Today I have a guest post from Robert J. Duperre. His latest book, Soultaker (Knights Eternal) has recently been released through Ragnarok Publications and the cover art alone screams ‘READ ME!’
In this post, Robert talks about the books creation and how patience is one of the greatest virtues a writer can hold. Thank you very much to Robert for stopping by with this insightful piece, it’s greatly appreciated. I really hope you check the book out. I know I will!
One Book’s Meandering Journey
Robert J. Duperre
Writing a novel can be a funny thing. Sometimes, a story just comes to you and you’re off and running. Other times, you start with a great concept, and then plod along when the bones of the plot don’t fall together the way you think they should, revising and editing over and over again until you finally come up with something worthwhile. And occasionally, you think up an epic tale that just seems way too big, and you let it percolate for years and years, until you accidentally discover a tool to tell the story that you just know will work.
“Soultaker,” and the whole planned Knight Eternal series, is a perfect example of that.
I’m a fan of “Big Ideas.” Everything I’ve written in my career has been a result of a penchant to dive head-first into a massive undertaking. When I wrote The Rift, my pseudo-zombie, end-of-the-world-as-you-know-it books, I knew the beginning and the end, and understood that it would be an absolute chore to get from one to the other. I pushed on anyway, letting the story tell itself on a wing and a prayer, and nearly four-hundred-thousand words later, and I had a complete series. The Breaking World books, a prequel chronicling the early days of David Dalglish’s universe of Dezrel that I was hired to write, was even bigger in scope. With that series, I’d been jotting down little ideas here and there over the span of a couple years, getting to know the bones of the world even better than the original author, and plotting out the entire first novel just in case he asked me to join him on a literary journey. He did, of course, and at the end of that task, I emerged on the other side with three six- to seven-hundred page tomes.
But even through all these massive projects there was an even bigger concept that I’d been putting off for years.
A germ of the idea that became “Soultaker” was formed more than twenty-five years ago, during those days when younger me had his nose in dense, complex series like Lord of the Rings and Wheel of Time. I thought that maybe I could create my own universe, one with a new spin, that took bits and pieces of all the genres I loved so much and twisted them into a single, epic journey. But all I really had for a premise was a single thought:
There was a girl and a god, and the universe spun around them.
And that was it.
For years, during the long, dark period where I gave up on the craft and the even longer period when I dove back in, the thought of creating my own universe through which I could weave countless stories percolated in the back of my mind. Slowly, the idea developed further while I worked on other projects. I knew what I wanted this world to be—a post-apocalyptic wasteland that would blend aspects of science fiction, old-time westerns, and traditional epic fantasy. I also knew how the world would come about (an idea that is currently being put to words in my series, The Infinity Trials), but how could I make this marathon adventure a creation all my own, one that, while aspects may have been inspired by other works I’ve read, isn’t derivative?
As I said earlier, it happened on accident. One day, I was sitting in my car reading King’s “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” during my lunch hour when I reached the short story, You Know They Got A Hell of a Band, a story of a poor couple traveling through Oregon who find themselves trapped in a town populated by dead musicians. My reading of that tale happened to coincide with “Tones of Home” by Blind Melon playing on the radio. For the rest of that day, while I worked, I kept thinking about all of those musicians, like Shannon Hoon, who’d died during their twenty-seventh year on Earth. “The 27 Club,” as pop culture has dubbed them.
A wriggling little worm of inspiration tunneled its way inside. I suddenly imagined a bunch of reincarnated outlaw musicians roaming the desert, fighting monsters when they weren’t strumming their guitars for the downtrodden locals. Not sure if this concept would work, or if it’d end up being a laughable mess, I thought up the three best musicians to use, sat down a couple weeks after inspiration hit, and penned a short tale called “The Bandits of Yaddo” as an experiment, to see if this idea had legs.
It did. I loved both the setup and the end result, though I wasn’t sure if I could stretch the model out beyond the short story format. After all, if I created an episodic series where these bandits did nothing but fight inter-dimensional beasties, it had the potential to get old in a hurry.
Inter-dimensional. That was key to experiencing my “Aha!” moment. Since my original thought for this huge, interconnected world involved the theory of multiple universes bleeding into each other, I knew that I could take my reawakened performers and tell my story through their eyes. I could answer the questions of why they were brought back to life, why they didn’t remember who they were, what had caused the world to change and who it was that changed it, and fit those seamlessly into a much larger narrative. And those answers helped me fill in the gaps of a vision that I had struggled to complete for almost twenty years.
After that, it was off to the races, right? Wrong. My epiphany happened in 2010, when I was in the middle of writing The Rift. That’s okay, I figured. At least I now knew what be my next project would be when I finished that series off. But then, in 2012, Dave Dalglish asked me to write The Breaking World, and I would’ve been a fool to pass that opportunity up. It wasn’t until 2014, after I’d written THE END on “Blood of Gods,” that I started to get to work. I had a long conversation with my friend Michael Wallace about traditional fantasy plot construction, changed my reincarnated bandits into holy knights fighting for an invented religion, and the journey began.
The Knights Eternal was born.
Though it ended up being a rather neglected baby. “Soultaker” ended up collecting its fair share of publisher rejections, and for some time it just sat on my hard drive gathering digital dust. I actually moved on from writing the sequel and began something new; “Soultaker” was too good a book, I thought, for me to self-publish. It deserved the professional treatment. It deserved love.
And so here we are, more than halfway through 2017, and “Soultaker” has finally seen the light of day, thanks to J. M. Martin and the folks at Ragnarok Publications taking a risk on my peculiar vision. This just goes to show that sometimes, aside from that initial burst of creative energy, inspiration requires patience.
Patience, and a Really Big Idea.
About Soultaker: Knights Eternal #1
It’s been a thousand years since the Rising.
Earth is a wasteland, and a holy order of knights is all that stands between what remains of civilization and the brigands and demons trying to bring it all down. When the oldest of these knights, Abe, isn’t trying to keep his brothers in line, he’s tirelessly attempting to decode the riddles that have guided the Knights Eternal for the past two centuries.
The visions Abe’s been having aren’t helping matters.
The latest riddle sends the Knights Eternal after a prophet and his band of Outriders. Or is it sending them to seek the Prophet’s aid? It’s a question Abe needs answered. With his sanity fleeing, more demons than ever rising from the Pit, and rumors circulating of an army of risen dead, failure for the knights might end the world this time once and for all.
Where else will reincarnated musicians become gun-slinging knights to patrol a post-apocalyptic wasteland? Only in Soultaker. This book by Robert J. Duperre takes a pound of Game of Thrones, a few cups of The Wild Bunch, a dash of Doom, and a sprinkle of Doctor Who, and mixes them all into a fun, horrific ride.
Powell’s City of Books: http://www.powells.com/book/soultaker-9781945528040/61-0
About Robert J. Duperre:
Robert J. Duperre is a really great guy. Actually, he’s not. Though he is the author of eight novels that offer a mix of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and co-wrote The Breaking World with David Dalglish an epic fantasy adventure series published by 47North. Robert lives in rural Connecticut with his wife, the artist Jessica Torrant.
Twitter – @robertduperre
Newsletter – http://eepurl.com/Mo8G5
Website – http://journalofalways.blogspot.com