Nexus Fiction: Here we are again in the interrogation chamber of the Nexus castle. As we write our author JW Whitmarsh is being chained down by a team of obedient fomorii and told no food will be brought until all our enquiries are satisfied. So, with no further ado let us begin.
NX: How are you doing?
JW: Fine. I’m not sure how secure these manacles are though.
NX: We got them on the cheap.
JW: You mean you went to the adult store instead of the hardware store?
NX: It’s so much closer. Anyway, trilogy edition is out next week and since we haven’t interviewed you about Enchantress Destiny it seems a good point to talk about the final part of Caleigh’s journey.
JW: Won’t that be spoiling for those who were waiting for the trilogy edition?
NX: Be circumspect. Let’s discuss the books generally. Do you see the story as three parts or as one long tale?
JW: When I wrote it I definitely wrote it as one tale. I have or had a certain blindness slash ignorance of how long it was until it came to publishing. I thought I’d written something like a 600 page book. Long yes but not so long it needed to be partitioned.
NX: And then we told it’s 1,000 pages. A trilogy seemed like the obvious thing.
JW: Knowing what I know now I would have written it differently. Nonetheless there are distinct phases and tones throughout the story. Awakening is a coming-of-age journey. Apprentice is a quest. By the time we get to Destiny it is more of an all-out war.
NX: Less discovery and more resolution.
JW: Yes. I spent a long time gathering all the pieces and putting them into place. In the last volume we see how that unfolds. I noticed this in particular writing the dramatis personae for each part. By Destiny there aren’t so many people to introduce any more and so it is subsequently much briefer than the others.
NX: We’ve talked before about how some characters are ‘meta’ and some are ‘organic’. Can you expand upon that?
JW: Meta characters in storytelling terms are the ones who are required to be there by the plot and at certain points they will do certain things that are necessary to advance the narrative. In Dr Who terms they are fixed points that cannot be altered.
Organic characters, by contrast, do not need to be anywhere or do anything in particular but are grown out of the logic of the story or setting and evolve and act according to their personality.
NX: Can an organic character end up changing these fixed events?
JW: Organic characters can certainly influence how things play out and can create story-lines that would not have existed otherwise. That said, some fixed points are hard to get around.
NX: Can an organic character become meta and vice versa?
JW: Short answer, yes. The overarching story has a number of fixed events; the rest is fluid. Some characters started off as organic in Enchantress Awakening and have later become meta.
NX: So someone who started off as incidental can later have an important fate?
JW: Exactly. And the reverse can be true. Once all their fixed events have passed a meta character becomes organic. Almost everyone who was meta in The Book of Water is now organic.
NX: What would be the breakdown generally? Do you start with a set number of meta characters and let the rest grow around them?
JW: It’s hard to remember exactly what I was thinking ten years ago. I would say a handful of characters began their life as meta characters and others became so in the writing process.
NX: And all those who survived The Book of Water are now organic?
JW: No. A few remain or have become important to much later events. Without giving too much away I will say as an illustration one character who started off life as an organic character now has a key role in the end of the entire series.
NX: That’s quite a meta leap. Can you give an example of someone who is an organic character and how they came into life?
JW: I think the most non-spoilery example I can give is Ellie. She was not part of the overriding narrative but as soon as I created Caleigh it was natural for her to have a friend of the same age. I don’t think I intended for her to be as involved as she was in the end but her relationship to Caleigh kept bringing her back into the narrative. It kind of mirrors how she feels about her role in these great events. She’s surrounded by all these wizards and heroes yet time and again she finds herself being useful to them. Now I think about it there’s an argument to say she’s the real hero. Maybe one day I’ll write the story from her perspective.
NX: She’s quite popular with the readers so we’d be happy for you to write it. Do you ever find you have different reactions to things than your readers?
JW: Haha. Yes actually. One reader reached out to me to tell me they found the story really funny. It was not the reaction I was expecting.
NX: There’s a lot of irreverent humour in the books though. You must have realised that writing it.
JW: Yes, absolutely. It’s just it’s not something I made a point of inserting. Humour between friends seems like a natural form of interaction and life’s absurdities are impossible to avoid altogether, even if it were desirable to do so.
NX: Have you encountered any drastically different interpretations from readers so far?
JW: Not as yet. Obviously, everyone has their preferences. Some say there’s too much sex others say they want more. Some don’t like fantasy generally but like the characters, others would like it to be more fantastical.
NX: In what way?
JW: I think one reader asked if I would do a human-centaur relationship.
NX: I almost dread to ask but will we see that?
JW: You’ll get to see centaurs.
NX: Now, you’ve written The Book of Water as volumes 1,2,3. Will the rest of the elements follow suit?
JW: No. I always intended for the narratives to shift and merge. The Book of Earth and The Book of Fire run more or less parallel to each other and intersect at points.
NX: How do you decide which bits go where?
JW: It’s a matter of narrator mostly. If we are reading Valeria’s story it will be Earth, if it is Marcus and Junia’s it will be fire.
NX: Are there any characters who will intersect across the all the Elements?
JW: Two for definite, and I don’t think this is giving much away; Loreliath and the Beast.
NX: Of course. The Book of Water is now finished. What sort of timeline can we expect for the books to come?
JW: In terms of in-story events or release dates?
NX: Let’s start with the latter.
JW: Book 4 – Valkyrie Rising (Part One of The Book of Earth) is written. Book 5 – Mars Fallen (Part One of The Book of Fire) is maybe 85-90% finished. I expect Valkyrie Rising to come out in the summer and Mars Fallen somewhere between late summer to early autumn.
Like with 4 & 5, Books 6 & 7 (A Clash of Gods/Venus Ascending) take place more or less concurrently and I expect I’ll write them as such. I hope to bring both out next year.
NX: And beyond that?
JW: Let’s see. I don’t want to get into soothsaying or making unfulfillable promises. When is ‘Winds of Winter’ coming out, by the way?
NX: Nobody knows, least of all George RR Martin. You’ll just have to keep us well read in the meantime.
JW: A heavy responsibility. Just don’t expect too much twincest from me.
JW: There is always a dragon eventually.