I asked the author of the Elm Stone Saga to write a guest post for my blog. I told her that as a fan of her series, I was excited to learn more about her and her creative process. Hopefully you all enjoy her response as much as I did!
As a child of the Harry Potter generation, growing with Harry and his friends, The Elm Stone Saga is essentially what I wrote to entertain myself when those drew to a close. I felt stranded where J.K. left me, too old for the tween paranormal vampire romance boom that followed and not interested in the heavier, slower classic style of fantasy that has persisted through the ages. It was like there was nothing for me as a reader of character-driven, contemporary, quick-paced fantasy – I wanted twists, subplots, intrigue, diverse characters, a rich story universe that went beyond one family or town. Unable to find it at the time, I wrote what I wanted, and it seems I wasn’t the only one seeking it out.
If I narrow it down, the original seed for this story came from a baby names book. I bought it with the last four dollars of a Christmas voucher so the change didn’t go to waste, and it was to help me think of names for my Sims. I was sixteen at the time and even now, I am still gaming on with the very same neighbourhood, just six generations later. Flicking through the book on the bus and attracting judgemental looks from old ladies, I found names I’d never heard of before, or names I’d never met in person. Aristea. Renatus. Lisandro. Gawain. Hiroko. Addison. Kendra. I started to wonder what people with these names might be like. When I began writing, I was introduced.
Both of my leads, Aristea and Renatus, have evolved significantly since I first met them as names in a list. Renatus was intended as a very minor role. He had two lines in the first chapter and I planned for maybe two or three more appearances tops. He was going to be my little indulgence, a dark mysterious side character I got to write very occasionally and who we never really knew. The story had different ideas, shoving him into scene after scene until he was one of the main characters, and though it’s Aristea predominately telling the narrative, it could easily be argued that this is his story.
When I started out, I very deliberately wanted Aristea to be not like me. Different dress sense, different location, different approach to life – anything to help distance us from each other, since we were the same age and it would be too easy to insert myself into the narrative in her place otherwise. Starting my final year of school and first semester of university simultaneously through an early entrance program, I wrote her lazy and unfocussed, scruffy and careless; to me, utterly unrelatable and forced… but as the story went on and I let go of what I wanted from it, she changed, not into me as I’d feared, but into who she really was, and I like her a lot. I would want to be her friend at school if I met her in real life. I like a girl who doesn’t need to be rude or aggressive to prove she isn’t a pushover.
These days Aristea and I get along quite well. She’s got my quirky sense of humour and I enjoy writing through her because she notices some of the same things about people that I would. I have loved watching her grow from the girl she proved to be by the final draft of Chosen, through the events of Scarred and Unbidden. My very favourite thing to write is her dynamic with Renatus. For two characters who were never meant to cross paths, they just clicked, and their interactions are so much fun to write. I get to see a truer form of both of them when they are together, and for me, that’s what writing is all about: exploring character, situation and ethics through story.
Despite being an utter technophobe (too much sci-fi, they say…) I do maintain a blog, as well all the basic social media platforms. Follow me. If enough of us keep our eyes on it, we can prevent Skynet’s inevitable hostile takeover.