“Why did you choose to return to high fantasy?”

Touchstone by Melanie RawnBy Melanie Rawn

Who says I had a choice?

Touchstone knocked me upside the head. This is the second time this has happened to me. The first was Dragon Prince, and I remember it quite clearly.

Memorial Day weekend, 1985. I’d been reading The Kingdom: Arabia and the House of Sa’ud, and my fancy was caught by a description of a group of princes going out hawking, with the flowing robes and the hawks on their arms…riding in Jeeps. I liked everything about this image (except for the Jeeps!) so I began playing with it, just to see if it would take me anywhere. Three days later I had the first four chapters of Dragon Prince.

This happened again with Touchstone. May 9, 2009, nine o’clock in the morning (this time I made a note of it). I’d gotten to sleep at about 3 or so, and woke up with this thing in my head. Didn’t even change out of my nightgown. Went into my office, fired up the computer, and I could scarcely type fast enough. The next time I was even marginally aware of my surroundings, it was well past noon.

Neither instance, of course, was entirely the gobsmacking it sounds. Things accumulate in your head; you’re squirreling away ideas and information whether you know it consciously or not. Eventually it reaches critical mass and demands your absolute undivided attention.

The Exiles series and the Spellbinder books were different; they developed over many months, and I was aware of the process. Golden Key was unique in my experience in that Jennifer Roberson, Kate Elliott, and I created a whole world and a lengthy plotline during a weekend at Jennifer’s house. We wanted to have everything we needed (or at least most of it) before we started writing our individual sections of the book.

But with Touchstone, as with Dragon Prince, the thing was just simply there. Plenty of details to be worked out, of course: the look of the characters and the places, a map, the names (always a problem, but getting worse these days—why is it that every new pharmaceutical on the market sounds like a planet or a city or a character in a fantasy or SF novel? I mean, wouldn’t “Ambien” make a great name for a province?), and all that sort of thing. Still, the characters and overarching concepts were there, and, in my agent’s term, I went into “berserker mode.”

The thing that startled me most was that none of these people are in positions of power within their society. They’re working-class gits, teenaged boys with a chip on each shoulder and more stashed in their pockets. Cade, the certified tormented artist; Jeska, the instinctive actor and enthusiastic ladies’ man; Rafe, the solid and reliable strength behind them all; and Mieka, the key to their success and gleeful purveyor of lunacy. I’ve never written people like them before, and I’m having an indecent amount of fun.

So it’s not that I chose to do something new in the high fantasy genre. It was just suddenly there in my head. And now that it’s in your hands, I hope you have as good a time reading it as I’m having writing it.

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