Welcome, as always!
As we put the finishing touches on Across the Doubtful Sea (we’ve just realized that we need to have a title on the spine for the print version—oh, and a bar code on the back–yep, the things we never thought about when we were reading someone else’s book), we’ve already begun work on the second in this series, entitled Empire of the Isles.
So, where are we going in this book? Logically, you might say that we should continue in chronological order, begin the second book where the first concluded. After all, at the end of the second book of The Fellowship of the Ring, JRRT didn’t double back into earlier times to the previous defeat of Sauron in which he lost finger and ring and gradually work up to Gollum, to Bilbo, to Frodo . Elements of the past of Middle Earth, of course, appear everywhere in the text, often in geographical features like barrows, the Greenway, and Weathertop, very much the way the past was always present in JRRT’s England in barrows and stone rings and Hadrian’s Wall and castles and the ruins of monasteries. For us, this is one of the book’s great attractions and strengths . The specific past of the ring itself appears in “The Shadow of the Past” (with its resonant title, suggesting not only that the past casts a shadow upon the present, but that, involved in all, is The Shadow—Sauron) and “The Council of Elrond”, chapter 3 of the first book and chapter 2 of the second.
But is that where we want to go?
And, the answer is, no. Instead, we’ve decided to go into the past, but not just in flashbacks or explanations. As we wrote Across, we found it necessary to make reference to earlier events, but this was always done in bits and pieces, where needed for the present narrative. (No spoiler alert here—although this makes an interesting challenge in essay-writing for us: how can we discuss that narrative without too much specificity? How can we inform but tantalize at the same time?) Suppose, however, that we wrote a second book whose plot was based entirely upon events which had happened before Across.
We knew from Across that our main male protagonist, Antoine de St. Valerien, was in the Calm Sea (our Pacific) in part in search of his father, Lucien de St. Valerien, who had disappeared there on an earlier mission. Instead of fragmentary glimpses of his father and his doings, as was the case in Across, why not make the whole next book about him?
As we have written in an earlier posting, a basic premise of our trilogy is that Terra Australis, the southernmost continent which explorers and cartographers and sometimes corporations and governments once believed existed , is, in fact, real. (For those of our readers who would like to know more about this idea, we recommend: William Eisler, The Furthest Shore: Images of Terra Australis from the Middle Ages to Captain Cook, David Fausett, Writing the New World: Imaginary Voyages and Utopias of the Great Southern Land, Glyndwr Williams, The Great South Sea: English Voyages and Encounters, 1570-1750, among many other interesting works.) In our contemporary world, this is Antarctica, of course.
In this alternative world, however, it is not an endless sheet of ice which covers a land mass of rock, but rather the place which those earlier explorers and others believed it to be, a country with a mixed climate, fertile land, and growing seasons. In our imaginary world, however, things are changing, owing to the influence of the people who live at its center, the Atuk, and to their god, Atutlaluk, whose power lies in cold and whose chief followers can mobilize the elements of winter against their enemies. Opposed to the Atuk are the Matan’a’e amavi’o, a Polynesian people who have long inhabited a string of a dozen islands to the north and who have more recently colonized the western fringe of Terra Australis.
Much of this was already in place in Across, but now we could use this second novel to fill in so much more: the history of colonization, the beginnings of the war between the Matan’a’e amavi’o and the Atuk, more about the Atuk, who they are, where they come from, all as a background to the story of Lucien and the part he plays in the greater narrative of the struggle between these peoples.
As we write Empire of the Isles, we’ll do what we’ve done for Across and invite you into the literary equivalent of backstage, in hopes that you’ll enjoy knowing more about where it all comes from and how it all comes about.
Thanks, as always, for reading.