Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Fifteen Year Journey to Completing Seven Thunders

As readers, we don't seldom believe we'll ever get to know the authors of the books we love.  In the social media age there's a slightly better chance of that happening, but then there's also a good chance you'll know more about what they do than who they are.

Allow me to change some of that for you now: I walk everywhere and the most imaginative thing I do in my life has nothing to do with my writing, but rather how I interact with my sister's cat, which is an extension of how my whole family interacted with our dog.

Before I go much further, let me just direct you to my second-ever interview, for the upcoming Temporal Element anthology, where you may find out even more things about me you never thought you'd care about.  Here can read it here.

Anyway, I just finished writing Seven Thunders.  I started writing it in October last year, but really the process began in 1998, and really it started in 1995, and I can only go that far back because the past gets a little hazy.  All I can say with any certainty was that I was fourteen when there's evidence I could show you to support the origins of this book.

I was a teenage Star Trek fan.  I was a fan of Star Trek when I was younger, too, and my memories of Star Wars seem to go back as far as I can remember, because my family obsessively watched those films for years and years, but I begin by saying that I was a teenage Star Trek fan because Star Trek was always on TV.  I watched syndicated reruns of the original series, made my way through The Next Generation, and continued right through Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, the last of which was on TV as I was preparing to figure out what it meant for me to be an adult.

When I was fourteen I began formalizing my interest in Star Trek by lovingly creating a pastiche.  In these stories I created my own version by following three captains rather than a single one, though they collapsed into one and that's the only one I still remember much less use.  I created a new generation, too, and then other platforms other than starship adventures.  In 1998, for some reason, I decided to tell a more singular story, one that didn't fit the format of episodic adventures, serialized or otherwise.  It was originally called Paradise Lost, even though I knew someone else had used that title.

The first mark of inspiration I can come up with is an advertising campaign for the DC mini-series Kingdom Come, which used language from the Book of Revelation in the Bible, specifically referring to the notable superheroes involved as the metaphorical seven thunders of John's vision.  And that's why the title eventually became Seven Thunders.

The name of the lead character seemed to spring pretty organically, borrowed from someone I knew from school and a baseball player (Nolan Ryan).  The rest of them took a little more developing.  The female lead eventually found her name in the book The Unredeemed Captive, which I read in college for a history class.  Another lead (there are, naturally, seven of them) took his surname from a favorite teacher in high school, and the curious thing was that this character already existed in another series of stories from what would eventually become known as the Space Corps, and I knew from the start that this wouldn't make him the main character of Seven Thunders but rather his best friend.

I started to think I knew these characters pretty well.  I remember watching The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and thinking that a lot of what I thought I knew about Seven Thunders simply wasn't enough.  It was around this time that I started writing actual stories based on the Space Corps universe.  Most of what I'd done and would continue to do was simply making notes, learning everything, plotting the stories rather than writing them.  I learned that the first story I ever wrote was not ultimately a story that I needed to write.  I already had that story.  It was Seven Thunders.  Even as I plotted many more stories, the one I had to write was Seven Thunders.  And so the years progressed and I plotted more stories, but never wrote any of them.  I never finished that first story.  Part of the reason why was because I was intimidated.  I planned something long, and I'd never written a long story before, and it was already taking longer than I'd thought before I realized how long it was taking, and then a chapter was eaten by a computer crash, and I stopped trying to write it entirely.

And I kept plotting stories.  The more I plotted the more I learned, and the more I learned the more I knew what was truly important, and what the shape of the whole thing was, and what needed to change and what already existed that could take new significance.  Basically learning that all the plotting was a good thing, and that all the time not writing Seven Thunders was a good thing.  For some reason I realized that Seven Thunders had to take the basic shape of the War of 1812, because it came to fascinate me, because it didn't seem to fascinate anyone else, and things like that can be used for inspiration perhaps more than things people know, because they can be surprised.  You can find all kinds of insight possible.  Of course, you can do the same with the things people know, or think they know.

Anyway, I kept learning new things about Seven Thunders, and I started writing books.  I don't mean to say that like it's any kind of accomplishment, because if anything I've learned that it really isn't, because all those people who say that it is really don't know what they're talking about.  Lots of people write books.  Lots of people don't publish lots of books because they get lots of books that lots of people write.  I learned a great deal about what it means for me to write a book, what kind of book I write, while writing these earlier books.  I learned my voice, and that was important.

Still, when I finally sat down to write Seven Thunders, I was still surprised.  Part of the reason I was surprised was because I'd never taken the time to write an extensive outline for it like I had with all the other Space Corps stories.  So that meant that most of what I was going to write would develop as I was writing, and this took even more development than I expected.  I started writing last October, thinking as it normally turns out that I would write the book in the three remaining months of the year. Except it didn't work out that way.

By January I wasn't done, and by February I hadn't written a word since December, and by March I had to force myself into just writing again, and this was good, because by then I had experienced and done what was necessary to finish the book.  I wrote a few more stories, and those became incorporated into Seven Thunders, and so all of this is to say that if I had written Seven Thunders at any other point in my life, in any other way, it wouldn't be what it is today, and I'm a writer who unfortunately believes that what happens is what was supposed to happen, even when it's frustrating experiencing what happens.  I'm happy with the shape the book ultimately took.

Sometimes I think it would take another book entirely to say everything there is to say about how Seven Thunders was written, the false starts and everything I assumed along the way.  To have finally written it and be done with it is something I always assumed would happen at some point, but I never knew what that point was, just somewhere on the horizon when things were anything but what they were and what they were becoming and what they became.  Well, now I know what they are, and I can relax a little, because I've completed a journey, closed a loop, and for me, a lot of life is about doing that.  Sometimes you know exactly where you're headed, and that still doesn't make it anymore clear.  So imagine when you don't know the destination...


  1. I know the feeling. CassaStar began over thirty years ago, influenced by similar shows and movies, but it took that long before I was ready to write the final version.
    Congratulations on a long but now successful journey!

    1. Interesting that we were on similar journeys! I ended up referencing your books one more time, as Cassanostra, a future retelling that one of the characters reads.

  2. I think every science-fiction writer dreams of Star Trek at one time or another Tony. Its another thing to see that dream come to life. Congrats on riding that long winding road.

    1. The one thing I didn't stress was that Space Corps diverged significantly from its Star Trek origins. Just for the record.


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