|KINDLE VERSION NOW FREE
First, I'd like to announce that the ebook version of Faelorehn is now FREE from amazon.com! Lots of people have already discovered this and have been downloading their own copies. Please feel free to take advantage of this opportunity and also to let all your friends know if you think that they might enjoy this trilogy. I'm hoping this will help expand the Otherworld Trilogy's readership even further :).
With that announcement over, here is one of the extras from the Omnibus Edition of the Otherworld Trilogy. This particular excerpt is titled The Birth of a Trilogy and is just a commentary I wrote since this is the first trilogy I've actually completed (despite the fact that I've published three other books in a different series AND regardless of my desire to continue writing books that take place in the world of Eile . . .).
With that being said, if you'd like to know a little more about how I came up with and created the stories for Faelorehn, Dolmarehn and Luathara, feel free to read on. But just a word of warning, I do discuss a few aspects of Luathara that those of you who haven't read it yet might not want to know quite yet. So, if you don't like spoilers, please wait and read this Omnibus extra after you've finished all three books. For the rest of you, I hope you enjoy my rambling ;).
The Birth of a Trilogy
The creation of the Otherworld Trilogy started about a year and a half ago, but in all honesty, it may have even begun earlier than that. Although I can safely say my writing career officially took off some six years prior, I must admit that the stories I now bring to life on paper (or on screen for those digital readers among us) have been accumulating for years. However, the decision to actually sit down and write the Otherworld Trilogy is a rather recent development, in the grand scheme of things.
So, what prompted this decision you might ask, to set my Oescienne series aside for a while and dive, head first, into an entirely new world? Perhaps I simply needed a break from my other books and around that time I'd been reading quite a few novels in the young adult, paranormal genre. Many of these tales dealt with vampires, werewolves and the Fae (in some form or another, since, let's face it, the old stories can be obscure at times), and I realized that some of these authors were independently published and doing quite well with their paranormal series. Yet, that wasn't the only thing that encouraged me to begin Meghan's story. I also happened to have a wealth of knowledge at my disposal that would act as a nice backbone for a young adult paranormal series of my own, and it was dying to be put to use.
In a sense, I guess one could call my time spent taking Celtic and Norse mythology classes in college (an enterprise most people looking to build a useful degree might consider a pointless waste of energy) as time well spent. While reading and picking apart such epics as Beowulf, The Tain, and the Mabinogi, to name a few, I managed to accumulate quite a bit of useful information, mythologically speaking, of course. From there, all I had to do was gather up what I'd learned from my studies and add a dash of modern, teenage angst. Easy, right? Okay, that's stretching it a bit. Some aspects of creating this series could be considered less painful than others, but it was, by no means, a walk in the park. For example, I knew I wanted to incorporate the Celtic pantheon (since this is a lesser known set of gods than say Roman, Egyptian or Greek), and I wished to set the story in my hometown. Well, at least the mortal world aspect of it. Wrapping it all together into something readers might find believable and entertaining was the tricky part.
The characters, surprisingly, arrived early on the scene and were quick to establish themselves in my head. Meghan and Cade have been with me so long, I can't honestly remember sitting down and fleshing out all their little details. What I can say is that I always wanted Meghan to be someone who didn't quite fit in; someone who was a little lost in herself and unsure of who she truly was. Even in Luathara she is still struggling with her self-identity, and I believe this is a common trait among most of us, especially at that age. It took me a while to figure out who I was, and even now I'm discovering new outlooks on life.
Now with Cade's character I wanted an ideal male that someone like Meghan could look up to and admire, not just some pretty face with lots of charm. Yes, Cade seems perfect on the outside, but the real draw is everything he is fighting within himself. He's the son of Eile's hated warrior queen and a hero of old, and he has his own special magic to contend with. Although his riastrad proves helpful on many occasions, to him it's a curse. But the most significant flaw in Cade is his inner guilt and tendency to blame himself for much of the hardship from his past. He's a troubled soul, and in all the books I've read, the troubled souls were always the ones to draw me in. I wanted Cade to have this internal battle so that it would balance his outer appearance and teach him that, with the right amount of time and the right person to care about him, he could eventually heal.
Meghan and Cade may have been their own individuals when they entered the story line, but Meghan's mortal family, however, was inspired by some close friends of mine and their children (they have one girl and several boys, so that's where Meghan got all her brothers). One interesting thing I should mention is that Aiden, at the very beginning of this series, was never meant to be Meghan's blood brother. In fact, it wasn't until I started writing the second book, Dolmarehn, that that little plot twist revealed itself to me. Interesting how my Muse decided from the beginning that Aiden should have dark hair like Meghan . . . It's as if she knew before me how the story was going to play out. Good thing I went with my Muse's suggestion because Aiden's role in book three is rather significant, not to mention the fact that he'll be needing his own series further down the line.
Developing the Otherworld itself and all its wonders (and horrors) was another challenge (and a joy). As you already know, I had a whole mythological system to borrow from, and I did my best to make good use of it. Making Cade the son of Cuchulainn and the Morrigan helped stir the pot, or rather the cauldron, a little. In The Tain, the Morrigan does try to distract Cuchulainn by any means possible, including seduction. As far as I know, she fails to outsmart the Celtic hero, but I thought it would be a great plot point if I were to take that tale and bend it just a little. After all, so many of our folk legends have been twisted over time, why not this one as well?
