When I was a little girl - about six years old - I had an imaginary land I would adventure too called 'A Land in the Clouds' it was - technically - my first stab at world-building and storytelling.
The basic story of this world was that two opposing lands were at war. They hated each other for being different, despite being the same.
And plonked right in the middle of this war was your average girl, who was tasked with protecting a prince.
When I was six years old, I told myself stories I enjoyed. Adventures, epic wars, weird political intrigue about princes and princess: things I probably shouldn't have known anything about. Still - to this day - I am trying to figure out how six year old me had such a vast imagination.
Eventually 'A Land in the Clouds' took a back seat, and the prince of that world kind of just...ended up sitting in my imagination, locked away.
Sometimes I'd go back to the story, when I ran into an imagination block with Dynasty - but I never really got anywhere with it other than just maturing the once childish world. Yet it remained a constant thought, sometimes I would have epic dreams about the world I'd left behind in my childhood.
It was still there.
Waiting for me to go back.
That vast land in the clouds - it was waiting -
But I never could return, because I could never figure out a plot to go with the world, or the characters in that world.
Then, about two weeks ago, I collapsed on my bed after doing an hour walk on the treadmill. I wasn't really thinking about anything other than the pain in my body - when suddenly - the entire novel literally just fell into my head. Sometimes writer's get asked:
"Where do your ideas come from?"
Well, they germinate for years, and then, suddenly - problems solve themselves at the most random moments.
I sat up and ran to the computer and I just threw a basic plan out, outlined the character profiles, and a few hours later, I had two chapters written.
Today, instead of writing, I decided to fire up the Wacom and Photoshop and do some sketching to get myself really in the zone.
Thus, I present to you, the cast of The Crack of Middrift.
Skarlar - also known as The Warden - is the final result of many iterations of this particular character.
One of the reasons why I am glad that I have never signed with a Publishing House is that it has allowed me to keep my characters, and all my worlds, interlinked as they've been intended to be. My worlds all eventually tie into each other in some shape or form, either directly through characters, or even just little easter-eggs - but somewhere - somehow - a story will link up.
Usually this is through the Zaprexes, as they are a race of universe-travellers. Zaprexes are - fundamentally at their core - designed to seed and protect life on planets they may encounter along their travels. They are usually benevolent, and would sacrifice themselves to protect that which they would deem as 'seeded life'. Sometimes they'll take this programming to the extreme.
While lying on the bed that day, after my walk, a question popped into my head: "What if a Zaprex was evil?" Which then led to, "Okay, so, how would a Zaprex, which is programed to be benevolent, become evil?" Then the question, "What is evil in this scenario?" And boy, did I tumbled down a rabbit hole of fun and games.
Skarlar is the antagonist of the first book, and I've probably had way to much fun actually getting to write an antagonistic Zaprex. I went through a period of time when I loved playing Age of Empires, and Civilization, and SimCity - and just recently I've started playing Anno 1404 again - everything I love about being an omnipotent, megalomaniac gamer when playing these games, I just turned up to the extreme. It's been fun.
Every evil overlord has their right-hand man. Skarlar has Fardune, the jouramine guard, once the mightiest warrior of the Jouramine Conglomerate. He personally took the lives of the Cakrei royal family - yet now - he and his men are reduced to living the remainder of their lives as prison guards. It's been four hundred years outside of the prison, and Fardune is nothing more than a myth to his own people.
Our main protagonist; Sunday Jewel Riverstone. The Crack of Middrift is a portal fantasy, because, that's what it was when I was six years old. A story about someone from Earth, being portalled to a different universe. I loved portal fantasy - Narnia, Billy Thunder and the Night Gate, The Transall Saga - just to name a few. Essentially Portal Fantasy and the now very standardized Isekai Genre, share similar structures and concepts. When I was a little girl, portal fantasy was something I participated in, because I could 'portal' myself into a new world and immediately take up the role of a character in a story - like being an avatar in a game.
I figured people would probably assume this character is just me - some sort of Mary Sue type tripe, etc. etc. - so I decided to just, you know, run with that hilariousness. I figured I'd use that stereotype to my benefit and see what I could do with it, and you know what, it's been really enjoyable to muck around with. I think six year old me would have been proud.
Prince Thyal Kail Rioghan of the once great Cakrei Rioghan Empire. He used to be called Dindin, but we're going to forget that six year old me was super bad at naming characters, and never mention that again.
So, while I was lying on my bed, after that treadmill walk, and the story suddenly just hit me - one of the big revelations was this - Once upon a time, I'd gone to A Land in the Clouds to save a prince, then, I left him, and his kingdom fell to ruin and he was imprisoned. So, it stands to reason, that he'd still be imprisoned, right? All these years, in my imagination, he's been stuck in a prison. In every story I have ever tried to write, he's still stuck inside a prison.
SOOOO, I gotta get him out.
That's the story.
I gotta get the prince out.
Oh my gosh!!!
Kylie! You idiot. You've been thinking about this all wrong. You've been thinking about the bigger picture, you needed to shrink it. You just have to save the prince. That's all the first story needs to be.
Just get him out.
And suddenly, I had my story. Just like that. Bam. Everything slammed into place and I had to start writing immediately. Get the prince out. That was it. I just had to get him out of the prison he's been in since I forgot about him. The fire was lit.
I had to save a prince.
I was on a mission. This writer was saving a prince stuck in her imagination for over twenty years.
I had my antagonists, and my protagonists - but I needed my side-character to tie the start of the novel to the end of the novel, so, I dug around in old files and found Kythu. I like stories about friendships, and friendships forged through hardships, so it's always good to have extra characters to carry dialogue and scenes. That's Kythu's job, to be the emotional weight in a story.
So, in another month or so, I'll have hopefully finished the first draft. I'm being awfully distracted from - you know - the other stuff I should be doing, but I'm trying to organise my days into writing slots so I'm working on ALL the books I'm writing.
Four folks, I'm writing Four books at the moment, okay. It's getting complicated in my head, but as my nephew told me the other day "Aunty Kylie, you need to write more books."
So, here I am, doing as I was instructed.
Writing more books.