Aysunadi Maheil’s name first appeared in my notebook when I was in high school, close to a decade ago now. Since then I have tried dropping her in more worlds and story concepts than I can remember. It wasn’t until last year that I finally found the right combination, the story premise I loved enough to make her the main character. I’ve been working on it ever since, admittedly much more slowly than I’d like to admit. My goal is to have a terrible first draft finished by the end of 2017, and while that seems like a bit of a stretch goal at the moment, I’m still shooting for it.
I love this story. I really absolutely love it. So I thought I might share a few things about it that get me excited about it, even as I’m worrying it’s beyond my skill level to actually write.
I use the title Courting Shadows to talk about my WIP. I’ve actually changed the working title since then, but Courting Shadows is more Twitter friendly and also I’m keeping the *actual* title a secret for now.
A quick synopsis: Courting Shadows is an NA fantasy with a The Selection meets Game of Thrones vibe. The gate between the Fae and Mortal realms has been sealed too long and now magic is dying across the continent. Even in Yzmira, where the gate is located and magic appears to be thriving, fewer and fewer mages are born each year. In the prosperous mountain districts the change goes largely unnoticed, but the poorer valley towns are becoming restless and desperate. There are whispers of discontent and rumors of rebellion growing.
But those whispers are far from the walls of Cynder, where The Courting of the two Yzmiran princesses–Aysunadi, heir to the Yzmiran throne and the first Shadowmage born in a century, and Aylinera, one of the most powerful Lifemages in recorded history–is about to begin. Tensions are growing across the continent as magic fades from the nations further from the gate. Every nation is eager to strengthen their ties to the most prosperous of the five nations, and to the throne that will ultimately decide whether to re-open the gate or let magic die for good. Behind the fancy parties and fake smiles a dangerous game of politics begins to unfold. The future of the continent rests on the decisions of two young women–in more ways than even they realize.
Does that sound interesting? I hope that sounds interesting. I’ve never been good at describing my stories. Anyway, now that you’ve got the basics, here are a few things that I absolutely love about this story.
- Aysunadi and Aylinera are opposites in practically every way. Aysu is an introvert, while Aylin thrives around people. Aysu is impulsive, where Aylin is strategic and calculating. Aysu is fueled by emotion, while Aylin is all about logic practicality. But plot twist: they’re best friends. Instead of their differences driving them apart, they’ve kept them together. They realized early on that they balance each other out, and they’ve learned to use it to their advantage. As far they’re concerned, it’s them against the world.
- It’s not set in a medieval style world. I always find it strange that all fantasy worlds seem to be shaped from the same mold, so I’ve worked really hard to veer off of the traditional world-building path. Magic has developed into technology, so even though they don’t have electricity, they aren’t living in the middle ages either. One character, for example, uses enchanted earrings as hearing aids. Magic is also ingrained into some cultures’ infrastructure–it’s used for transportation, crop management, hygiene, etc.
- Different cultures use magic differently. In Yzmira, for example, it’s use could be described as elegantly practical. In general Yzmiran Mages don’t use magic just for the sake of using it, though younger generations have been breaking away from this view. In Ikbaa, however, magic wielders are called Enchanters, and they like to push the boundaries. They’re the tinkerers of the magically inclined. They develop new technologies by infusing objects with magic–self lighting lanterns, boat sails with built in wind, Water Magicked sprinklers that let you bathe standing up.
- Aysu has both my anxiety and my mood disorder. It’s actually been harder than I expected to write them in, but it’s really important to me that it be on the page and a clear part of her personal journey. Neurodivergents can be badasses too.
- It’s never super clear who the endgame ships are. Or at least I really hope it isn’t. I don’t want it to be obvious at the beginning who the twins will pick at the end, because then you’re just anxiously waiting for them to finally get together–I want the readers to go on the journey of getting to know all the suitors and choosing one with Aysu and Aylin.
- Speaking of suitors, there is no heteronormativity nonsense. Of the 7 suitors, 3 of them are women. And this is never questioned or considered odd by any of the characters. It’s totally normal and expected in this world.
- There are some fun slice of life type scenes scattered throughout the book. Like where Aysu, Aylin, and all their suitors go out dancing together and have a little too much to drink and wind up playing never have I ever on the beach. I just really love those types of scenes and think fantasy could use some more of them. They’re fun and cute, you know?
- There’s a super subtle Howl’s Moving Castle reference in one of the scenes. Before The Courting officially starts there’s a big party where hopeful suitors come from all over the continent to meet the princesses in hopes of being chosen as one of the seven who get to stay. The first time Aysu meets one of the 4 men who will be chosen to stay they dance to an upbeat violin waltz and Aysu tells him the story the song tells. The story is an adapted version of Howl’s Moving Castle, and the song is meant to be The Merry Go-Round of Life from the soundtrack. Because I just really love that song.
- The book is really focused on exploring the many, many shades of grey that exist between good and evil. There aren’t any evil characters in it, really. Just people making decisions that have consequences, unintended and otherwise. A big theme is that sometimes there is no good choice. Just a selection of bad ones. And the characters will have to grapple with making those choices and living with the consequences.
- Speaking of shades of grey, I also love that Aysu is a Shadowmage, because I feel like that would typically be a villain’s form of magic. Another thing I’m exploring with this book is the concept we have of darkness being bad. It’s something Aysu has internalized because of how others perceive her and her magic, but she slowly starts to question it. Afterall, darkness isn’t the absence of good, it’s merely the absences of light. And good can be done in the shadows as easily as atrocities can be committed in broad daylight.
There you have it! 10 things I love about my work in progress. I’m really so excited to keep working on this project. It is really quite big, and I often worry that it’s out of my league to write, but I think that means I’ve found something special. It will take a lot of drafts, but this is the one worth finishing. Finally. And I hope whenever I finally finish it there will be a few people out there who love it as much as I do.