Firstly, I would like to thank you for venturing to this page and (hopefully) reading on, for this section will give you a little insight in to what fuelled my ideas behind the Shattered Earth Saga, and, importantly, what influenced me to use and develop the themes that are so prominent throughout it. Secondly, let me say that this section is not intended to be a piece of epic prose, but rather a frank and honest account of the very foundations that are holding the weight of my story.
Where It Began
I should really start with a brief account of how I got in to fantasy writing without digging too much in to the circumstances behind it, as I would really rather not bore you! If you have ventured to the “Life and Times of Thomas S. Barnard” section of this site you will have seen a very sweeping and somewhat brief overview of my life. But this did not delve too deeply in to what actually piqued my curiosity in the realms of fantasy. Back in the days of cassette players and when Blur were making decent music (yes I was a really cool child), at the tender age of 7 I picked up my first fantasy novel. This was at a time when Point Horror seemed to be all the rage, but sadly did not appeal to me in the slightest. It was during this rather frivolous period in history that, sitting in my local library, I noticed a rather charming little book that screamed to me with promise of untold adventure and curious creatures. This book was Brog the Stoop. A book that I have read probably a dozen times, simply because it brings back that sense of nostalgia that we all love to so fondly grasp at and it reminds me of the humble beginnings of my passion.
To this day I remember sitting in my room unable to tear my eyes away from the pages, my mum’s shouts cascading through the house with declarations of “dinner’s on the table” and “dammit Thomas Stanley, you had better be asleep”. Of course I ignored those cries until the angry footsteps ascending the stairs provided an essential portent to my mum’s imminent arrival. To this day I’m thankful for the miracle of a wooden staircase. After this I had acquired a taste for fantasy and a yearning to discover more of these incredibly surreal worlds. This hunger led me on to discover Redwall. For those of you unaware, Redwall was a novel about dastardly rats and heroic mice. What’s not to love? Animals and fantasy were a winning combination in those tender years of childhood, and, I have to say, still bring back fond memories. For years I found myself immersed in this pleasant series of books, enamoured by the idea that a world was no longer confined to just one novel, but many, constantly bringing me back to a world that I had grown to love. These books showed me that a singular narrative can be stretched out far beyond the confines of a single book as long as each book has its own seminal conclusion.
With the passing of years came the maturation of my tastes in fantasy, leading me to the likes of His Dark Materials, Lord of the Rings, the Wheel of Time, the Malazan Book of the Fallen, and many many more. Scattered through the year-devouring afflictions of devotion to fantasy novels were the stories told by greats such as George Orwell, Richard Matheson, Joseph Conrad……(I could spend whole pages naming these so I will stop here). To this day my favourite escape from the world is to totally immerse myself in a book and become, myself, a part of that world.
So, you have read how I nurtured my adoration of fantasy, and I bet you are now wondering what, exactly, this has to do with me deciding to try my hand at writing. Well this all started in secondary school where I slowly started developing my own ideas for stories. For those of you who find yourself with an overactive imagination and a love for becoming so hopelessly embroiled in the stories you read, you will know that this is an inevitability. A few times during these years I made attempts at putting these stories to paper, and every time I read through them and scoffed at my own inadequate attempts at story telling. Such is the impatience of youth, rather than keep practicing, I gave up and simply chose to continue reading. In my haste I gave up on something that I loved doing simply because I failed to see that it was only the restrictions of inexperience that hampered my work. For too many years I harboured this sense of failure towards my writing ability, all the while developing the basis of the story for my Shattered Earth Saga. And for years this idea continued to mature, evolve, until it eventually took over every spare second of my thoughts. As you can imagine, I needed an outlet. For me, this story was crying out to be told, even if it would only ever reach my eyes. My mind could no longer do it the justice it deserved and I needed the artistry of the English language to flow together images that my mind could only conjure fleetingly. I knew my writing ability was still insufficient, but with life experience comes knowledge, and in that knowledge I knew that if I practiced I would be able to one day do my story justice. And that is exactly what I did. I wrote the beginning of my story so many times that even thinking about it makes me cringe. But in the end I got there. I developed my writing in to a style that I was happy with, and with this new confidence, and the incredible desire to get my story told, I devoted as much of my spare time as possible to get the story complete.
