Writing & Revising SHADOW TWINS Part 1: The Inspiration
I have always wanted to do a series of posts detailing my writing process, but until now I didn’t feel confident in doing so. SHADOW TWINS has come a long way since its conception as THE FORGER; it’s a project I’m extremely passionate about. I have seen it grow from a generic, not-too-bad first attempt at epic fantasy into a novel I (and apparently other people) believe has great potential. In this miniseries of sorts I’m going to talk about the following: conception, influence, and inspiration, and the plot and characters.
So, without further ado…
SHADOW TWINS concept art
SHADOW TWINS has become an amalgamation of two or three older projects, so I suppose that in order to understand this I should start from the beginning.
My first (completed) attempts at fantasy novels–NOVEL WHOSE TITLE SHALL REMAIN UNNAMED, & SEQUEL TO THE NOVEL WHOSE TITLE SHALL REMAIN UNNAMED–were set on the planet Harthe, in the country Ariath, which is where SHADOW TWINS takes place. The only character who has more or less survived from those original novels is Serece, my spitfire phantaxian heroine with a magical form of psoriasis and a penchant for knives. Everyone else is pretty much new. And as you can probably guess, these novels didn’t really go anywhere; they were never published. What they did do though was lay a foundation for me to come back to.
Before I returned to Harthe and Ariath and I tried my hand at a project called SCHIZO (circa 2009). I was inspired by Alesana’s concept album “The Emptiness,” which is about a man who wakes up one morning to discover he’s killed his wife. I only ever got about four or five thousand words into it, but it was helpful in that it forced me to research a variety of illnesses, most specifically schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression, all of which (along with my own dance with depression) now factor into SHADOW TWINS in some capacity.
I made one more pit stop along the way, this time to my hometown of Tujunga, CA (circa 2010). I was having trouble writing anything I felt any real interest in, so when I returned home for summer vacation after a very tumultuous third year of college I decided my next project would be set in the town in which I grew up. Thus the SEWN FROM SEEDS trilogy began.
When I wrote the first and second books (DISINTERRED and MEMORIES respectively) I was still in a pretty dark place and a lot of that emotion permeated my characters and the setting. DISINTERRED was about a backwater town in which nothing really ever happened save for the local cemetery flooding in 1978 (actually happened; there were corpses in people’s yards). My protagonist, Rowe, was essentially a dark(er) reflection of myself and he allowed me to vent a lot of pent up frustration. At the time I was reading a lot of Lovecraft and Poe (because he’s one of my favorite authors), and it was the poem “Annabel Lee” that played a huge part in shaping my antagonist, Remulus. Poe once said that the most fascinating topic to write about was the death of a beautiful woman, so that’s what I did from Remulus’ POV. He was a man obsessed with resurrecting his dead wife while simultaneously enacting vengeance upon the friends and family by whom he’d been betrayed.
MEMORIES upped the ante, following Rowe and his friends as were are led into the woods by the Varcolaci after Remulus had all but destroyed Tujunga. MEMORIES was, as you might have guessed, about memories: recollections that had been locked away to be more specific. It played a lot with the idea of reincarnation as well, and these are two things that now factor heavily into the plot of SHADOW TWINS.
Author’s note: I never actually finished SEWN FROM SEEDS, which is unfortunate because it had some serious potential. Maybe one day…
I more or less decided to shelve SEWN FROM SEEDS as I was writing the rough draft of THE FORGER (SHADOW TWINS). Initially both series were supposed to cross over, but that never came to fruition for a variety of reasons and it’s probably for the better. SHADOW TWINS went through a number of revisions (I’ve actually rewritten it from start to finish twice) in order to get it in the shape it’s currently at.
But, you ask, what was SHADOW TWINS originally about? Since you’ve revised it so extensively, what was the original plot and how much does it differ from the current iteration?
