How it all started...
It was late summer 2001 and I was working in Brazil in the small northern coastal city of Recife. It was to be my final Telecoms project in Brazil after spending nearly 3 years on and off in the country. I was sitting in a local bar enjoying a beer and some local steamed freshwater crab.
I had been toying with writing a book for about 10 years (but mostly an autobiography) when I finally decided it was time to write a fiction novel. So I had another beer - just to celebrate!
Of course it was a little while before I actually started writing, but on that day I did draw a map, write down some character names, and also write the first quotation that I would use - from the "Scriptures of Al'Zaneed":
“And it came to pass, he appeared before the Power Almighty and was found wanting. He had no excuses and was sent back from whence he came.” (Pika’Al 3:1, The Scriptures of Al’Zaneed)
By the way, the picture above is not from Recife, but a small beach nearby. I printed it here because it shows the water, a beer and some coconuts - what a tough time project life is sometimes.
Why did I write Xannu?
Sometimes you have an itch that needs scratching. And sometimes that itch itches real bad! I wrote the first Xannu story for that reason. It ate away at me. Every spare hour I had, all I could think about was writing a book. In the end I just had to write it (although it wasn't until I got back home to the USA at the end of October 2001 that I actually put pen to paper).
Where did the name Xannu come from?
This is a real easy question to answer. I just made it up! It isn't based on anything at all. I actually didn't think the word existed and I was surprised to find that when I did a Google search of Xannu it came up with a few references (latest count 420 - at least a lot of the early ones are mine ).
One interesting point is the pronunciation of the word. Most people will pronounce it "Zannew", but actually I envisaged it being pronounced "Shannew" (sort of Chinese sounding).
How did The Southern Lands come into being?
There I was again sitting in that bar in Recife (actually it's funny how so many things started or finished in a bar somewhere in the world), a piece of paper in my hand, pencil at the ready. I just started doodling really. One minute it was a blank piece of paper and the next it was a pencil outline of The Southern Lands.
It wasn't until I got home that I re-drew it and colored it. That was sometime in early November 2001. I made the master picture by scanning the original small pencil drawing, enlarging it and then tracing it onto a large sheet of paper. The picture doesn't have all the detail of the minor towns on it. I added those to other later drawings.
Which authors have influenced my writing?
I actually answered a similar question to this in another part of my website. When I was young, I loved to read books by C.S. Lewis, then John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov, and finally Stephen King. Of course I read hundreds of other books, but these were the authors I returned to.
Now I mostly just read 'fantasy' novels. I have books by Kate Elliott, George R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Douglas Adams, Robert Jordan and of course Stephen King. Actually my house is stacked full of books, and I normally have about 3 on the go at any one time. Surprisingly enough usually one of those is a mystery or crime thriller. I'm not a complete fantasy freak! When I read fantasy books, I know what I like and what I don't like. I also try and think of my audience. I ask myself 'what did I want to read when I was a young teenager'?
Why do I write for teenagers?
For some reason or another I've been involved with teenagers all my life. I belonged to a youth group from the age of about 12. Then at about 16 I got involved with running youth groups and writing teen articles for magazines. This continued until I was about 22. In my early 30's I got involved again when I became a Boy Scout leader.
So when it came time to write a book it seemed obvious who my target audience should be. Also, I wanted to write the sort of books that I would want to read as a teenager.
Just who are the leading characters and what is special about each of them?
This is a funny question (which is why I wrote it). When I first started jotting down ideas about the book, I had a list of the following characters:
* Ariana - Princess of KA'Truin
* Teern - Hero of books, Prince reborn. Born in Treloon
* Matthius - Born in F'Al. Brother of Selene
* Selene - Born in F'Al. Sister of Matthius
* Maria - Born in Caipor. 'Lady of the night'
I'll try not to give too much away to those of you that haven't yet read the books, but it's funny how things end up taking their own course. The descriptions above somehow changed. I had read articles before about how books take on a life of their own, but it wasn't until I actually started to write that I realized the truth in that. My first book ended up completely different than I imagined it would.
So, back to the main characters. There is one more that I added along the way: Vixxa - a Sorceress from the island of Tane.
The second half of my question earlier was 'what is so special about each of the characters'? Well, I was going to write a few things about this but actually it's better to discover those things during the course of reading the books. One thing I will say though is that not everything is as it appears. There is more to every book than appears at first glance.
The series of books is meant to ask questions at several levels. Of course there is a great story. Of course there is character development. Of course there is good versus evil. But there are also a few added twists. There is the added theme of religion. Which religion is right? Which one is wrong? This is a theme that slowly develops. Also there is a parallel story taking place back in the 'real world'. There are real characters living this fantasy life and they become completely intertwined with it. How they cope is also another intriguing plotline.