There have been three things in my life I have loved consistently since I was a very small child.
And third and most importantly, a good story.
These are mentioned because all three were the focus of my thoughts when writing the chronicles of Prince Aidan and his friends. I wanted to create a novel series that explored my love of history without being po-faced, as well as exploring a mix of history and satire that was common in the old BBC comedy series Blackadder; a show that has had a large impact on my outlook.
Another influence were the collections of Historical satire comics that you found in The New Yorker and similar publications, or here in the UK, Punch magazine. With a history that goes back hundreds of years, these comics featured grotesque, corpulent madmen and hideous harridans...Personifications of famous leaders, politicians, or sometimes anthropomorphic versions of the countries themselves, all written in a way that both offered ridicule, and a witty insight to the political discussions of the day.
That being said, as much as I didn't want the series to be po-faced, I also didn't want it to be a farce; something Blackadder did well, and that the political comic strips of the Victorian world excelled at. Though they were influences, they were only the nucleus of the idea; an idea that formed a very simple question in my mind.
What if some of the stereotypes about our countries were actually true?
Now there's a controversial statement I am sure! ''Aren't stereotypes bad?'' I hear you cry, or perhaps type. Well, yes, they can be. Or they can be bloody hilarious. Like most topics, they are contextual depending on the situation. For my part, I decided to break it down by only focusing on the stereotypes that might actually have a grain of truth to them.
The French are militarily inept cowards.
Incorrect, untrue, and utterly refuted. The French were widely considered military geniuses throughout most of their history, and this reputation largely comes from the 20th century. Therefore, this would not be a stereotype I would use for my book. Take it from a British person; we know what the French are capable of, they've been our frenemy for a thousand years.
The British are cold and unfeeling.
Now this might have a grain of truth to it! Not that we are all robots; but the notion of the stiff upper lip, of never letting anyone 'see you bleed' and generally just not wanting to make a fuss are ingrained into our national character, and as such, i decided to include this one. The Prince is more in touch with his emotions than many of his countrymen, which perhaps goes some way to explaining the loneliness he feels from the outset, and why he's chosen a foreigner for his valet.
Stereotypes can be amusing jokes, gentle pokes of affection at others, or more often than not, ourselves. Our differences after all should be celebrated, our foibles championed as making us what we are, from the mildly eccentric to the dangerously odd.
Let me give you some advice b****rd. Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you. - Tyrion Lannister, A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One, Game of Thrones.
What are you raising the funds for?
Well, although writing is in itself, quite a cheap way to spend time, sadly life doesn't stop when you pause to do it. It is my hope to raise enough funds to give up work for a bit and not worry about bills, whilst being able to spend the time I would normally spend working, writing. It is immensely frustrating to have the thoughts in my head regarding what I want to do, but having comparatively little time to actually get them word processed. So the funds will go some way to enabling me to live whilst I do this. I am a man of modest means (A polite way of saying I don't get out much...) so its not like you'll be funding an extravagant lifestyle just yet.
Also, the first book in the series, The Prince of the Black Palace, is actually already published as an E-Book. Unfortunately, there are a LOT of E-Books out there, so it's hard to get some recognition. The funds will also go some way towards paying for advertisement, to allow me to get the novel in the pages of magazines and the like.
And finally, you may have noticed the amazing artwork adorning this page. Well, that is provided by Heather Hitchman-Lambert, a supremely talented artist and very good friend of mine. It is my hope to have her illustrate ALL my works, as she has illustrated book one. Simply put, no Heather, no novel series. Her works are important to me, not purely because of the artistic talent she has, but because she knows, instinctively, exactly what I want. Finding someone so synced with your thoughts is incredibly rare, and I will never be satisfied continuing this series without her work. So naturally, the funds will also be going to more illustrations for the following books. Please Google her name, she has a few galleries up, and is an extremely friendly artist who is always happy to take commissions.
A brief history of Alberon, Valois, and the Feldian Republic.
I created my 'Alt-Earth' to reflect international stereotypes, but with a history roughly similar to our own. Alberon has just lost a war with a former colony that has won its independence (sound familiar?) and is due for a heavy shakeup of its position on the world stage. The nation is reeling from both a lost war and the death of its ruler the Emperor, who committed suicide out of shame for the loss. His wife the Empress, a brilliant but unfeeling woman, has major plans to ensure her nation remains at the top of the great game of international diplomacy.
The Feldian Republic, having just won its independence, is a relatively new player in the world. It espouses a doctrine of liberty, truth, and justice for all (unless you're a slave of course...) and is looking to flex its diplomatic muscles.
