I mentioned a few posts back that I’m trying new things with my writing and blogging. Today is one of these new features–a bit of a spotlight on other authors.
Amelia Smith is an indie author, with a regency romance and an historical fantasy about mermen to her name, and has just published the first of a new fantasy series, Scrapplings. Back when I was doing a promotion on Till Human Voices Wake Us in October, she did a mini-interview with me and tweeted about my book. I wanted to reciprocate, but since I’m not on Twitter I decided to do it with a blog post, and asked Amelia a question I always find interesting: Where did the story start? Was there a central image or idea that formed the core of the novel?
I think I was brewing the idea of this story for a while before I started writing, but it was long enough ago that I can’t remember exactly. The earliest surviving fragment of this story world dates to February 2002. I had an image of a girl in a temple courtyard, newly arrived from the countryside. That was Iola, who turned out not to be the central character of the first few books I wrote in the series. she’s exceptionally beautiful and an archetypal priestess. As the embodiment of an archetype, she’s not the most active character, but the others do rally around her.
The world evolved, starting with the temple Iola found herself in. In that first image, it was a fairly corrupt place, but as the world around it grew it took on more characteristics of an active semi-monastic place, with more than one person in it who actually believed in the dragon gods.
Each of the characters has their own central images. With Iola, it’s dragon flight, and flying in general. Darna is much more oriented to durable objects in the material world, like stone and buildings.
Amelia also gave me a ‘Deleted Scene’ as an extra, which I think is quite a nice introduction to the story. Here’s what Amelia says:
I went through several iterations of the main characters’ arrival in Anamat. In this scene, Darna ducks under the city wall at first sight of Iola and Thorat [two characters who become increasingly significant to the storyline], and enters the city alone.
Darna told herself that she couldn’t see the dragonlet properly. She certainly wouldn’t have heard it if it had tried to speak to her, but she could follow its path, just as surely as an ordinary person could follow the surface streets of Anamat. The passage wound down through the earth, joined here and there by other lines which led off in tantalizing directions. The route pushed her along, then suddenly it spat her out, spinning into the midday sun.
The dragonlet disappeared, leaving only a swirl of uncertainty on the stone wall beside her.
Darna stood in a quiet square surrounded by houses shuttered against the midday sun. She was somewhere in Anamat. Unknown streets stretched around her in all directions, with buildings packed so close together that they ran into each other. Darna tried to get her bearings, now that the dragonlet was gone. Tendrils of smoke drifted up over the rooftops. In one corner of the courtyard a woman filled her buckets under a decorated spout. It splashed cool, clear water onto a hollow stone. The woman glared at Darna.
“Get out, scrappling!” she said. “Back to the main streets with you!”
Darna nodded, feeling bewildered by the sudden sunlight.
“Go on, pick the pockets off some peasants,” the woman said. “Don’t come bothering good Anamat-born guildfolk!”
“Anamat-born?” Darna said, thinking out loud. “But everyone says, in the provinces, that scrapplings make the guilds.” That was what the minstrels in Tiadun keep had said, at least.
“You shouldn’t go counting on what they say in the provinces.” The woman was dressed as well as the higher-up servants at Tiadun keep had been. “You are green,” she commented as she picked up her buckets. “Hardly any scrapplings join the better guilds. Some go to the potters or the ropers, or spin for the weavers all their lives. But if the watch take you to jail too many times you’ll be exiled to the hill bandits. If you just can’t find your way into the guilds they might make you a servant in the governor’s palace, poor sods. Too many dull-witted scrapplings these days.”
“But do any scrapplings join the guilds?” Darna asked.
The woman set down her buckets again for a moment before unlatching her house door. “Maybe a few of the cleverest ones do,” she said, “or the ones who don’t cross us, but it’s mostly Anamat-born children. They know which way is which. Some scrapplings might, if they bring lots of beads with them, or if they can get an offering together by midsummer night, and if the guilds need them. You’ll see. And of course all the pretty girls go to the priestesses.”
“Do they make many girls join the priestesses?” Darna asked.
“Make them?” the woman laughed. “Hardly! Girls beg to join those temples. You won’t find the silk-clad, gold-spangled priestesses begging for novices in your lifetime!”
“But they’re all shut up in there like prisoners,” Darna said. “Why would anyone want that?”
“Too many questions,” the woman said. She shooed Darna towards the main street. “Now you get gone!”
Darna turned away, then heard a clink on the stones behind her. The woman had pulled the curtain shut across her doorway, but she’d thrown a bead at Darna, a small one. She picked it up. A real Anamat bead. That was a good sign, at least, but then she heard and smelled the slosh of a kitchen scrap pail and hurried off before that got thrown at her, too.