I shared this image on my Tumblr last week because it reminded me of Cam and Chloe.
Kendra and Tristan obviously get the most attention. But the other couples in the series also play important roles and not just because they’re Kendra’s friends; it’s also because their individual personalities and the way their relationships develop reveal so much about the dynamics of the elemental world and what’s at stake.
Cam is rough around the edges, a person driven by the need for justice. He’s not Redavi, just an average demillir expected to serve as chevalier. Like so many other elementals, his path is predetermined for him. He doesn’t fear violence and identifies with Kendra’s stubbornness and temperamental nature.
As we’ve seen in previous installments, he’s quick to judge (a trait Kendra has also battled) and his criticism of others has often led to unfair assumptions. He is, in fact, an example of someone who can be a good friend, an all-around good guy, and still be prejudiced, blinded by preconceptions and his own paradigms.
Chloe, on the other hand, is almost the exact opposite of Cam. A Redavi and only child of Council members, she grew up coddled and beloved. Like Marcella, her enormous strength lies in her gentleness, in a flexibility that demonstrates a particular kind of resilience.
But her unconditional acceptance of others occasionally backfires because it doesn’t come from selflessness; it stems from a self-protective desire to not rock the boat and keep the peace. She’s abhorred conflict her entire life until the events of Whirl turn her perfect world upside down.
Part of her journey throughout the series is the realization that conflict cannot be avoided. Evil can exist in the place you considered your sanctuary, your home. It can take root in the person you trust and love more than anyone else, a person who’s supposed to love you unconditionally. Chloe can only move forward by learning to embrace her fear of the unknown and fighting for herself and her right to change.
In this image, I saw two people seeking and finding in each other that which they don’t have…like Cam and Chloe.
Just something I’m thinking about as I work on Breaker. 🙂
I had so much fun doing one of these for Crest, I decided to go back and do it for the two previous books in the series. Since these posts are for readers who want to know more about the writing process behind each book, there may be mild spoilers.
Proceed with caution. 🙂
Five things about Whirl:
1. I rewrote the beginning of the novel eighteen times. Since I’d plotted out the rest of the series, I knew the first few opening chapters were key in laying out the thematic threads of the series.
Another consideration lay in the challenge of Naida Irisavie. She is an invisible, omnipresent character throughout the Ondine Quartet, someone readers never really see alive and yet her overwhelming spirit is a vital part of every book. I had to find some way of firmly tying her into the narrative right from the start so her presence would always be woven into the fabric of our heroine and her journey.
Because Kendra’s character development is the heart of this story and this series, her complicated and emotionally abusive relationship with her mother would gradually be explored throughout the rest of the books, but I had to reveal enough to establish a backbone of why our protagonist is the way she is.
Easy to say, definitely not so easy to do. 🙂
2. The size and location of the city of Lyondale is loosely based on Bellingham, WA.
I envisioned Haverleau as a small town full of quaint shops and residences surrounded by a lush, verdant landscape. A few months prior to writing the book, I’d spent two weeks in Gijón, Spain and wanted to recreate a beautiful community nestled along the coast that burst with Old World European charm. Haverleau was the result.
The name itself, from the phrase havre de l’eau, came from listening to Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau (Reflections on the water).
3. On character names/terms/magic:
The trickiest aspect of the first book in a series is world-building. Magic operates by a set of rules and limitations are just as important as possibilities. Ondine magic needed to be a natural extension of the world’s cultural history. Therefore, each Virtue was an asset used in their race’s assimilation into human society.
A large group instinctively wants to impose some kind of hierarchical order, even if our rational, logical brain understands it’s not always morally or ethically right. Sometimes it’s through acquired qualities (wealth or job/education), sometimes through physical/external traits (racism, perceived physical strength/power, appearance). Over time, as ondines established themselves on land, it made sense for these distinctly human flaws to also have seeped into their world.
There also existed a more fundamental layer of order based upon magic. Ondines who possessed Virtues (Redavi first-borns) gained greater societal privilege than those who only had elemental magic. The political structure and matriarchal society also gave me freedom to explore thematic threads of power and women’s roles.
