Today I'm talking with Craig Comer about his co-written fantasy book, THE ROADS TO BALDARIN MOTTE.
1) Tell us about the book.
The Roads to Baldairn Motte is a mosaic fantasy novel centered around the conquest for an empty throne. The novel consists of three novellas, each written by a different author, and each telling a different point of view of the same battle.
The captain of the Black Wind is forced into the service of the powerful Earl of Gaulang. Ensnared in a tangle of bargains and betrayal, the captain and his crew fight for survival, finding allies in the unlikeliest of places.
To the north, the commander of the Titan Guard, the elite fighting force of Lord North, travels to the edge of civilization to enlist the help of barbarian giants known as the Marchers. But such aid comes at a cost, and the price of victory may spell doom for all.
From simple crofts, farms, and villages come the ranks of the engaging armies. A crofter hunts for his missing sons at the peril of his life and honor, while a miller follows his lord to battle, eager to rattle spears against enemy shields. Hungry and exhausted, both men will find they are but dander upon the wind in the great game of the Passions.
Yet struggle as they might, all roads will lead them to the ruins at Baldairn Motte.
2) Why did you and your co-writers decide to write linked novellas?
The whole idea started with Ahimsa Kerp wondering what the men fighting with Sauron, in The Lord of the Rings, thought they were fighting for. We batted that nugget around for a while and really liked the notion that no one is the "bad guy" in their own story. So we decided we'd create a world and scenario, and each tell a different point of view. Part of the fun was not knowing what the others would come up with, as far as our characters' rationale and motivation.
3) The appeal of fantasy often lies in its well-developed alternative worlds. Tell us about the world of this collection.
All the power in our realm resides in the southern city of Fairnlin, which has established its dominance over the prior few centuries. It is the center of commerce, where access to the northern mines and southern timber and farming lands converge. In what we call the North, which is actually the middle of our realm, we have a pair of duchies. But these regions were once the seats of kings, so there is a seperation of culture and authority which still resides. In the far north are a race of barbarian giants known as the Marchers. They are largely dismissed by the southern lords, perhaps a bit too much...
The northerners all believe in the Green People, who lived in their lands long before them, while the southern Passions have spread across the realm as the dominate source of faith. These are a notion of compultions that drive men to act, made tangible through Orders. The Order of Balin, for instance, focuses on compassion, and is largely made up of leeches who tend the sick; while the Ordained are an order who fight to maintain what they consider the natural status quo.
When the realm is thrown into chaos by the death of the king, all the animosity between north and south, the Passions and their Orders, secret societies, feuding lords--it all erupts into war.
4) What went into creating the world? Fantasy world-building can be a complicated affair. Internal consistency is vital for verisimilitude. How did you manage this with three separate authors?
Each of our novellas is a journey story, and it worked out nicely that each of us chose a different region of the world to populate. Our stories all wind up at the same place, the ruins of Baldairn Motte, so we started with a shared description of the battlefield, but the rest largely came out of our writing.
It was in the revision phase that we were able to add in details from each other's novellas, so that the whole was kept consistent and felt lived in.
5) This collection centers around different people touched by battle. Is there a central theme linking the collections, or do they each explore warfare and the setting in unique ways?
Besides wanting different vantage points, one of the key ideas we wanted to explore was the notion of the everyman being caught up in this war, where they had very little they could control. We don't focus much on the movings of the high lords or the actual players vying for the throne. Insted, our stories are about the conscripted ship captain, the soldier, and the farmer.
For my novella, THRALLS OF THE FAIRIE, I really wanted to focus on what it would be like if you were a local peasant and all these armies came crashing down onto your fields and villages, putting your life in jeopardy not only for the course of the battle, but its total effect on your way of life. Your livestock is gone; your crops are gone; you're worrying over your wife and kids, and your liege lord is asking you to shut up and stand there with a spear.
6) Is the world of The Roads to Baldairn Motte one you'll be revisiting? If so, do you want to explore a different aspect of the world?
We definitely have considered revisiting. There are so many more stories we could tell, so many side characters that pop up during the course of this book who warrant an investigation of their own. For myself, I'd like to see how the destroyed harvest, the diseases spreading from the dead and dying, the influx of wandering brigands, how do these affect the men of Burn Gate and the other villages near the battlefield? It's one part of the fantasy genre that fascinates me--just because the hero has won and/or the new king crowned, doesn't mean the smallfolk have food on the table!