Friday, July 30, 2021

The Birth of a Trilogy

Readers often ask how I came up with the storyline and characters in the Awen Trilogy. This post shall attempt to answer that question. But be forewarned - it may run long. If it's too long, I will likely chop it into bite-sized pieces.

Readers ask me, "Why Druids"? "Why those god-awful Reptilians?" And, "Why do they live inside of Earth? What's that about?"

My friend, the artist Vonder Gray, recently encouraged me (not for the first time) to expound upon these subjects. So here I am, doing just that. Thank you, Vonder. This undertaking is dedicated to you.

Me and Vonder in SoCal, the early 2000s

I once read that ideas float upon the wind. They present themselves to many people, but most don't give them another thought. Even fewer act upon the ideas. And since everything begins with an idea, why would a story be any different?

When the inciting idea for the Awen Trilogy struck in 2011, I was living in a small cabin in the woods of North Georgia outside Dahlonega. If you're not familiar, Dahlonega is an adorable, once-gold-mining town just shy of the Appalachian Mountains near the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Street-View of Dahlonega Cabin

It is a gorgeous area, but I had landed there after leaving my heart home on the Southern California coast. Then, the relationship I had upended my life for didn't work out, leaving me and my cat, Bugsy, trapped.

So there we were in Georgia - with no job, no money, and no way back—oout. A blanket of depression settled upon me, along with the anxiety and occasional panic attacks I had begun having while still in SoCal. Yet, my time in NoGA was not without fruit.

I was honing my writing chops, churning out regular blog posts here at That Rebel, and connecting with other writers. And I was writing a sassy women's fiction novel set in the surrounding area. While the story ideas for that book had flowed easily, at this point, they had mostly dried up.

Now, I have practiced meditation since getting sober in 1991. On that particular morning, I settled in a chair on the back deck. Behind me, the cabin acted as a shield against the outer world. Before me lay a sun-dappled forest of hardwoods - oak, birch, beech, elm, dogwood, wild azalea, and more. 

The Backyard of Dahlonega Cabin

In preparation for meditation, I took several deep breaths as I had been taught twenty years earlier. Then, to anchor, I sent energetic roots down into Mother Earth. Somewhere around here, a thought popped into my head:

"What if something hitchhiked up my roots, into me, then escaped into the world?"

I know, I know. If you think I'm weird, you're in good company. People have been telling me that my whole life.

You may or may not know this, but the point of meditation is to empty the mind of all thought. If a thought does occur, you're to simply notice it, then turn back to the silence.

But the thought persisted.

For the next many days, it nagged at me, forcing me to consider the odd question and others that caromed from it.

What if something DID live inside Earth?

What would that something be?

Would it be friendly? Evil?

Why would it want out?

If it did travel up my energetic roots, how would it get out of me?

Through a sneeze or cough, like germs?

And if it managed to escape into the world, what would it do?

Wreak havoc?

Control minds?

Take over the world?

I'm not sure how long I pondered this notion. Days? Weeks? More? After all, I was depressed. And writing a book. And blogging MUCH more frequently than I do today.

But I DO remember realizing at some point that I was at a standstill. No matter how much I allowed myself to ponder, agonize, and lollygag about the women's fiction novel, those bright, shiny story ideas were no longer coming.

I now know that this is my process. I am a pantser, which basically means I write by the seat of my pants. And when the ideas stop flowing, the story is done. But at the time, I had no clue this was happening. And I couldn't get that root idea out of my head.

So, I decided to give it more thought.

Could I work the idea into a story? If so, what type of story would it be?

The root idea is probably not something one would stumble across in "real world" fiction. No, it would have to fall into a metaphysical realm. Or a fantastical one.

But, a friend in SoCal had written a metaphysical novel, then hit a wall trying to sell it in a then-limited market. So, if I were to write a story using the root idea, it would have to be a fantasy.

And fantasy means magic.

Which opens up new worlds.

Castle Falaise - courtesy Enrique Meseguer - Pixabay

So, at this juncture, I have an inciting idea. And the notion that I could use it as a springboard for a fantasy novel. But that's all I had. Nothing more. Except for plenty of time to ponder.

This missive is running long, and we seem to be at a good stopping point, so I'll wrap it up for now. In my next post, I will share how the Druid idea originated and reveal the William the Conqueror connection. Then, if brevity permits, I will also share about the Reptilian brainstorm. But for now, I believe that's all, folks!

Have a fabulous weekend!

That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O. J. Barré

O. J. Barré is the author of the Awen Trilogy, a pre-apocalyptic urban fantasy set in 2042 Atlanta. Steeped in current, ancient, and future history twists, Book One, Awen Rising, debuted July 2019. Book Two, Awen Storm, released May 2020. Book Three, Awen Tide, is on preorder to be released in late 2021/early 2022. All are (or will be) available in both paperback and ebook.

O. J.'s Awen Prequel novelette, The Druids of Marduk, Part I, is available in ebook on Amazon or by signing up for my newsletter. The second, The Druids of Marduk, Part II: UnderEarth, an ebook novella, is available on Amazon. Part III: AboveEarth, is scheduled for a 2022 release.

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