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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Guest Post: ‘We Will Make an Ending’ or ‘How I Wrote Queen of Fire’ By Anthony Ryan

Endings are always tricky. Most truly memorable stories feature a climax that, whilst not always happy, is entirely fitting and lifts the tale into the realm of the classic. So whilst I didn’t want Sydney Carlton to walk the steps to the guillotine or Ilsa to get on the plane with Victor at the end of Casablanca, I also knew in my storyteller’s heart that this was how it had to be. If Sydney doesn’t walk up the steps he doesn’t get to say ‘It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done.’ If Ilsa stays with Rick he doesn’t get to tell Louie This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship’, and the Nazis might win WWII but that’s beside the point. So when it came time to write Queen Of Fire I was determined that the ending would do justice to what had come before, it would be how it had to be, and not necessarily how I wanted it to be. No cop-outs, no fairy godmothers and none of the parachutes under the seat that so enraged Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s Misery.

The tale of Vaelin Al Sorna and co. has been an often bloody, emotionally wrenching journey, leavened, I hope, with some humour along the way. It has also, over the course of more than half a million words, generated an increasingly complex plot and an ever-growing cast of characters. Although I plan my work, I must admit I wasn’t entirely sure who was going to make it by the time the last drop of blood had spattered onto the arena floor. There were some, of course, whose number had been up from day one and others I’d grown fond of over the years. However, I’ve long held the opinion that the fiction writer must be a murderous parent; when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Just ask poor old Scratch (about whom I still get the occasional heart-broken email).

Of course it wasn’t just a matter of listing the characters I needed to kill off. Each character, both major and minor, had an arc of their own that needed to be resolved. How would Reva deal with the responsibility of taking her uncle’s place as leader of Cumbrael, a burden made all the heavier by the fact that her people have come to regard her as a near messianic figure? What would happen when Frentis, the character I had perhaps put through the worst trials in Tower Lord, came face to face with Lyrna, newly resurrected Queen of the Unified Realm?

Lyrna herself proved an unexpected challenge. As her quest for revenge exacted an increasingly heavy toll on followers and foes alike I was faced with the question of how dark her destiny was going to be. Then there was Vaelin, who started all this when he popped into my head a decade or so ago. I’d done a lot to Vaelin over the years, most of it less than pleasant, and I must admit there was a certain reluctance in approaching the question of just how much more I was willing to take from him. In the end, I can only hope I got it right.

In addition to resolving the various character arcs, there was also the small matter of that complex plot which, by the advent of Queen Of Fire, had become intrinsically linked to the mechanics of the Dark. I had started Blood Song with the intention of being as vague and mysterious as possible when it came to magic. In fact, I think I began the book before the term ‘magic system’ had become so widely used. I wanted the Dark to be just that; dark, enigmatic, not fully understood or understandable, even for the people who use it. However, as the story progressed, and the events in Tower Lord revealed more about the Ally and his servants, it became apparent that many secrets would have to be revealed, including the origin of Vaelin’s arch-enemy.

This necessitated another round of world-building, a back-story beyond the existing back-story, for as Master Grealin says in Tower Lord: ‘Who he was might be a more pertinent question, for once he must have been a man.’ But what could have twisted a man into something so align and powerful? And could a being without physical form but still possessed of great power even be defeated? This need to craft an ending that made dramatic sense and conformed to the already established rules of magic was the primary reason why Queen Of Fire was more challenging to write than Tower Lord, and ended up twenty thousand words longer.

Although writing Queen Of Fire was more difficult than Tower Lord, once again the experience was ultimately a joyous one, if tinged with sadness. Saying goodbye to friends is hard, even if you know you’ll see them again someday. I’ll miss them, and I’m sorry to those lost along the way, but this is how it had to be.


Official Author Website
Order Queen Of Fire HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Blood Song
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Tower Lord
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Queen Of Fire
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Anthony Ryan
Read "The Influence Of History On Epic Fantasy" by Anthony Ryan (guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Anthony Ryan is a pseudonym used by the author as his previous day job prevented him from using his real identity. The author has an academic background in history, previously worked full-time as a researcher and currently lives in London. 


Anonymous said...

"Queen of Fire" is the most original title of a fantasy book yet! Please keep up the good work.


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