I also spent a great deal of time studying etymology to construct terms. The history of langue d’oïl and Old French influenced the construction of selkie names and language. There is a Welsh influence, particularly in some of the selkie names (because of the Norman invasion of Wales), and the selkie language incorporates both Celtic and Latin roots.
4. In initial drafts, Nexa had a pet, a small, hybrid creature I named Laramie. But as Nexa’s quirkiness and backstory fully emerged, I realized the beast sidekick detracted from her eccentricities and decided to eliminate Laramie.
She still has a special place in my heart, though, so I may include her in a future series. 🙂
5. I initially intended Chloe to take on the role Miriam Moreaux ultimately played. But as I worked on the story, two things became clear.
First, Chloe’s friendship and her own character growth were entwined with Kendra’s development. Second, the imperfect reality of being a parent and the individual, human mistakes parents make that affect a child’s future choices are both crucial elements of this series.
The fate of Miriam Moreaux and the continuing consequences experienced by her daughter is a journey mirrored in Kendra, Julian, and other characters. It was a conflict I couldn’t throw aside.
Others in the series:
Five things about Billow:
1. Ian is briefly introduced in Whirl (he exchanges an email with Kendra in chapter three). I originally planned for him to be a part of the series from the first book. But no matter how I tried to do it, his entrance always felt forced. I finally decided to slightly adjust Billow to accommodate his later return to Kendra’s life.
2. I knew Billow would be a difficult, but very necessary, installment in Kendra’s journey. One of the things that bothers me as a reader is seeing a character thrust into an end-of-the-world situation or a vicious war and get over a traumatic event in two paragraphs (yes, I’ve read this) with little to no after-effect or resulting paradigm shift.
Another pet peeve is when the romantic interest swoops in and magically makes everything okay just because he’s hot and apparently a good kisser. I’ve also seen the heroine’s moment of vulnerability used as a plot device to bring them together as a couple more times than I can count. I’ve often found such unrealistic character reactions in the second book of a YA series, including casual declarations of love that leave me wondering why the author didn’t trust readers to follow his/her protagonist on a deeper journey.
It was important for me to unflinchingly explore Kendra’s character growth as honestly as possible. Before romance, friendships, or relationships of any depth or meaning could truly become a part of her life, she needed to find herself and stand on her own two feet.
Since our heroine is tasked with ending a brutal war, death is obviously an important theme in the series. Whether it be her mother, Ryder, Marcella, or Nick, how Kendra reacts to another character’s loss is a fluid journey that speaks volumes about her evolving self-awareness.
During the period I worked on Billow, I also experienced a deep, personal loss in my family that reminded me yet again of the power of grief and how strongly rage and fear can play a part in dealing with it.
3. The major plot points of each book in the series were planned before I began writing Whirl, including the specifics of Aquidae organization. Many details are modeled after sleeper terrorist cells. The Aquidae kidnapping/trafficking ring was based on the current horrifying state of human trafficking for sexual and labor exploitation.
4. The design of the elemental wing at Lyondale Hospital was influenced by images of creepy underground bunkers (like these).
5. The Trident marketplace was inspired by El Rastro in Madrid, Spain.
Others in the series:
First, a big thank you to Aeicha, Donna, and Mel for the awesome Crest reviews on their blogs. 🙂
You can read them here: Word Spelunking | Book Passion for Life
I’ve received several common reader questions about Crest and my answers are below.
WARNING: There are spoilers ahead. I highly recommend you avoid this post if you haven’t read Crest yet.
Q: Any release date on Breaker?
A: Other than to say it will be released sometime in 2014, I have no date yet. This is the epic finale. I’m really going to hold back on announcing any kind of date until I’m 100% sure it will be ready.
Q: Any release date on Ondine?
A: Not yet, though it’ll likely be some time near the end of November or December. I’m in the middle of planning another huge international move with my husband, so things are a bit crazy right now. But it will be out by the end of this year.
Q: So who’s the Shadow? A hint, a clue? Something? Anything? Please, please, please? Etc.
A: There are two things I will mention. First, Breaker starts exactly at the moment Crest ends so you’ll get your answer right at the beginning.
