Did you know? Island Of Exiles is only SEVEN WEEKS AWAY! Each Tuesday until then, I’ll talk about my immense love for this world.
This week? Why fantasy at all? My existing backlist makes it obvious I enjoy writing other things, so why this? And why now? Most of the picture books I best remember (like Strega Nona & Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like) included magic.
My Dad read Hobbit to me and introduced me to movies like Willow and The Princess Bride. It was all lovely & fascinating. When I could pick my own books, I gravitated towards the ones with magic and adventure and plausible impossibility. I discovered Tamora Pierce early, & she quickly became my first ever favorite author. Tortall & Evelyn were places I lived in. I read my way through a lot of what my library (and, later, various bookstores) had to offer me, and I loved the beauty of it all.
Fantasy is familiar novelty, safe adventure, a testing ground for new theories & thoughts, and an escape that can teach you about reality. Anything can happen in a fantasy world so long as you ground it in the reality the characters know and accept. The scope of that is awesome.
When I was in high school, it finally occurred to me that I could try writing one of those books I loved so much. I had NO idea what I was doing, so what I ended up with was thinly veiled, unfinished, nonsensical Tamora Pierce fanfic. I should point out that I didn’t know what fanfic WAS, but somehow I still managed to write it.
After college, I tried again. My first novel attempt was more paranormal than fantasy, but I grabbed a new fantasy idea fast. That book isn’t #IslandOfExiles, but they’re connected. They exist in the same world, and I could absolutely bring it back in. But CollegeWIP didn’t work either. It was too big, too complex, and too much for baby author Erica. I put it aside. Reluctantly.
Then, I wrote. More paranormal and more contemporary. I learned. I grew. Eventually, I had a new idea. But could I write it? Fantasy was still a great love of mine, but the writing of it had become a scary, impossible target, one I wasn’t sure I could reach. But I *REALLY* wanted to create a sweeping fantasy, and that desire was stronger than my fear of getting it wrong. So I grabbed this new idea, remembered everything I loved about fantasy, and tried one more time to build my own universe.
What I came up with then is only partially what you’ll get a chance to read in February. So much changed as the book developed. Things that didn’t? The Nevada-like setting, the militaristic society, the style of magic, & the sibling bond at the story’s core.
What Kate Brauning saw in the original mess of a proposal I gave her I will never understand, but she helped me make real a dream. Island Of Exiles is the achievement of a goal I set in 2001. It’s taken me FIFTEEN AND A HALF YEARS to finally have my fantasy world.
We’ll let that number sink in for a moment.
Fifteen. And a half. YEARS.
I don’t know what will happen once the Ryogan Chronicles trilogy is out and done. I don’t know if I’ll write more in this world. Maybe one day I’ll find the right spark to help me create an entirely new world with a new system of magic and new social issues. Maybe Ryogan Chronicles will be it for me in fantasy, my one shining, magical moment in the annuals of fantastical history.
All I know if that in seven weeks, my first fantasy baby will be out in the world, and I am BEYOND excited to share it with you all.