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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

GUEST POST: The Different Facets Of Fantasy by C. J. Brightley

I began writing The King’s Sword as part of National Novel Writing Month back in November 2007. I planned the book fairly extensively and it focused on Hakan, the prince. It was intended to be a coming of age story about the decisions Hakan faces as he confronts the corruption in his kingdom and how he opposes it. I wanted to do something a little different by using Kemen’s voice to tell Hakan’s story from the perspective of the mentor. 

That lasted about a week. 

It became clear pretty quickly that Kemen’s story was at least as important as Hakan’s. He’s a hero, but to himself, he’s nothing remarkable. He’s an understated, quiet guy who just does what he thinks is right without making a big deal of it, even in his own internal narrative. So it’s only through spending time with him and through other characters that you discover who he really is. 

I wanted readers to discover him as I did… gradually, through his actions rather than through his words. I love his take on the world, and it was a lot of fun to write the story from his point of view. There’s such a huge gulf between what he says out loud and what he thinks. In some ways though, he was a challenging character to write. He’s very analytical, and mostly self-aware, but he’s also very blind in certain areas. Sometimes the things he doesn't mention are important in the story, but it would be out of character for him to talk about them, even internally. This comes out even more in A Cold Wind, the sequel to The King’s Sword

To be honest, I don’t really consider the book epic fantasy. To me, epic fantasy is concerned with world-shaking events, the titanic struggle of good and evil, generally with huge armies on each side. This story was more personal, about two men and the choices they make. There is good and evil, but it’s not an “epic” story in that grand sense. I've heard it called high fantasy though, because it’s in a separate world. I have a background in international affairs, so creating a realistic world was a really enjoyable part of writing the book. At the same time though, it’s about the characters, not about the world-building. I've never tried too hard to put labels on my writing. I write the stories that I want to write, and some of them cross genres. As a reader, I've never really minded that. As long as it’s a good story, I’ll enjoy it. 

The King’s Sword is the type of story I've always loved, and what I keep coming back to as a writer. I like to be able to believe in and root for characters who are heroic, yet believable. I like stories with real moral dilemmas and real choices that have consequences, even when the struggle isn't as “epic” as some other fantasies. I love that feeling when you finish reading a good book and you’re a little sad, because it’s over, and you miss spending time with the characters. 

I intended The King’s Sword to be a standalone novel, but when I finished writing it, I realized there was more I wanted to do with these characters and their world. It’s been very satisfying to stick with the same characters and watch them grow from that first draft to where they are now. A Cold Wind will be published this month, and I'm currently working on the third book in the series.


AUTHOR INFORMATION: C. J. Brightley writes historical fantasy. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and young daughter. She loves making jewelry as a hobby. Find out more about her on her website and her Facebook page. The King's Sword is her debut and is the first volume of the Erdeman Honor series.


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