Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Recursions: Journeys into Mondia

Macmillan's decision last year to pass on their option to publish The Last Free City seemed to spell the end of any further novels about Mondia. In their place sprang The Inheritance Powders, a historical novel set in the court of Louis XIV, or a brand-new fantasy series. I worked up both of these projects in moderate detail but, for various reasons, neither has quite taken off.

My imagination remains, from whatever quirk or perversity, in the commercial graveyard known as Mondia. (I'm not quite convinced that it is commercially doomed: my Mondia stories stand alone, and each one can set out blithely on its way unencumbered by continuity with a predecessor. Nonetheless, more Mondia is not the career-pragmatic route).

Each time I think about a Mondia story, I go further back in time. I wondered how some of the characters in The Dog of the North became the way they were, and this requires delving ever further back into my imaginary world. To give just one example: in the later strand of The Dog of the North, Enguerran is King of the Emmenrule. The reader never finds out very much about him (although he has a walk-on part in The Last Free City). I know far more about his character than I ever share with the reader. I also have loosely plotted a story in which he is an infant (his grandfather King Arren being the central figure), and considered making a novel of that. But then I became interested in King Arren's past, and so plotted another story in which he is a youth, and his father King Alazian sits on the throne.

This sort of recursiveness can go on forever, of course. I have to stop somewhere, but at least I have a depth of field so that anything I write covering four generations of kings has some hinterland. As it is, the story of King Alazian and his rebellious barons, has more than enough to keep me occupied.

For a while at least, then, my focus is once again on Mondia.
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3 comments:

Matt Curran said...

Hi Tim

Glad to hear that Mondia is still burning bright.  I think there is always the temptation to write what the publisher wants even if the soul wants something else.  I suppose it’s the difference between wanting to write and writing to work. 

And besides, publishers are fallible.  Another publisher might have a different opinion of the series so I reckon it’s right to pursue wants speaks to you rather than pursuing what the market demands or the publisher believes the market demands, especially after the excellent Dog of the North.

Alis said...

Interesting, Tim. For me there's more than one level of Big Story - for instance in my current book, the top level BS is who whole socio-political situation in the mid C14, then a level down (more detailed) there's the eruption of the Black Death in southern England. I needed to have a pretty clear idea of both of those things before beginning to write but the plot - or at least the main outline - came before that. So Little Story came first, then I investigated the Big Story against which it was going to take place and, as I plotted further, more sub-elements of Big Story came to the fore - the life of a charcoal burner, particular towns and their fate in the Black Death. And things I learn in reserach will filter in to the story and therefore the plot. So, for me, Big and Little stories are symbiotic, I can't do one without knowing the other.

Tim Stretton said...

Matt, as we've both realised, chasing the market is clearly futile. If the market comes to me, great; if not, nothing lost.

Alis, perhaps the difference between the stories that we write is that, even before you set about designing a novel, you already know the Big Big Story. It was apparent on Monday that you are frighteningly well-informed about the Black Death. That bedrock is already there before you start to plan.

In fantasy, though, not only do I know nothing about King Alazian at the start, he doesn't even exist until I make a conscious effort to create him.