One year ago today I did something I once would have never thought possible--I published the last book of my fantasy trilogy! Which means we get to celebrate a book birthday today for The Last Sorcerers! And no, releasing a book that centers around elemental magic on September 21st was not an elaborate Earth, Wind, & Fire reference, but sometimes you just have to shrug and lean into these things.
To be fair, until a few short years ago I'd never believed I'd have published a book at all. Now I have five of them out there in the world and in people's hands. And while writing any book should never be classified as "easy," it's fair to say that The Last Sorcerers was the hardest book for me to write so far of all the ones I've published. And really, there were a few reasons why.
Much of that difficulty had to do with the timing of when I was writing it. I was working on it in the middle of a global pandemic, which sapped a lot of my creative energy for long streaks of time (which I discuss in a previous blog). But there was also so much left to do after I finished Redemption & Ruin. I needed to tie things up in a way that made sense. In that, I think I did a pretty good job considering it was my first time writing a series of books.
The thing is, I never set out to write a trilogy in the first place. In my head, when I started writing The Forbidden Scrolls, it was going to be a single book. I figured it would be a bit longer than my first book, The Stairs in the Woods, but not excessively so. I'd already had Juliya, Frost, and the world of Teren'vei created in my head for years, so I wasn't expecting a lot of surprises.
But then I wrote chapter 21 of that first book. As I sat there staring at what I had just done, I knew I'd bitten off a much bigger project than I had anticipated. The story had expanded and exploded in a way I hadn't anticipated--but I knew right away that it was the way the story needed to go. So I decided to bite down harder, knowing in that moment that I was writing a trilogy whether I liked it or not.
The Last Sorcerers delivers on the promise I made to myself that day. It proved to me that I could write a series of books and not just stand-alones like my first novel. It also delivered on the promises I had made to my readers way back in chapter 21 of The Forbidden Scrolls; not everyone got a happy ending. I'm reminded by my girlfriend on a near daily basis that she's particularly upset about how things ended up for two of those characters. She can't say I didn't warn you all though.
Even though I write fantasy and sci-fi, it's important to me to keep a certain level of realism in my stories. Sure, a character may be able to throw fire, teleport from place to place, or even heal with a touch. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't feel like real characters, with real hopes and dreams. With real flaws. And most importantly, with real consequences. And when you're writing a story that ends in a gigantic battle between the allied forces of dwarves, elves, and humans against a literal army of the dead, not everyone is going to make it. To have all the heroes walk away unscathed would shatter the illusion of consequence. It would pull the curtain back and reveal the man pulling the strings, reminding you that it was just a story after all.
If I've done my job as an author well, I've created living, breathing characters that a reader can fall in love with--or grow to hate. They should share a character's joy, and when necessary, grieve their loss. Occasionally, they should even cheer a character's demise. I particularly hope I succeeded with regards to our villain, Frost. He is the perfect foil for Juliya in that as he loses humanity throughout the story, she grows and becomes a better person than the woman we met in The Forbidden Scrolls. It was important to me that Juliya discovered herself, and a family, along the way. I also wanted her to fit into the world in the aftermath of Frost's war. I believe I was able to accomplish that in a way that was fitting for her and give her a sense of closure.
As for myself, I don't know if I'll ever get a complete sense of closure from the world of Virandia. Teren'vei is just one small continent, far removed from the rest of the people of that particular world. There's so much more to discover there. I hope to share those adventures with you someday, just as soon as I figure out what they might be. The joy of being a discovery writer is that I tend to figure it all out as I go.
Juliya's story, on the other hand, has come to an end--as all stories must. Still, I'd like to believe she's still out there somewhere, running through the Brittlewood with the wind in her fire-red hair, fingers caressing the hilt of the dagger at her belt. A part of her will live on in me forever, as it has for all these years. I hope you've enjoyed the journey with her as much as I have.