One of the things that I have always enjoyed about fantasy is the way you can start from zero, build up enormous kingdoms and then loose yourself in these new worlds. You won't find the city of Temacus on any maps, and yet there's something strangely familiar about it. I have visited numerous cities: London, Miami, L.A., Tokyo, Vancouver, among others, and each in each place I've visited I've snatched up little ideas here and there that later became permanent fixtures in the city of Temacus. So while it's unlike any other city, we do see a little of Miami, or a little of London in there and that strange familiarity invites us.
During the course of writing this story, I found that the most remarkable change overcame my senses; Day to day scenes were brighter, details stood out, snippets of dialog that I would have with other people, or that I would overhear stuck in my headI read numerous other novels over the course of writing this story, some fantasy, some sci-fi, and some computer books as I studied for school. I was more alert and hungry through their reading than I can recall being at any time previous. . All of my faculties were devoted to being an "idea catcher". It's a nice way to live.
It would be impossible for me to overstate how valuable my "alpha" readers were: Jana and Jared. Every night that I finished a chapter, I would print it up, race upstairs, rustle the sheets and announce that I had a bedtime story. I read them aloud to her and she would listen, smiling, and always drop helpful comments in the range of "You used the word 'huge' three times in as many sentences," all the way up to "You know, Gin's had the boys to herself this whole time. She's going to feel a little defensive about Kenja joining."
Likewise, Jared was an indispensable source of constructive criticism an good humor. Some of the lines that he would jot in the columns included: "Temacus: an odd blend of New York, Ancient Babylon, and the San Diego Zoo." And, at the part where the in-flight battle was about to ensue: "Quick! See if O-Bi-Wan has deactivated the tractor beam!" Lines such as those kept me going.
I've read a number of Fore/After -word sections in a number of books, and the authors occasionally relate that one of the difficult things about writing a novel is that you've seen the story played out in your head so many times, that it's tedium itself to go through the slow process of writing it down. I think it's supposed to work that way. There are some scenes where you discover as it comes out on the page that it's not quite how you imagined, but for the most part, the scenes go round and round in your head until you finally get them down. I admit, I still play out the final scene in Rolly's bar with the band playing and everyone dancing whenever I need a pick-me-up.
One night, Jared and I were talking on the phone and our conversation turned to talking about what a really great place Earth is and how much we like living here. "It's my favorite planet to live on," I quipped.
"Yeah," Jared responded, "except for maybe Rone."
"That's true, I added," I do have a lot of friends there."
And perhaps that's the most rewarding aspect of writing. Sure, Rhoden is a little uppity and taciturn, Brogan bosses me around, Tavis likes to mope sometimes, Kenja can be a little forward, and Gin can really be annoying, but they come through for you in the end, and on balance, you'd be hard pressed to find a nicer group of friends.
So much has changed over the course of writing Far From Home. My experiences have enlarged, my eyes have opened wider, and I've learned more from Tavis and company than I ever imagined I would.
And that, should tell a story all its own.