As I have said, the idea of the Shattered Earth Saga is something that I slowly nurtured over many years, its essence dictated not only by my life experiences, but also by the many subjects, theories, religious beliefs, and stories that I studied intently in those years. Every bit of knowledge that I attained, that I remembered, I was able to contort and mould in to something that fit in to my story. Whether it was the lessons of history, the interactions with the various (self-styled) nemeses that I encountered across the span of my life, the relationships I formed, the actions in the world that had no impact over my life. All of it. Every single bit was remembered and stored in a section of my memories ready to be pulled out later and incorporated in to a story that aimed to embrace the whole world as its subject matter.
However, much of this was adaptable information that worked to mould the story and characters after their inception. The influences into the actual conceptualisation of this story are far more easily defined. These influences were bold. They were, in my own particular circumstance, life changing. And they were incredible to me for their very life defining impacts.
As is clear to anyone who reads A Fire Within, religion plays a big factor. More specifically, Christianity. I was not brought up as a Christian, nor were the ideals imposed on me as some may expect. Rather I gained my beliefs through study, evaluation and simply, what some people fail to be able to comprehend, faith. Faith that there is something more out there. Faith that we are not alive simply by a series of coincidences. And faith that every single one of us has a purpose in life. The very basis of the story is the age old tale of good versus evil. Heaven and Hell. It is the ultimate story and one that is ripe in the minds of everyone even in modern society.
There is one piece of work that kick started it all. One piece of work that I hold so dear and made me see the greater depths of the fallen angels. The first 2 books of Paradise Lost gave an account in to the aftermath of the great Heavenly war that is impossible to dismiss. The very idea of the greatest evil ever conceived, Lucifer, as an anti-hero defies belief and begs a lot of questions. Why would one capable of such regret and self-awareness allow himself become corrupted by something so human as hubris? How can something once so perfect fall so far? These are questions that, while not instantly visible in A Fire Within, will play a larger part in the Shattered Earth Saga. This work made me ask questions that I never even thought needed answering. It made me look at the very nature of evil in a completely different way. If there is an Omnipotent Good, can there also be a primordial evil that set things in motion? A more potent antithesis to the very God that we hold as the Almighty? I will state blatantly here and now that the story that I will devise over the next decade will not be one based on my intrinsic beliefs of what Christianity is. Instead it will be a fictional response to the questions that I will forever ask.
While on the subject of religion as a basis of my story, it would be wrong to ignore one of the issues that appears instantly in my story and is so fervent throughout. That being the idea of Man being created in to a hierarchy. Genesis exclaims that Man was made in the image of God, but God also created Angels, and what if he created Man to exist in that very same hierarchal system as those who praise him so ardently? What if Jesus came to save our immortal soul, while the highest in the hierarchy of Man were created to protect our mortal physical form?
For those who have read this and may be starting to think that my story is mired too heavily in the concept of Christianity, please don’t be put off. Yes, Christianity is a massive driving force behind the ideas of my story, but it is not the defining factor. My story is based on the characters set in that environment and the trials and tribulations they endure. It focusses on how they endure while facing the most potent evil, at the same time realising that they are the Earth’s first and last line of defence against it. I have a mentioned how I became charmed by Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Whereas the novels are incredible within themselves, what drew me to them was how they brought the idea of Christianity in to the modern environment. They showed me that such a topical issue can be manifested in fictional literary work when handled correctly, and gave me the encouragement to push forward with my story.
There are obviously other influences, ones far too numerous to list here, but those above are the ones that played so heavily in driving forward my ideas and concepts that I refer to throughout the Shattered Earth Saga. After reading this I hope it gives you more insight in to the very principles that I aimed to adhere to while conveying the story. As always, if there are any further questions that you have you are always free to pop me an email and I will do my utmost to answer. Thank you for reading.