How It Came to Pass: Anarya’s Secret

Anarya’s Secret began with an email message in late 2005. It was from Richard Vowles of RedBrick Limited. He explained that RedBrick had recently taken over the rights to the “classic” version of fantasy roleplaying game Earthdawn from its American parent company, and were looking for someone to write a novel set in that universe. They had found my website, and thought I might be their man. Would I be interested?

At first I wasn’t sure. It had been many years since I had done any gaming. (I was very fond of Runequest – the first edition, set in Glorantha – and had played a little D&D as well.) I had never played Earthdawn, and was worried that this would lead to me inadvertently breaking the rules of the world. What’s more, novels set in gaming universes didn’t have a universally high reputation.

On the other hand, I’d greatly enjoyed many of the Shadowrun novels produced by FASA, especially those written by Nigel D. Findley, and my interest was piqued when I found out that Earthdawn is set in the same universe as Shadowrun, except that Shadowrun takes place in the future and Earthdawn in the remote past.

And just as I wasn’t yet sure that this was a project I wanted to take on, so RedBrick had to be sure that I could do a good job of an Earthdawn novel. So we agreed that I’d write and send in the first few chapters, and we’d see how both parties felt after that.

By the time I’d written the Prologue and Chapters 1 and 2, I was hooked. I had a protagonist, a naive but well-meaning young man called Kendik Dezelek. I had got him in over his head with some dubious new associates, the Turgut brothers. I had taken them to the mouth of an ancient, long-abandoned stronghold. And someone had emerged from the stronghold to meet them – someone with a secret.

Earthdawn is set in a world in which, though magic, the human race has split into many branches – some familiar from mythology (orks, trolls, dwarves), others not. Perhaps the most alien are the lizard-like t’skrang, and I decided that they would play a crucial role in the story. With that decision, the general outline of the rest of the novel fell into place.

So I sent in my few chapters and waited to see what RedBrick would say. They said yes, and I was away. Kendik Dezelek, Anarya Chezarin – the woman with a secret – and the Turgut brothers left the mouth of the ancient stronghold, Kaer Volost, and went on their way. Adventure, as they say, lay in wait. So did guards, wizards, petty tyrants, and t’skrang with a whole slew of hidden agendas. And if you play Earthdawn, you’ll have some idea what I mean when I say that the Scourge has never quite ended.

I broke the odd rule in my early drafts, but Carsten Damm, my excellent editor, was there to point out my transgressions and suggest creative solutions. With his help, I had a lot of fun writing Anarya’s Secret. I hope you’ll find it a lot of fun (and a lot of shock, surprise and excitement) to read.

Anarya’s Secret is available in hardback, paperback, and e-book formats.

In Praise of Editors

Someone once said that a novel is a continuous prose narrative with mistakes. Or at least, I think they did; I can’t find an attribution of the quote anywhere. It’s the editor’s job to find and fix as many of those mistakes as is humanly possible, for it’s never possible to find them all.

In the case of my Earthdawn novel, Anarya’s Secret (see the cover), the novel was written by me in New Zealand for a New Zealand company, edited by a team lead by a German, Carsten Damm (a.k.a. Dammi), and will be physically produced in the USA. After I’d submitted it, a team of six or so readers went through it initially, then Dammi drew all the comments together into one big editing list.

A confession: Dammi’s English is better than mine. Which is a bit of a worry, but hey, he’s the editor, not me!

I worked my way through the 95,000 word manuscript, dealing with all the changes the team had suggested, and then embarked on the even more challenging task of converting the whole thing from NZ English to US English, as that’s the standard for Earthdawn books. It was a chore, but the professionalism and eye for detail of Dammi and his team made the whole process a lot smoother than it would otherwise have been.

The final edits on Anarya’s Secrets have been made, and it’s disappeared off into the production process. That’s good timing, because I’ve recently received the edits to my short story collection Transported – a discontinuous prose narrative with mistakes.

Again, I’ve been most fortunate in my editor, Claire Gummer, who has done a great job of finding errors and making suggestions for improvement. I was a bit trepidatious – is that a word, editors? – about what I’d get back from Transported’s editor, but now I’m looking forward to the next stage of the editing process, when I respond to the changes Claire has proposed. Long live editors, I say!