Valois is something of an enigma. A large country to the east of Alberon, it has fought its neighbour and rival many times over the centuries, and took great pleasure in being able to assist The Feldian Republic gain its freedom; at no small personal cost to the treasury. Despite that, it remains a nation of whimsical vanity, of excess and delights of the senses. How long can this possibly last?
Other nations are briefly mentioned within the pages of the first novel; will you be able to spot your own?
Yes, but what is the book actually about?
I am so very glad you asked! In truth, you can read it yourself! The first one is already available in E-Book format on Amazon Here, because this Crowdfunder is to enable me to have the time and funds to continue the project; as well as advertise the first novel. Advertisement is an expensive business, and I am very proud of this book, so it is immensely frustrating to me that I cannot plaster it across websites, magazines and other formats. I would like to be able to get it out there. Having said that, please find my favoured description of the novel below:
A young Prince is unsure of his place in the world. His distant father is dead, his loving but fierce mother is on the throne. Alberon has enemies on all sides, and seemingly within as well, for the Emperor's death would be labelled suspicious by some. The Empresses policies, though efficient, are cruelly pragmatic, and the Prince feels anger as he bears witness to the suffering of the most helpless in his nation. Fortunately, he is not alone; he has a trusted group of friends in Charlotte the Royal Librarian, his Valet Dio, and the sympathetic and skilled Lady Cassandra Beresford, as quick with her wits as she is with her sword. And when the Prince's path crosses with an orphan girl, she encourages him to wear his convictions with confidence, and learn that kindness and mercy are not weaknesses to be despised, but qualities of the very greatest Emperors.
Pretty exciting stuff I hope you'll agree. Prince Aidan is a young man who has everything he could possibly want in the world; good looks, wealth, and the endless resources that come from being the son of one of the most powerful people in the world. Despite this though, he is unfulfilled and unhappy. When he works out this is due to the fact that he feels unhappy because others are unhappy, he begins a dangerous, and some might say impossible, quest to make life just a bit better for everyone. Will he succeed? Is it even possible for him to? The answer to that question is a slow burner; one I hope to explore over a series of six books that take him to a variety of locales; from the streets of his home city to exotic locations abroad, all influenced by this incredibly diverse and wonderful world of ours.
What are your influences?
I love this question! (Even though I am asking it to myself, so it shouldn't really count..)
Finding out an author's influences are one of the prime ways we will learn about whether we will like their work or not. If we can identify a shared love, we will be more interested in seeing what they can do. So, my own influences are:
Yes, of course, as if there was any doubt. The wonderful, fantastic novel series broke new ground with its ability to appeal to a broad spectrum of ages and cultures. Even if you don't enjoy Harry Potter as an author, you'd have to be crazy not to admire its ability to speak to so many millions of people. The stories of common decency, of community and never giving up no matter how bad things get, will continue to resonate for generations to come. Also, The Prisoner of Azkaban is the best in the series. No arguments please.
Shonen Manga and Anime.
For those not in the know, Shonen is a Japanese term meaning aimed at a young male audience. However, the term has transcended that initial description, and is now used in a more general sense to mean focused on a young hero who ignores the social norms of his world, sometimes enduring suffering or outright mockery to do what he knows to be right. He will never give up, he will endure any hardship and any pain, simply because it is the right thing to do. A shonen hero is typically strong, fair, good-hearted, but dim with the affections of women; all aspects of my young Prince. Several of my favourite series are Attack on Titan, One Piece, and Fullmetal Alchemist, but I can wax lyrical about anime and manga for hours.
The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.
Almost as obvious as putting down Harry Potter, one cannot ignore the massive influence Tolkein had on the world of fantasy. Although Tolkien hated allegory, and always took pains to say that his works were not allegorical (and mine are, to a certain extent) his influence on me is similar to why I have listed the others. Great hardships must sometimes be endured for great peace and prosperity to shine through the gloom of misery and oppression. Without Tolkien, I find it very difficult to believe we would have any of the high-fantasy fiction we take for granted today.
In truth, it would be hard to list ALL my influences here, so I decided to just pick the three that first came into my head. I like to think I pull influence from a broad spectrum, but if you like any (or all, you paragon of good taste you) of the above, I hope you will find something to like in my work.
Will you be having hardback/physical copies printed?
Eventually, yes! Though this is intended to help me focus on book 2, if it goes extremely well I will be adding some stretch goals to the effect of printed copies. Watch this space.