How do you come up with your ideas?
This is the number one question I get asked--but it's a little broad, isn't it? Silly question-askers. Let's focus on the part people usually want to know about:
How did you come up with this weird/cool/ghostly/insert-adjective-here magic system?
The short answer: Brandon Sanderson and Buddhism.
The long answer? When you love a genre like I love fantasy, when you grew up reading every book you could get your hands on and spending your allowance to get more, you don't end up wanting to write run-of-the-mill stuff (even if I do love a little Conan the Barbarian). You want to write something unique--the best untold version of the genre you love.
Epic fantasy is that genre for me. If I break it down that means cool magic, interesting characters, high-stakes struggles and epic settings. And I wanted to make each of those in The Resonant Saga awesome in a way slightly different than anyone else had done.
When it comes to magic, we're all familiar with the Chosen One or Chosen Ones, the select group of people who can use/learn/acquire magic, and go on to fight each other for the fate of the world.
So I thought, what if everyone was the chosen one? What if there were no limits on who could use magic? Or what if magic was its own limit?
Thus the voices all people hear in the Resonant Saga: the key to their magic and at the same time the barrier holding them back from it. If you've read Pauper's Empire you know there's a lot more to it than that (and just wait till Apostate's Pilgrimage!), but that was the basic thought.
Still, I didn't invent that all out of thin air: I read Brandon Sanderson, master of inverting fantasy expectations and still fulfilling them. And I studied cultural anthropology, learning to follow the mindsets of people raised in very foreign traditions. It wasn't conscious, but I wouldn't be surprised if Buddhism was lurking somewhere in my subconscious when I came up with the magic, because of its belief (Theravada Buddhism, anyway) that everyone could become enlightened (read: magical) if they worked at it.
There's a movement in fantasy right now to get away from European fantasy, which I like because I think we have a lot more stories to tell, about a lot more kinds of people and places than have been told so far. But to really tell new stories we need more kinds of ideas too, and the Chosen People Magic smacks to me too much of a lot of our own world's more unfortunate history, as written by the victors.
Can we still love fantasy that tells stories that don't come from our own cultural background? You tell me. I think the genre was made for it.
You've reached the electronic home of author Levi Jacobs. Cleverly hidden in this site are stories I've written, news about things I've published, excerpts from my novels, and dark secrets about my other life as an itinerant fruit salesman. Enjoy!
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