Busy week for me! I’m hard at work on the first draft of Book 3 of the Sikander North series. I just saw the cover for Restless Lightning (Book 2 of the same). And I’m tinkering with an idea for a very different book, as well as plinking away at a big Sasquatch Game Studio project (the Alternity game). Sometimes I wish I could hit the pause button on the world and go write a book when no one is looking, just so that I could feel like I was in front of things for a change. Oh, well. There are probably more lucrative ways to use that pause button if I did have it.
Anyway, let’s go on with a look back at my earlier novels. My whole point in this exercise is to share a little bit about what I was thinking or what influenced me in each book: the sort of thing that matters when I’m working on the story but that readers might not know about. It seems to me that readers might be interested in seeing how the stars align so that an idea and a willing author (me, in this case) lead to a published book. I hope you’re enjoying these!
The conclusion of my Last Mythal trilogy, Final Gate wraps up the story of the elven return to Myth Drannor with an epic battle against a long-forgotten enemy, set in an ancient place of power: the Last Mythal of Aryvandaar.
Author confession time: I didn’t know what the Last Mythal would turn out to be when I started work on the trilogy. I had to come up with a series name early in the process, even before I’d finished outlining Forsaken House. It wasn’t until I’d finished my first draft of Farthest Reach (book 2) that all the pieces fell into place for figuring out how this gigantic story would all come together. In fact, the last line of Farthest Reach (“We must destroy the Last Mythal of Aryvandaar, or everything is lost”) is something I actually added when reviewing the edits for that book—that’s how late in the process the details of the conclusion worked themselves out.
Normally, I wouldn’t even think of starting to work on something without knowing what sort of conclusion I expected to reach. I know some writers work that way all the time, but that’s not my process. I spend a lot of time planning and outlining so that I know where I’m going. Flashes of real spontaneity or inspiration come along pretty rarely for me—most of my books are the product of a long incubating process, and I’m rarely surprised by the turns my stories take.
I mentioned in my discussion of Farthest Reach that I started to scratch my A. Merritt itch in that book. Well, in Final Gate I jumped into the moon pool with both feet: I set a major section of the story in horrible underground abyss known as Lorosfyr, the Maddening Dark, and created a wonderfully haunted lost city there. Lorosfyr actually came from some game design work I’d done on the 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms sourcebook Underdark. While working on that project, I felt that our initial design draft had hewed a little too closely to established Realmslore about interesting things in the Underdark. It’s great to explore the things we already know about, but I wanted longtime Realms readers to pick up the Underdark book and find things they hadn’t ever seen before. So, in the process of pulling that book together and developing it, I decided to create a number of “new” sites. Lorosfyr was one of those; I liked the notion well enough that I sent my novel characters there a couple of years later when I was working on Final Gate.
Anyway, that was the Last Mythal. I got to deliver on some of the most epic lore hooks that had ever been set up for the Realms, playing with villains like the daemonfey, elven high magic, the Gatekeeper’s Crystal, and elven loregems filled with dangerous secrets from thousands of years ago. I got to make up some great new stuff (I didn’t even say anything about Malkizid!), and I got to change the setting—for a time. Unfortunately, my Realms-Shaking Event didn’t rate as worth preserving in the new 5e Realms. The creative team at Wizards decided that very little of what we’d done in 3e Realms or 4e Realms needed to be brought forward into the newest version of the setting, and instructed the authors of The Sundering to re-destroy Myth Drannor. That essentially made all my characters’ struggles and sacrifices pointless in the end. Fortunately Ed Greenwood, a generous and thoughtful man indeed, saw to it that Ilsevele Miritar and her consort Fflar Starbrow Melruth survived the carnage.
As you might expect, I’m a little dissatisfied with how my work was treated. But that’s the risk you take when you write for a world that ultimately isn’t yours: Someone might come along later and decide your idea was wrong. (To be clear, I made similar calls about my predecessors’ work when I was in position to make those decisions; it’s not something that’s done out of malice.) I feel that The Last Mythal still holds up as an epic storyline and that you wouldn’t be sorry for reading it, especially if you’re a fan of 2e and 3e Realmslore—you can certainly enjoy it as a “snapshot” of Realms storytelling. In *your* Realms, none of the stuff that follows needs to diminish your enjoyment of the story I told. But the fate of the Last Mythal is one of the reasons that I don’t think I will write another Forgotten Realms book.