One thing I worried about while writing the Otherworld books was getting the gods and goddesses just right, especially since some of them (Danua, the Dagda, the Morrigan), play such significant roles. For their development, I merely went on my gut instinct and tried to picture them as I had in all my classes over the years. The Morrigan became the selfish, heartless, violent queen I always imagined, but she still retained the fae beauty of Eile. Danua, in my mind, needed to be a harsh, strong ruler, but beneath it all she also had to have a caring heart since in these books she plays the role of a mother. The Dagda, by far, is my favorite among the Tuatha De kings and queens with regards to this series. With him, I pictured a giant, affable man who's hospitality and exuberance is impossible to resist. He acts as a good anchor for Cade, and later for Meghan as well.
Robyn, Tully, Will and Thomas took a little more time to develop. Thomas and Will are loosely based on a combination of my high school friends, and I suppose Tully and Robyn are as well, to some degree. I wanted Meghan to have the kind of friends who would appreciate her, given that she is an odd duck, and these four, being outcasts themselves, are a good fit for her. Michaela West and Adam Peders are also directly inspired by real-life people, people I considered my tormentors when I was Meghan's age. I think almost everyone has at least one or two people they can remember from their teenage years who made their daily lives miserable. Luckily for us authors, we can use this to our advantage in creating an antagonist or two to help our struggling protagonist build up his or her character.
The characters for my books were definitely central to the plot, but creating the setting for Eile and the creatures that live there was one of the most time-consuming aspects of writing this series. In the old Irish myths, any white creature with red ears is believed to be from the Otherworld. For some reason, imagining all the animals in Eile as white with red ears seemed rather dull, so alas, I turned those particular creatures into spirit guides and let all the other, everyday animals of Eile retain their more natural colors. The faelah were another fun creation. I know, they are horrible monsters, but trying to come up with a large variety of half-rotting, walking dead beasts was a delightful challenge. I was always thinking about what the Morrigan would come up with next to send after Meghan and Cade. As for the world of Eile itself and the dolmarehn that act as gateways, well, those are straight from the Celtic past. The ancient Celts believed in otherworldly things and they also believed that there were ways to cross into their otherworld. Bodies of water and caves were common passageways, and since Ireland is still littered with dolmens, stone constructs that look like gateways, I decided to incorporate them as my own passages throughout Eile.
Once the Otherworld had been sorted out, deciding on the mortal world setting was a bit more daunting for me. In the beginning, after deciding Meghan's family would live in my hometown of Arroyo Grande, I struggled with the decision on whether or not I should use the actual town names in my surrounding area. When it came down to it, however, I chose to keep the names as they are and to invent my own names for stores and schools and such. This way, I could give the reader a sense of an actual place while still leaving them to guess and wonder about some of the locations I mention. So the places Meghan and her friends frequent are real. The small town of Arroyo Grande does have an old village, and the swinging bridge where the Morrigan attacks Meghan in raven form really exists. As a child, I remember visiting the bridge and peering down at the creek far below. The shop where Meghan finds the book on Celtic myth is a wonderful little old post office where the store's patrons can find an eclectic mix of mystical fare. The campsite Meghan and Cade and her friends visit at Lopez Lake is an actual site as well. In fact, when writing that chapter of Luathara, I got online and pulled up a map of the campground and made sure I found a spot that matched the description in the book. Let's just say I can be a stickler for the details at times. And finally, across the highway from my house is a swamp of sorts (well, a swamp by California standards at least), and if you hike in deep enough, you'll find a small ravine where old, dead eucalyptus trees crisscross to impede your path. I haven't found the dolmarehn at the end yet, but I'm still holding out hope that it's there somewhere. Why did I go to all that trouble to incorporate actual locations in a fantasy series? I suspect it has something to do with my tendency to find at least a small amount of wonder in so many of the places I visit. I simply wanted to bring that wonder and awe to life for my readers.
The one thing I feel I struggled with the most while working on this series was deciding whether I wanted to write it in first or third person perspective. In the beginning, Meghan was doing the talking, but when some of my friends read over the manuscript, they encouraged me to switch back to third person. I had already written three other books in a completely separate series, all of them from the third person perspective, so for a while I seriously considered returning Faelorehn to this style of writing. Funny thing was, however, Meghan wouldn't let me. For a good two months I fought against her character until finally I realized that it wasn't so much my story, but Meghan's, and she wanted to tell it her way. That's the interesting thing I've learned as an author. We don't so much create stories and write them, but rather, we are the conductors of some other entity's creation. Sometimes that's the only way I can explain how I come up with my ideas. Sure, I've invented plenty of my own thoughts and plot twists, but sometimes the dialogue and story line and a character's personality come to me out of the blue.
In conclusion, I must admit that this has been one exciting, demanding year with regards to my writing. I can't even begin to describe how fulfilling it is to have finished a series and to know that there are readers out in the wide world somewhere who have really enjoyed what I've worked so hard to bring to life. Yes, Meghan's (and Cade's) story is over for now, but once a new world full of new characters makes itself known to me, it never really goes away. I look forward to returning to the Otherworld and continuing with the stories of some of my secondary characters, and I also hope to be bringing new realms and new adventures to life as well.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my books, and please, if you ever get a chance, swing by my website (www.jennaelizabethjohnson.com) and see what extras I've got posted and also feel free to leave me a note, send me a message, or sign up for my author's newsletter for new book releases and news. Until next time, may you always find a good book to keep you company, and as always, happy reading.