Realm Breaker was very much enabled by the success of Red Queen, and I started by asking myself what I wanted to write and more importantly, what story was I searching for as a teenager? From there, Realm Breaker grew from the question – what happens when heroes fail – and my love for Lord of the Rings, but its inability to love me back.
Truly, it was maps. I started drawing maps for fantasy worlds when I was about 7 years old, and the natural progression from there was figuring out what was going on IN the maps. They've always fascinated me, and I've always gravitated to stories with maps for that reason. Then of course, I immediately loved the first fantasy novels I was introduced to, like ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine. It was a very easy and welcome drowning.
Obviously, worldbuilding for me starts with a map (once I have the general concept and idea of a story). I go in with my parameters of what story I'm trying to tell, usually with some characters and plot in mind, and draft a map for that story to take place in. After the geographic map is set, you can start breaking down culture and politics, etc, which will also help inform pieces of your story and character. My challenge isn't how to worldbuild, but how to stop. Eventually I have to pull myself out and start actually writing, and allow myself to figure some things out along the way. Or else the book itself will never get written.
Red Queen is the first novel I ever finished. My first complete story was a feature screenplay about zombies invading the Wild West, but I also wrote many fanfiction stories back in high school.
Well I like to say the hardest part is whatever you're doing at the time, but truly, the most difficult part is the first draft. But that's also the most enjoyable portion for me. It's just you and the story in a little bubble, and when you hit your stride, there's no feeling like it. Editing is a bit easier, but every piece of publishing a novel is like climbing a mountain. The mountains just get smaller after that first draft is climbed.
Drafting. I'm beholden only to myself and the story. My schedule is mine, most of my days are clear, and I am in complete control. It's also probably the most difficult portion of the process in terms of pure work, but I really love the moments in the first draft when you can feel the story is real and taking shape.
I am very much a morning person and a day worker. Writing is my full-time job and I treat it like that, by protecting my weekends. So I work Monday to Friday, usually 10am-5pmish, with breaks during the time. Most days start by walking my dog, maybe a quick exercise class if I don't have any meetings, then breakfast, and I like to be in my office ready with my coffee by 10am. If I'm drafting, I will do that usually before 1 or 2, then have a break for lunch. Afternoons are for admin like emails and social media managing.
No one will be surprised by my saying THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
I’m currently reading LORE by Alexandra Bracken and A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN by Roseanne A. Brown. After that, I'm hoping to get into Leigh Bardugo's next Grishaverse novel, RULE OF WOLVES.
I'm very shy in person, especially in new situations, which seems to surprise people.
My work has always been an escape. That's why I started writing in the first place, and connected to stories when I was a kid. So during the 2020 pandemic and the tumultuous political landscape in the US in 2019, I very much used Realm Breaker as an escape. But also a place to refuel and recharge so I could keep going. I hope this novel gives that to readers as well. As for coping mechanisms, I recommend staying connected with friends and family. And personally, I don't know what I would've done without my dog. I encourage all stay at home workers to have some sort of a furry friend to keep them company - and keep them moving.
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