Second, the larger series arc and plot points were all planned before I began writing the first book. Clues and details are there from Whirl.
And that’s all I’ll say about that. 🙂
Q: Why did Julian do what he did?
A: This is a complicated question to answer. Like everyone, Julian is a result of his past experiences, his surroundings and education, and his choices.
He has always pushed the line, a trait our heroine deeply relates to. But Kendra has grown, whereas Julian has yet to find his way forward. In this case, he stepped too far. For Kendra, he crossed her line in the sand.
Can they resolve their friendship? Well, you’ll have to wait until Breaker to find out.
Q: Is Jourdain the Ondine from the poem at the beginning of Whirl?
A: Yes. Jourdain’s story is based on Whirl’s epigraph, the poem that partially inspired the series.
Q: Is Crest coming out in paperback soon? And will you be doing any signed copies/giveaways?
A: Yes. Paperback version is coming very soon. I’ll announce on the blog, website, Facebook, and Twitter when they’re available. I’ll also do some kind of giveaway once it’s released.
Q: Will you do a Tristan POV for scenes from Crest? Especially the cave scene?
A: I’m not sure yet. If you want to read it, let me know (message/comment/tweet/etc.). Depending on whether there’s enough interest, I’ll think about doing it, probably by tying it in with a separate event.
Any more questions? Feel free to ask them below. I’ll try to answer a few more before closing comments.
Thanks, everyone – I’ve loved reading your messages. I’m just thrilled and delighted you’re enjoying Crest. 🙂
As promised, I wanted to share a few things that went into the writing of Crest. I’ve tried to avoid any major spoilers. But since this post discusses ideas and characters, there may be a few small ones.
Okay. You’ve been warned. 🙂
Five things from Crest:
A little info on kahliev, the selkie word introduced in the book.
I’ve lived in six countries across three continents and my main day job takes me to eight or nine countries a year. Since I constantly come into contact with different languages and cultures, my travels have an enormous influence on my work.
This particular word was inspired by my own personal background. I was born in Japan (my family is still there) and raised in Hawaii (where my mother and brother live). The idea for this term came from two words – aloha (Hawaiian) and kizuna (Japanese).
Like kahliev, these words have multiple meanings based upon context. Aloha is a greeting that can mean both hello and goodbye. It implies a certain generosity of spirit, a feeling you find in the islands. It can also refer to how you treat someone. You show someone aloha when you treat them with love, affection, or compassion.
Kizuna (絆) is one of my favorite Japanese words. Its basic definition is a bond, but not necessarily a romantic one. The word is often used to describe a shared experience. For example, students from the same graduating class can possess a kizuna. Teammates who survived a range of trials to achieve something have also forged a type of kizuna. And of course, fellow soldiers who fought together on the battlefield absolutely have it. The word means an irreplaceable connection, unique to a particular experience and time, that cannot be substituted by any other.
Myrddin is a nod toward the wizard, Merlin, from the Arthurian legends.
I originally conceived Helene as a child prodigy with an eidetic memory. The great gift of absolute recall would also be her tragic curse. She remembered everything and forgot nothing, including things that needed to be let go of.
I scrapped that idea once the artistic nature of the Bessette family emerged. Like her actress mother and painter sister, I wrote Helene to be a character whose understanding of life was mirrored in her choice of art. Not only did it work better with the novel’s overall thematic construction, but I also thought her desperate desire to cling to remembrance gave her greater depth.
Like every book in the series, I immersed myself in French poetry and delved into mythology while writing Crest.
The Charles Baudelaire poem referenced in the scene with Julian (Chapter 3) is “L’Amour du mensonge” from Fleurs du Mal. I debated between Baudelaire’s “Le Voyage” and Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Brise Marine” for Crest’s epigraph before deciding upon Mallarmé. Both poems are about a voyage, but greatly differ in their approach.
The Alder Branch bookstore is a reference to the “alder branch” in Aloysius Bertrand’s “Ondine” poem, which is the epigraph of Whirl and part of the inspiration behind the series.
The Armicant was inspired by the French myth of Le Drac. It tells the story of a fearsome shapeshifting sea serpent who kidnapped a woman and took her underwater to raise his son.