Thursday, February 9, 2012

Author Interview - Craig Comer

I've got something a bit unusual to tell you about today.  The Roads to Baldairn Motte is not the typical fantasy novel.  It is in fact three novellas in one volume, by three authors, telling linked, interwoven stories of the same war, especially one key battle.  You can read more about it here:

It's written in a gritty, authentic-feeling style, with a worm's eye view.  This isn't the story of kings and princes, but rather of common men and women caught up in great events.  Thralls of the Fairie, for instance, centers on a farmer deeply worried about his sons.  He ends up marching off to battle in an attempt to keep his family together.

I interviewed Craig Comer, author of the third novella in the book.  I'm going to let him tell you about the story and its genesis in his own words.

Tell me about The Roads to Baldairn Motte.

The Roads to Baldairn Motte is a mosaic fantasy novel centered around the conquest for an empty throne. The novel consists of three novellas, each written by a different author, and each telling a different point of view of the same battle.

The captain of the Black Wind is forced into the service of the powerful Earl of Gaulang. Ensnared in a tangle of bargains and betrayal, the captain and his crew fight for survival, finding allies in the unlikeliest of places.

To the north, the commander of the Titan Guard, the elite fighting force of Lord North, travels to the edge of civilization to enlist the help of barbarian giants known as the Marchers. But such aid comes at a cost, and the price of victory may spell doom for all.

From simple crofts, farms, and villages come the ranks of the engaging armies. A crofter hunts for his missing sons at the peril of his life and honor, while a miller follows his lord to battle, eager to rattle spears against enemy shields. Hungry and exhausted, both men will find they are but dander upon the wind in the great game of the Passions.

Yet struggle as they might, all roads will lead them to the ruins at Baldairn Motte.

What was it like working collaboratively with two other authors? How did it make the book stronger? What were the challenges?

Unlike traditional co-authored books, we wrote our stories independently so that each viewpoint came from a completely different creative genesis. We feel this created a unique overall story because the different factions are truly pursuing their own ends, they aren't pulled along by an overall plot thread. For example, Garrett Calcaterra's piece, On the Black Wind to Baldairn Motte, chronologically stops well short of the other two, yet it still gives a heavy dose of what is to come. It doesn't matter that his characters don't appear in the final novella, Thralls of the Fairie; their story has ended, and in a satisfying way.

That isn't to say we didn't call out each other's works once we were in revision mode. That's part of the fun of collaboration! Having your ideas rebutted when you're still writing drafts makes you think about why you're making certain choices, and what choices you'll risk an argument to defend versus what you're willing to let go. Plus, your collaborators may take your story to places you hadn't considered, which may spark better ideas of your own.

What is world building like when you have collaborators? How did it affect the development of your characters?

For continuity, we created a bible for the world with major characters, events, cultures, and even a lexicon of swear words. But it wasn't until we started kicking out drafts that we knew the more lush details like whether it was raining on a particular day, or what type of tree is common near a village. Through email, we were able to make quick decisions and revise as we wrote, changing the name of a river or the size of a town as our characters entered those places.

From a character development standpoint, one thing that really helped was our desire to keep our characters at a ground level. That is, we wanted to experience the war through the eyes of the common soldier, sailor, and farmer, not from the view of lords and the realm's powerplayers. This allowed us to grow our characters without worrying too much about how their decisions would impact each other's storylines. Our characters do cross paths (if you look close enough) but we didn't want them to dwell too long together. After all, swords are sharp, and something bad might've happened!

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