ever written Realmspace owes it's life to Darklight. Darklight contained a number of ideas and concepts as well as a few characters that made it into Realmspace many years after they were originally conceived. Even if you don't finish something or never finish it, keep the ideas, you never know when they may come in handy. Oh look at that the unpublished writer handing out advice!

After Darklight, I started a sequel to that, I think I got lost.

I tried and tried and tried to write an epic fantasy. I took the bones of the awful thing I wrote as a teenager and tried to build something on them. No matter how much I tried to make this thing work, it didn't. It took me literally years to work this out. I wasted a lot of time trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. After a loss of work I gave up and tried to tweak it. Remember the alcoholic self loathing warrior mage? He was the central character of that work. I got 10 chapters into it before realising that epic fantasy of this sort simply isn't my go.

It took many years and and six complete novels before finally finding my place as far as writing goes.

That's when Realmspace hit.

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