Around this time two years ago, I received my latest review copy in the mail. It was a new Ford Street title, Solace and Grief by one Foz Meadows. It was the first in a series called The Rare and had an elegant black cover like many another YA vampire novel, but once I opened it, I discovered the difference.
It wasn’t actually a vampire novel. The heroine, Solace Morgan was a vampire, yes, born that way, and there was a vampire community with an interest in her, but there were no sparkly vampires, no brooding Byronic male vampire to make girlish hearts flutter. What there was, instead, was a group of young X-Men types, of which she was just one member. There was one, for example, who could summon stuff from elsewhere, very handy for grocery shopping when you didn't have money. My favourite was the one who could turn into a giant house cat. And it all happened in and under the streets of Sydney!
Since then, a sequel, The Key To Starveldt, has appeared. The urban fantasy of the first is replaced by something else. I’ll let Foz tell you about it herself. And thank you, Foz, for kindly agreeing to write this post for The Great Raven!
Sometimes, writing stories is like trying to pick up a river: no matter how much water you grab, there's always more rushing by.
Solace and Grief is a book that happened by accident. Having finally divested itself of the Great Unpublished Epic whose constant destruction and recreation dominated my adolescence, my brain was gaping wide enough that a passing story tripped on the edge and fell in. Which, honestly, is about as good an answer to the question "Where do you get your ideas?" as I'm ever likely to formulate. Ideas are like cats: you can call for hours and they'll never come, but sit down to work on something else and all of a sudden they're shoving themselves on the keyboard and yelling for sustenance.
But The Key to Starveldt was different. Not only was it a sequel, but a story set in large part on a different plane of reality. Having survived their encounter with Sanguisidera at the end of Solace And Grief, my characters ended up in a place called the Rookery: a pan-dimensional market world where nothing is as it seems. Everything there is strange and fantastic, but despite being hugely fun to create, it was like the unreality of the setting had found a way to bleed back into my writing of it. The plot refused to stay still, constantly churning and thrashing about like a river over rapids. Every time it felt like I'd pinned down where things were headed, an alternative telling would leap up, salmon-like, and catch my attention. I backtracked constantly, introducing in new characters in one version only to erase them from the next. Partly it was excitement: I was writing a sequel! But mostly, I suspect, it was the sheer hedonistic thrill of describing an environment where almost no rules applied.
Here's a paradox: freedom is sometimes restrictive. With so much I could potentially have my characters do, it was obscenely difficult to narrow their options down. Over and over, I tried to explore the setting with them, only to find that, once again, I'd written myself into a dead end. And then, after several abortive drafts, I finally realised what the problem was: I was trying to set them on a new adventure when they were already in the middle of one. All at once, the story came clear. Though still a gorgeous world, the point of the Rookery wasn't external exploration, but internal. After everything they'd been through, my characters were at an emotional breaking point, unable to continue without first mending themselves. All I had to do was poke them where it hurt, and watch what happened.
(Never let it be said that authors are benevolent gods. We're not. We're anything but.)
The resulting book is one I'm immensely proud of. The Key to Starveldt is a story, not just about visiting strange new worlds, but about exploring the even stranger realms we build inside ourselves. It's a story about secrets and mistakes, and what happens when one becomes the other. It's about loving people, and losing them. It's an often silly adventure through a dreamscape - and I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
If you want to know more about this author, check out her blog, Shattersnipe: Malcontent & Rainbows. For information about her two books in the Rare series, go to the Ford Street Publishing site.
Foz Meadows used to live in Melbourne, but is currently based in Scotland. We can only hope she’ll come back some time!