So what’s my next novel going to be?

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me mentioning this: I’m working on a new novel. Worldbuilding began at Furnal Equinox while I was sitting at my dealer’s table, and I’m nearly finished a chapter of rough draft.

Concept art of the new novel's main characters. (Can you tell I like drawing birds more than drawing humans?)

Concept art of the new novel’s main characters. (Can you tell I like drawing birds more than drawing humans?)

It’s still very rough, of course, but the tentative title is Tinderstrike. This is the story of Eino, a middle-aged woman who’s been working the fields for decades and has very little to show for it. If she hopes to provide for herself in her declining years, she’ll need some extra income. So Eino secretly goes out trapping in the forest — and in her inexperience, she gets stuck in one of her own traps. Unable to free herself, she uses communication magic to call a phoenix (which are highly intelligent, crow-like birds, known for using flint and pyrite to start fires). And after the phoenix uses Eino’s knife to cut her free, the phoenix makes off with it. Since that knife was Eino’s most valuable possession — and part of her retirement resource — she has to find that phoenix.

But the phoenix didn’t just take that knife because it’s shiny. She’s trying to pay off a looming price of her own — to the leviathans, a race of subterranean water dragons that humanity knows very little about.

Tinderstrike takes place in a fantasy realm loosely based on the Himalayas and surrounding Asian countries. The dry, high-altitude climate means that local plant life is mostly coniferous. Magic-rich flowers are rare and valuable.

Why does Eino have deer-like ears and horns in the concept art? Because in this world, humans develop animal traits as they age. It’s thought unseemly to be anything except a human, so non-human features are kept covered up with clothing as much as possible. Full transformation in old age is thought to be worse than death. Eino has early-onset deer features, so she was abandoned by her upper-class family at a young age, and now her time to provide for herself is growing short.

This is part of the new writing direction I was talking about. It’ll have plenty of non-humans with viewpoints of their own, but it’ll also have broader appeal (I hope) than the Stories of Aligare. I’ll let you folks know when Tinderstrike is near completion!


4 Comments on “So what’s my next novel going to be?”

  1. All the best with your new story, Heidi. It sounds wonderfully interesting!

  2. I love the concept, and am tremendously impressed by someone “on the young side” thinking in such interesting metaphorical ways about the process of aging. It sounds like the line between humans and animals where consciousness and intelligence are concerned is fungible in your world, so whether taking on animal traits is actually degenerative or not – and whether aging involves degeneration at all – will be interesting to explore. On a side note, George MacDonald, the Victorian fantasy author I did my last post about (http://paulareednancarrow.com/2014/03/17/corage-god-mend-al/) , uses the concept of “devolution” in The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie to address how people degenerate spiritually. It sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t.

    • Thanks, Paula! I’ve always found older protagonists more complex and interesting than teenagers, even when I was a teenager. I’d rather see skilled, experienced characters than yet another ignorant, rebellious kid.

      And Eino will definitely learn and adjust her worldview as the story goes on. Her fear of becoming an animal — taught to her by society — is inspired by the way some humans insist we’re innately superior to the beasts. Lots of people think animals are nothing more than property and food, or they assume that non-human characters must be brainless things with less value than human characters. That sort of thing combines well with our (often well-founded) fear of growing feeble in old age. So, yes, there’ll be some exploration of that!

      Thanks also for sharing your blog post. MacDonald and his version of courage sound like the makings of great storytelling, for sure.


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