Okay, I’ve blogged quite a bit about the businesss aspects of my new self-publishing venture. Time to write a little about the book itself.
State of Grace is a fantasy-thriller novel that follows the adventures of Wolf Dasher, an agent for the fictional country of Urland. When one of his colleagues is murdered, he is sent to the elf nation of Alfar to discover who did it and uncover the plot behind it. Along the way, he becomes caught up in a very sticky political struggle that threatens to bring down Alfar’s shaky coalition government and change the balance of power in the entire world.
I’ve wanted to write an espionage thriller for a long time. I love the genre and all its particulars — dashing secret agents, thrilling chases, incredible gadgets, and plots that threaten the safety of thre free world.
The problem is, I don’t really know much about the real world of spying. What I know is what I’ve read in books and seen in the movies, and that just didn’t seem like enough to pull off an authentic spy novel. In the wake of 9/11, I’m not really sure how to research this material without showing up on certain government watch lists.
So, absent the inside information on the world of espionage, it seemed I couldn’t really write the type of thrilling adventure I wanted to and have it not be laughed off shelves by my ignorance.
That’s when an idea hit me. What if I wrote a fantasy novel instead? What if I wrote a book that contained magic and elves and swordplay but contained all the elements of the spy thrillers I liked?
In music (and lately literature) they call this a mashup — blending two different things and making something new. In my case, I’d be mashing genres. I’d write a thriller but set it in a fantasy world, which would allow me to “know” everything I need to know about how the politics of spying and secret missions work.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When you think about the gadgets in a typical James Bond film, they are all magical. Sure, they are based on science and sometimes real-world technology, but whether it is a sports car that can turn into a submarine or an exploding pen, they are magical pieces of equipment that allow Bond to continue his mission when he is otherwise thwarted. So writing a spy thriller that uses magic in a more traditional sense fits perfectly.
Moreover, the beautiful thing about fantasy literature is the author sets the rules for how everything works. The writer decides what the countries are like, what their politics are, and what sorts of races populate them. There is ultimate freedom in writing a fantasy novel. Much like a Western or a sci-fi novel, the author is handed a landscape to tell any sort of story he or she likes. So it isn’t necessary to have a group of adventurers plundering a forgotten tomb or a small, unassuming person find a magic ring that will enable an evil wizard to conquer the world. It is just as acceptable for a human secret agent in the employ of one country to attempt to stop the world-dominating plot of a mad elf from another.
And so Wolf Dasher and the Urland Shadow Service were born. Mashing together fantasy and thrillers gave me a vehicle to tell the kinds of stories I wanted.
There was another hitch, though. Writing the kind of novel I wanted was fun, but I want to be a successful writer — I want to find readers who enjoy reading my books and make some money at it. And that meant I had to find a marketable idea.
More on that in my next blog about State of Grace.