"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Friday, February 15, 2013

Guest Author: Christopher Kellen

It is my pleasure today to welcome author Christopher Kellen, whom I met through the Magic Appreciation Tour. 

Christopher Kellen began his career as an independent author with the publication of ELEGY: Book One of the Arbiter Codex in July of 2011, which was shortly followed by the releases of the free short stories Dutiful Daughter and The Corpse King. In late 2011, the release of Sorcerer’s Code marked his first book that would go on to become an Amazon.com best-seller, and he has been writing furiously ever since.

2012 saw the releases of two new novels and a novelette, following up on the series that began in 2011. In December 2012, he began a new military science-fiction/space opera series with SINS OF THE FATHER. A proud member of the Genre Underground, his heroes of literature are those who are fearless in telling stories that truly mean something to their readers. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and monstrous black dog.

Today, Christopher tells us about building the world of Eisengoth for his ELEMENTS OF SORCERY series.  At the end of the post, check out the Rafflecopter giveaway and enter to win a FREE copy of the ELEMENTS OF SORCERY series!

Eisengoth: Building a World

THE ELEMENTS OF SORCERY focuses on the tale of how Edar Moncrief, a maker of love potions and wart remover (and competent sorcerer in his own right) gets tangled up with an Arbiter, and how his life gets irrevocably screwed up from that point forward. It's swords-and-sorcery written with an urban fantasy sensibility—like if Jim Butcher (author of The Dresden Files) wrote stories based on Robert E. Howard's Conan and Solomon Kane. There will be five installments when it's finished; each is novelette to novella-length, ranging between 14,000 and 19,000 words so far, and they've been getting steadily longer.

About four and a half years ago now (give or take), I embarked on my 2008 NaNo project. I'd been reading Robert E. Howard (the author of Conan) and a few of his contemporaries and successors, and I really wanted to write something in the swords and sorcery vein. At the end of November, 2008, I had a 50,000 word manuscript entitled ELEGY.

It was originally intended to be a stand-alone.

Fast forward a couple of years to 2010. ELEGY was very nearly published in an e-zine as a serial piece, but unfortunately the e-zine went under even before it launched. I did a lot of revision to prepare for that publication, but after the organization behind it crumbled, ELEGY went back to sitting on my hard drive.

So, when I came around to 2011 and was struck by the idea to go indie with my work, ELEGY was the first thing that came to mind. It was polished (or so I thought at the time) and ready to go. However, as I mentioned, it was originally supposed to be a one-shot. I hadn't even really begun to develop the world around it, which is odd for me, because I'm always world-building (even in my sleep, I think). All I knew about it was contained within those 50,000 words, but I knew that it could be something more.

From the moment I decided to publish ELEGY, I began building the world of Eisengoth around the city of Calessa, the primary setting of that first book. It didn't take me long to put in the first few details; a free league of cities, far removed from the older parts of civilization. The Free Cities was the first thing I really nailed down, and after that the next block came in easily: why were the Free Cities free? Well, because they'd broken away from the tyrannical authority of the Old Kingdoms.

I really wanted a sort of decaying, decadent feeling in this world. It's not a very nice place, honestly. Something really bad happened about five thousand years in its past, and ever since then it's been kind of a wreck. The world itself tries to kill the people who live there, and the monsters aren't much help either. The Free Cities, I decided, were a sort of frontier land, whereas the Old Kingdoms had existed for centuries, or even millennia. Within the text of ELEGY I had mentioned a city called Aldur, north of Calessa, so that was easy.

The next major part of the worldbuilding really came in when I made my first attempt at writing a sequel to ELEGY. (It didn't go well.) I laid down some landmarks as I began to write a travel story (I'm no good at writing travel stories, so I don't know why I thought that was a good idea) and set up the outlying areas.

When the draft failed, a lot of the details got scrubbed, but the core remained. That was what allowed me to build the tiny border kingdom that D'Arden visits in THE CORPSE KING, and what eventually led me to exploring the Old Kingdoms when I wrote SORCERER'S CODE, the first entry in The Elements of Sorcery.

As I wrote SORCERER'S CODE, pieces of the world kept falling together. This was my first attempt at getting across that sort of desperate, decaying feeling that infuses works like Jack Vance's Dying Earth, and the city of Elenia was the perfect place to do it: a city where the monarch changes every few months, and every time it does, the whole place gets incredibly drunk and attempts to kill each other in merriment.

Like I said, it's not a very nice place.

With each installment of The Elements of Sorcery, I've tried to explore different and contrasting locations while driving the story forward with my snarky and clever protagonist, Edar Moncrief. So far he's visited three separate locations, each stranger than the last, and there's two more installments to come! Seeing the dangerous and unpleasant world of the Old Kingdoms through Moncrief's eyes lets me paint a picture of a terrible place that a reader actually wants to continue reading, because his voice draws the reader in and shows them the world from the perspective of someone like them: a guy who's just trying to get along without getting killed, or skinned alive, or worse.

For all the places I've explored in Eisengoth, there are many more which have names and general concepts, but have not yet been detailed, and others which exist but only in sketchy visions inside my own head. One of the things that I love to do is to find places and learn about them within this world as I write along. If I already knew every detail about the world before I set to writing the next installment, there wouldn't be anything left to discover!

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