SHADOW TWINS was originally about a glory-mongering apprentice who, according to the queen, his army general beloved, and his mentor, was the only one capable of finally ending a centuries-long war because of a dark, forbidden power he possessed. It was pretty cliche in many ways, but the first part of a story took the quest trope and flipped it on its head, which I thought was pretty cool and decided to roll with. The rest of the story was pretty clean cut: fool apprentice realizes he’s been tricked and spends the rest of the story trying to make up for his screw up, all while lamenting his dead beloved, who never actually made it home from war and ended up being the antagonistic “Darkener” in disguise.
A lot to unpack, sort of. This was a story I started outlining in 2014, started writing in January of 2015, and finished the rough draft of in October 2015 after six months of cumulative writing. The plot has changed pretty drastically over the last three and a half years, as have the world and the characters. What was once a story about a naive, glory-hungry young man is now a story about a man battling depression and the demon voice in his head, all while trying to end a war. This I will, of course, go over in greater detail in the next several posts.
INSPIRATION & INFLUENCES
I have my general influences, but this, obviously, is going to highlight what influenced and inspired the creation of SHADOW TWINS.
I’m relatively new to the epic fantasy scene. I didn’t really start reading the genre in earnest until maybe 2013 or 2014, at which point I had already graduated from college, though that’s not entirely relevant at this juncture. The first epic fantasy I picked up and read that was not THE LORD OF THE RINGS was Brandon Sanderson’s ELANTRIS, which remains a favorite of mine for a variety of reasons. I fell in love with Sanderson’s writing and blew through MISTBORN: THE FINAL EMPIRE before stumbling up THE WAY OF KINGS. Suffice it to say, Mr. Sanderson showed me what I could do with epic fantasy when I was first starting out.
I’ve read broadly across the fantasy genre since then and I’ve found a host of authors and books I’ve come to love. SHADOW TWINS has become an increasingly grim book the more its been revised (though one still filled with hope!) and a lot of that is owed to the grimdark sub genre or movement, as well as various dark fantasies. Joe Abercombie (THE THIRD LAW TRILOGY), Chris Husberg (THE CHAOS QUEEN QUINTET), and James Islington (THE LICANIUS TRILOGY) come to mind as authors I admire (Islington falls more under the Sanderson/Robert Jordan part of the fantasy spectrum, but it’s his use of time travel that I findreally appealing).
The aforementioned are probably my biggest influences for SHADOW TWINS, with Gail Simone’s run on Batgirl and Scott Snyder’s take on the Joker factoring in to some capacity as well.
So: inspiration? Honestly, the idea came from a saying I was toying around with: The eyeless and the darkener, which became THEAILYS AND THE DARKENER, which then became THE FORGER, which is now SHADOW TWINS.
So, there you have it. Below are a handful of other things that have influenced me, like the sky and the trees.
I took the pictures above while on honeymoon in Scotland.
- DUSKFALL, by Christopher Husberg
- THE WAY OF KINGS, by Brandon Sanderson
- BEST SERVED COLD, by Joe Abercrombie
- “Annabel Lee,” by Edgar Allan Poe
- GARDENS OF THE MOON, by Steven Erikson
- THE SHADOW OF WHAT WAS LOST, by James Islington
- BATGIRL (NEW 52), VOLUMES 1 – 5, by Gail Simone
- THE TOMBS OF ATUAN, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS
- DRAGON AGE: INQUISITION
- KINGDOM HEARTS 2
- DIABLO 3
- GEARS OF WAR 1, 2, & 3
- THE EMPTINESS, by Alesana
- A PLACE WHERE THE SUN IS SILENT, by Alesana
- CONFESSIONS, by Alesana
- “Fatima Rusulka,” by Alesana
- “Madeline,” by Alesana
- “Vultures,” by Asking Alexandria
- “Keep Me Close,” by Blessthefall
- “Open Water,” by Blessthefall
- “Hanging On,” by Ellie Goulding
- “Devotion,” by Ellie Goulding
- “Lost Girls,” by Lindsey Stirling
- “Watchmaker,” by Hands Like Houses
Next: The Plot