The main character of The Easy River to Success is a government minister by the name of Benetus. This character is a Machiavellian type who has used cunning, his way with words and also a bit of magic to gain prominence at court. I really wanted to steer away from the cliche of having a warrior or ‘good’ guy as the main subject of a fantasy story. I just think that such an approach is a bit hackneyed now. Although the setting is still the pseudo-medieval one you might expect I thought it was more realistic to actually give the stage to a pen-pusher rather than a sword-wielder, as even amongst the governing classes by the late middle ages most men would be engaged more in administration than in warfare.
His character is also loosely based on that of Piero della Vigna, the first minister to the Emperor Frederick II, about whom I am currently writing a novel – see Stupor Mundi. I see both Piero and Benetus as characters with a great degree of internal conflict. On one hand they demonstrate loyalty to their sovereign, yet they are also accused of treason and using their position to their own ends.
Other characters in the story include:
Arax – a demon with whom Benetus makes a dangerous pact
The King – mostly in the background, but based also on Frederick II. The king’s conflict is with the theocratic government of Belgania, much in the same way as Frederick fought with the Papacy.
Flacio Abs – the kingdom’s treasurer and a friend of Benetus.
Fanis Poll – a political rival of Benetus and a high-ranking priest. He is the main antagonist of the story.
I thought it would be interesting to give some more background on my recently published short story The Easy River to Success. The story was published recently by Planet Magazine and is available there for free viewing. Please go over and take a look. I would be interested to know what you think of the story.
The world of the story is one that I have been working on for a while and is also the setting of two other short stories and a couple of novel ideas as well. My initial vision for the world was taken from a part of Gulliver’s Travels where Gulliver encounters people who live on islands that float in the air. I thought it would be amazing to have a fantasy world where one of the key cities was a flying island that orbited the world at a fairly low altitude of say a couple of thousand feet and that could be reached by flying carpets or unicorns. That’s the basis of one of the novel ideas.
This world-building developed further when I started thinking about religious and mythical background. I decided that I wanted the characters from my fiction to be able to interact with their gods in a meaningful way, and perhaps even to find that their idols were often just as fallible as they were – and in fact had once been human themselves too. The idea is similar to that used by Roger Zelazny in Lord of Light.
So I started on the process of creating my world and as a result came up with some interesting characters to populate and some story ideas outside the main novels came to the surface. One of these is The Easy River to Success.
This short story is set in a kingdom called Fei Usure, which is in conflict with the neighboroughing theocracy of Belgania. In a more recent iteration of my world these country names have now been changed as I got more into developing the actual languages of the world into a more coherent pattern. The name of the world changed as well, from Neriador (too Tolkien I thought), to Ladmas (there’s a pun in there by the way).
Here’s the old version of the world, without all the cities and countries filled in. The new version has different names, but is the same size and shape.
I’ll write next time about the characters in the story and some of the politics they are involved in.
If you read my blog on a regular basis you might have noticed a number of posts about Frederick II appearing. What does it mean? Well a while ago I was working on a project about Frederick II called Stupor Mundi. I recently decided that I would have another go at this novel, but not worry too much about conducting exhaustive research. Instead my plan is to just keep writing and go back at a later date to check facts and add in any nuggets from my research. I have also taken on Stephen King‘s advice in On Writing to just see where the story takes me. I had already come up with an interesting situation and enough plot ideas to get going, so starting wasn’t really a problem, but I didn’t know where the journey was going to take me.
So far I have about 10,000 words written and I am aiming to do about 500 words a day. Each day is exciting and new and I have surprised myself. I find that when I don’t write for a day or two it’s much more difficult to get started again though. Whereas I suppose if you have everything planned out you can pick up the torch more easily as you have a firmer idea of what comes next.
I’ll keep you posted on how I get on, but if you want to read any early chapters they are over at OWW now and also will be coming up on the queue at Critters at the end of March. If I have time I’ll put them on Critique Circle too!