It wasn’t the beginning, it was a beginning

I’ve already written about how my dad encouraged me to read the Wheel of Time series, and how the novels I read inspired me to write my own series. Therefore I hope you’ll forgive the title of this post.

I knew that I wanted to write a story. I didn’t know it would end up roughly the size of The Lord of the Rings.

My dad suicided when I was 23. I didn’t react very well. In fact, I decided that the best way to cope was to move forward with my life by getting married. Dad died in March and, despite the fact that there was absolutely no plans at that point, I was married by November.

By the following April I was extremely depressed.

It was then that I decided to write a story. In hindsight I can say that the reason I wanted to do this was because I wanted a voice, and felt that I didn’t have one. Another truth – which I am comfortable enough now to admit – is because what I really wanted to do was act, but that was the most terrifying thing I could think of doing.

I have since done some acting. I’m really proud of that, and I honestly believe that it helped me to overcome a lot of other fears that I harboured.

But writing seemed achievable. I know that there are people who would scoff at that sentiment and call me arrogant for thinking such a thing, but for me writing comes naturally.

The first person to tell me that I am a writer was an English teacher of mine by the name of Michelle Phipps. I was doing a creative writing course with her in year 9 (so I was 14) and she told me in no uncertain terms that I was a writer. I only remembered this a few weeks ago, but it came rushing back like water breaking from a dam.

Words, for me, have always come easily. It was the same for my grandmother, Phyllis, who was always writing everything for everyone who asked.

As an aside, she also did my maths homework for me. I can do maths, but it has to be explained in a way that I understand, and if I don’t use it then I don’t retain it. Safe to say that it’s not my strongest subject.

So writing was a way for me to feel close to both my grandmother and my father. The former because I was following in her footsteps, and the latter because I was contributing to the genre that he loved.

Back to April. I was depressed, and there were no wedding plans to distract me from it. It had been just over a year since my dad died, and married life wasn’t what I had expected it to be.

Just some advice for everyone out there thinking about getting married or moving in with their significant other; do yourself a favour and discuss your expectations. Discuss what you think married life looks like – and I mean the everyday hum drum like who does the dishes as well as the bigger picture financial stuff – and what you expect from your partner. It will avoid a lot of nasty shocks down the line.

I knew that I needed to do something creative. I’m an artist of sorts; not sure how good I am with paint or pencils, but storytelling is an art, and stories are the subject of many art forms beyond writing. I am a storyteller.

Writing was the safe option. It was something I could do quietly, on my own and away from the scrutiny of other people. I’m not going to lie about this either; I was emotionally too fragile to allow anyone in at that point in time.

The featured photo is of the first notebook I used to make notes in. The subsequent photos show just how dilapidated a state it’s in at the moment; it’s actually falling apart. I’ve since upgraded to shiny, glittery hardback Buffalo notebooks from Typo, but back then I lacked the confidence to believe that I could do what I desired to do. In fact, my confidence was so low that I didn’t even invest in a proper laptop; I went to Officeworks and purchased a $299 notebook which barely ran Microsoft word. It wasn’t until I finished Book 1, 160,000 words later, that I decided to upgrade. Well, ‘forced to’ is more accurate; the damn thing didn’t have enough memory for another word file.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the names for my characters and about the Trails that they would undergo. The featured image shows the first notes that I made on the subject. The Trails weren’t too difficult to decide on bar one; the Feather. I wanted each of the Trails to relate to an element, and I couldn’t figure out the Trail for air. Kimbo (my sister) helped me decide on a feather, and I went from there.

The names of my core 10 characters went through several changes. I love what some people refer to as anglophile baby names, but that wouldn’t work unless I decided to set my story in medieval England, and that wasn’t the way the story unfolded in my mind. So Annis had to be renamed. Eventually she became Emeria, but she went through 2 other incarnations to get to that point, including Thalion, taken from a Tolkien Sindarin to English dictionary. It may have stuck, but I was unsure if intellectual property would be an issue. I was also unsure of whether or not the names would isolate a large chunk of potential readers, and so I decided against it. But I still liked the name Annie, and instead used Annis as the name for a minor character whom we never really see.

Some things did stick. I retained using ‘A’ names for the Bellecotte men, and I used ‘E’ names for Emeria and her mother. From memory I dropped the name ‘Beauvais’ because it sounded too common to my ears. I’m sure it was purely a feeling, but out it went.

I was also set on using names with accessible nicknames. Halinard, for example, was originally William, nicknamed Will, and Delion was Arthur, nicknamed Thor. And again, this would have been problematic unless it was set in a world where the Vikings had roamed, but I changed it early on. In fact, the Sindarin names came after the anglophile names.

I’m a name nerd, by the way. It’s an actual thing. I love names.

Also, I think the need for me to use nicknames is evidence that the Australian in me is pretty deep seated. It’s an Australian thing to shorten words and names. Although perhaps the reason I do it is because I prefer to be called by a contraction or diminutive version of my full name. As a child I was only ever called Rebecca when I was in trouble, and thus I have an aversion to my full name now. Although I was an angel compared to Kimbo; my dad would call her ‘Kimberley Anne’ and therefore she must have been much worse than I was