A Different Sort of Premise
Readers, I’ve been told, are in constant search of new kinds of stories, different fare from what’s already flooding the market. Fantasy, for example, is rife with wizards and dragons, elves and faeries, swords and sorcery, demons and witchcraft. There are thousands of books—maybe tens of thousands—in a market where Amazon has over 3.6 million English language titles in print, digital or otherwise, that are all based on these very themes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, to write an epic fantasy with a completely different premise?
Now you must understand, since crafting a novel is no easy feat, coming up with a unique theme upon which to hang such a story is even more challenging. If I were to attempt it and readers were to accept it, the premise had to be compelling. It also had to be familiar, something that already inhabited their childhood fantasies and, hopefully, their adult ones as well. If the story were to have power, it was important that the heroes be powerful and the villains even more so. For the story to have dimension, it was important the danger the story revolved around was more than any individual threat; the fate of an entire world had to hang in the balance. Finally, to be classed as a fantasy, it had to incorporate certain core elements that characterize that genre.
Typical fantasies revolve around the hero doing supernatural things, altering events with powers far beyond the reach of mortal man. Historically, this has boiled down to magic. The use of magic, in turn, involves learning spells and using potions. It involves employing benevolent entities to thwart malevolent ones. Everything the protagonist uses in these situations, be (s)he wizard or witch, is an external force already in existence provided by talismans, sigils and the like. What if, I thought, instead of using external objects or forces, the power came from within? What if it were already there, already part of the hero’s makeup, but something (s)he did not know existed? Some latent talent waiting to be born if only the right sort of external stimulus awakened it.
As for the threat, if I were going to eschew all things magical, couldn’t the threat come from an alien world, instead of another dimension? And if it were going to involve aliens, couldn’t the world the aliens were attacking be somewhere other than earth? But if that were to be the case and the world in jeopardy were to be technologically advanced, wouldn’t that just result in a science fiction space opera, an other-worldly War of the Worlds? That wouldn’t do. Rending the story with the technologies, or lack thereof, common to fantasy novels seemed more appropriate. Further, the odds had to be stacked so much against them, verging onto the impossible, that a technological solution typical of science fiction, would not work.
With all this in mind, I sat down to write Awakening.
To replace magic, I used telepathy and forms of telekinesis. I doubt there’s one of use who, at one time or another, has not dreamed what it would be like to read minds or move objects without touching them. This, then, supplied the familiar.
To render the people technologically disadvantaged, I set the story in a world in which steam power was just coming into being. But while we on earth at least had gunpowder and TNT by the time Fulton was building steamships, I realized that explosives had been developed as the result of chance chemical discoveries in the Orient. Furthermore, had Hannibal not crossed the alps, Europe’s history would have been very different indeed, its wars being fought with more primitive weapons until who-knows-when? Explosives, then, were not a necessary part of the scheme of things. With that realization, I decided such weapons were not to be part of this other-world’s development either, and armed them instead with bows, arrows and catapults. How’s that for stacking the odds against them?
Naturally, when I completed Awakening, the first book in my fantasy series, set in a world in which telepaths and those with unusual mental abilities tip the course of events, I thought it would fly off the shelves. It didn’t. It sold well, but not astoundingly so. I wondered if I had crafted it poorly, until the reviews started coming in.
British author and illustrator, Stephan J. Meyers, said, “Awakening, the first book in the Ydron Saga by author Raymond Bolton [is] a grand debut. An ambitious and well considered SF crossover… Bolton breathes originality into the genre”. Author, fantasy buff and former Redbook Magazine editor, Audreen Buffalo, called it “A wonderfully original story and a rip-roaring read.” As far as whether I’ve succeeded in my core concept, one Goodreads reviewer says, “Heroic fantasy without magic! It’s highly original and nice to see an author arrive on the scene who not only writes well but is will(ing) to push the boundaries of an established genre. There is no doubt in my mind that this the start of what is going to be a hugely popular series!”
Averaging 4.7 stars on Amazon and 4.6 stars on Goodreads, I have to accept that, with today’s publishing glut, it’s simply harder to make one’s work stand out. If you are one of those who are looking for something truly different to put on your shelves, I hope you will give Awakening a read. Oh! And by the way, Thought Gazer, the first volume of Awakening’s prequel trilogy, has just hit the stands and, so far, has garnered all 5 star reviews on Amazon.co.uk!