Sunday, October 16, 2016

nysta #6: sea of revenants - behind the scenes

The sixth book in the Nysta series is out now. I've had some great comments on Facebook, some cheerful waves on Twitter, and the reviews are starting to drop onto the Amazon site.

If you've been enjoying this series, please consider picking a prong on the old social fork and letting people know. Word of mouth is the only real way for us Indies to get ahead.

That aside, I thought I'd tell you a little more about the book from where I sat writing it.

It was, of course, influenced by Lovecraft and Zatoichi in equal measure. In particular, Zatoichi in Desperation. But there were some other heavy influences. This book was actually written a lot of years ago and the original scene had Nysta riding a ship as it slowly sank. The ship had been victim of pirates with her as the sole survivor. She then dove into the water and swam through shark-infested sea with the darkness within giving some assistance to her passage before being rescued by an ork.

In a rowboat.

Because Rockjaw in the original was a fisherman.

In a rowboat.

I liked that scene, but then something happened.

Pirates of the Caribbean came out. And Johnny Depp stole Nysta's entrance. I'd also used more pirate themes, with a small gang of goblin pirates and the entire island ruled by a Pirate King. Naturally, I had to throw all of that out for now. We still need some breathing room before I can continue with that tack.

I decided, then, to take more influence from Norse sources. Why not? I love them, and the Fnordic Lands is mostly built around it. I read a lot about the kinds of raiders who nipped at Britain in the early days, touring the coast for booty to take home to their families. I liked that idea, and ran with it. I read a few history books for the journey, too. Mostly The Northmen's Fury by Philip Parker and The King of the North by Max Adams.

For a fictional aesthetic, I dabbled in reading some of The Executioner series by Don Pendleton. I still love pulp fiction, and have turned a little into crime during the writing of this book. I have found a particular love for Chester Himes, and if you can find some of his books you'll be doing yourself a great service by reading them. There's some near-absurdist scenes in them which are magical and he has a way of bringing alive a truly seedy underbelly with anti-heroes of the finest ilk.

Music also plays a big part for me when I'm writing. I usually slap on my headphones and pick a genre of music for each book. Some writers find sound distracting when they create, but for me it's almost like I'm writing with a soundtrack.

For this book, I listened to a lot of stoner instrumental metal. My top five bands for Nysta #6 were;
Spaceslug
Yuri Gagarin
The Spacelords
Mother Engine
Jagannatha

I found these albums extremely helpful when trying to conjure the more Lovecraftian imagery. There's some gorgeous guitarwork from all these bands and the pace and tempo of their songs inspired me greatly. Some afternoons, I kick back on the couch and plug myself in to just let my brain spear off into another world thanks to this music.

No drugs required. I like my brain as it is.

While writing, I was thinking a lot about Nysta #7, and how to lead into that from Nysta #5. She's in the Fnordic Lands now and needs to move back into what could loosely be described as civilisation. This book, then, shows that bridge by drifting from the more isolated landscape of the sea to the more urban imagery of a seaside town. I also added more characters to try and fill it up a little more. Give her a few sparking attempts at relationships.

Given things changed so much from the original vision of this book, I thought I'd give you a quick list right here of some of the more interesting pieces which didn't happen:

* The original book had no draug or Lovecraftian entity as a major character.
* Rockjaw didn't play any real part of the original draft.
* The Pirate King was having problems with a town on the other side of his island. That town was where the action was going to be focused, with Nysta discovering it as a springboard for the Caspiellan spy network into the Fnordic Lands.
* Nysta originally only meets Lux after rescuing him from those Caspiellans at the end of the draft.
* Her main companions were goblins. I felt I didn't want to overdo my favourite little critters, so didn't use them for this book.
* Lux was originally a lot more friendly and somewhat zenlike. He chuckled a lot.
* The ending of that book involved the Caspiellan using an old pirate artifact to raise a cthulhuesque entity from the deep who ended up going a little crazy and killing everyone. Including the Caspiellan leader.
* The goblins in this draft had been written prior to Nysta #3, so Quietly was a character in this one. Quietly died in this draft by being picked up by the cthulhu entity and flung so far into the distance that no one heard him land. Presumed: splatted. Reality: didn't.

As you can see, a lot of things can change when you write drafts. This book was once where I thought the Nysta series would begin. With her coming out of nowhere, fully formed and ready to fight. My problem was I felt I had to keep explaining pieces of her past and how she got to the island. Why she was travelling. Why she hated Caspiellans. All that.

It was easier, then, to go a few steps back.

And, speaking of going back, those of you reading will no doubt have noticed there's a lot of threads which SEEM to go nowhere or not get overly explored. In Nysta #6, one of these gets exploded in your face. This is because I consider every book to be a garden. And every garden works well when you seed it for the future rather than just work on making it look neat for today. I am lucky enough to know exactly where I'm heading with this series, so seeding these bombshells involves a healthy amount of sadistic glee.

Trust me. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

Nysta has a long journey. It has only just begun.