The Glittering Cage has only been published a couple of weeks, but quite a few people read it pre-release. Different things interest and intrigue people about the book and the writing process. I should do an FAQ, but I’ll first try to address some of the questions here by paraphrasing the common ones.
What were you trying to achieve in writing the book?
First and foremost, I wanted to write the sort of book I would love to read, but don’t necessarily find very often. It’s one thing to know your target audience and have them in mind when writing, but to write purely for the market at the expense of that core principal risks producing a work that feels a little hollow. And people are smart enough to notice something essential missing.
I also wanted to avoid the tired clichés that genre novels, and fantasy in particular, seem to contain these days. It had to be original, though such originality would have to sit roughly within the accepted parameters of the genre. Otherwise a reader picking up the book might feel misled.
I came across this quote, which made me laugh: “There is no plot so stunningly original that a journalist can’t make it sound hackneyed”. http://www.watt-evans.com/lawsoffantasy.html
I’d love to claim that The Glittering Cage is fresh and original. And that it’s a cliché free zone, but of course it can’t be, because we all stand on the shoulders of others. Hopefully what I’ve done is to eliminate the absurd, and maximize the originality whilst delivering a novel that is still clearly fantasy.
Where do you get your ideas?
Every writer and wannabe writer gets this one. There’s a bit of a quiet rant on Panoply blog about it (http://creativepanoply.wordpress.com/)
I think people ask this because if they don’t really have a creative bent, generating ideas for a novel might seem like some kind of mysterious magic. Other people might harbour a secret desire to write, but just don’t know how to generate ideas, and are therefore intrigued by others who seem to find it easy.
For me, the answer is “Everywhere!” Not very helpful, I know, but…
I have a deep fascination for cosmology and physics, and an important theme of The Glittering Cage is the creation myth of my chosen world, Edria. I took the Big Bang theory and gave it a mythological twist: the big bang was God cutting the bonds of her physical existence in order to create matter. From the particles, stars and planets coalesced, some matter becoming sentient as lesser gods (The Appatta), others remaining as defuse matter that we cannot detect, such as dark matter and dark energy. I characterised these as Dark Gods, or The Dark Appatta. The antagonism between the Appatta and their dark chaotic brethren lies behind all the conflict in the story, though this theme is largely kept in the background in preference to the more immediate conflicts between the protagonist and antagonists. So that particular idea has a very real world scientific basis.
Although in fantasy, anything is possible, it must still conform to its own internal laws. By weaving dark energy and matter into the story, I then had a potential source for the “magic” that exists in the story. I don’t call it that because I’m trying to avoid obvious clichés. The Lapilli nation are the magic practitioners in the story who use this power they call their Art, to form cities, buildings, bridges and artwork from bed rock (The word “Lapilli” in our world meaning a type of rock ejected during a volcanic eruption). In order that this power has limits, I created a law that means the Lapilli can only use it through the filter of the “Lapis Testa” they build, elegant stone and water structures inhabited by the memories of their ancestors who translate the power into a form tame enough to use.