When I first started “A Cast of Stones” under a different title, I toyed with the idea of approaching it as an alternative European history kind of work. There had never been any other choice but Medieval, because of the themes I wanted to use, which for me meant the time period between 500 – 1500. Prior to 500 I would have to deal with the vestiges of the Roman Empire and after 1500, I would have to take in to account the effects of the Renaissance and the advancements in the technology of war. I wanted to use a period before cannon became the available on ship. At last I settled on 14th century Europe. But at the same time, I also wanted to build a mythos that was unique to my world, which meant I had to drop in my fantasy backstory here and there. One of my favorite chapters in the book which develops my world and ends with a really high creep factor is “Conger’s Tale.” So, for me, my world became a mix of our historical one and the fantasy one I had rattling around my brain.
After choosing the time frame, I started sweating the details so that my book would be believable as well as fun. This might seem strange for a fantasy, after all, many authors have written great fantasy without a discernible time frame or even mixing time frames. For example, if you were to read “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” by Stephen R. Donaldson, you would be hard pressed to identify a matching period in history. There simply isn’t one. There’s one castle in the story, but it’s called a keep and it was carved, not built, out of solid rock by giants. On the other hand, if you read “The Belgariad” by David Eddings, he seems intent on mixing as many time periods as possible. There are equivalents to knights in armor, roman legions, Vikings, English longbows, and others. Yet he manages to blend them all into a ripping good story.
Unlike Eddings, I chose to have a set time frame, not just because it fit the military aspects I needed, but because it lent itself to the religious aspects required. I needed to depict a church that worked mechanistically, ergo, I needed to place my story sometime before the reformation. This wasn’t required by my story, but I felt it would make a good subplot. Errol’s world is not only struggling with a war for survival, but is simultaneously dealing with a church that lost its way and must change. That idea is central to the second book in the series and provides much of the backdrop for Martin’s character.
In the end, I chose the 13th – 14th century. It fit the bill and didn’t pose the plotting problems of later time frames. However, it’s important to keep from ascribing too much weight to this choice. After all, I was writing a fantasy. The purpose of the time period was to serve more as a receptacle for ideas of magic and setting and character. It would have been a mistake to allow the historical reality of 14th century Europe to dictate the book even though I tried to stay true to that period as much as possible.
I think the most important thing for a fantasy writer to remember is consistency within their story. Eddings and Donaldson show that almost anything will work, but the important this is to stay internally consistent. I’ve read stories where the author disobeys his own rules and the results are disappointing. The temptation is there for all of us, especially when we write ourselves into a corner, but fantasy readers are at once a forgiving and demanding bunch. We can handle wizards in Chicago and time travel to King Arthur’s Court, but we won’t tolerate the author making up the rules on the fly.
A Cast of Stones
An Epic Medieval Saga Fantasy Readers Will Love
In the backwater village of Callowford, Errol Stone's search for a drink is interrupted by a church messenger who arrives with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Desperate for coin, Errol volunteers to deliver them but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he's joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.
Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom's dynasty is near an end and a new king must be selected. As tension and danger mount, Errol must leave behind his drunkenness and grief, learn to fight, and come to know his God in order to survive a journey to discover his destiny.
Patrick Carr was born on an Air Force base in West Germany at the height of the cold war. He has been told this was not his fault. As an Air Force brat, he experienced a change in locale every three years until his father retired to Tennessee. Patrick saw more of the world on his own through a varied and somewhat eclectic education and work history. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1984 and has worked as a draftsman at a nuclear plant, did design work for the Air Force, worked for a printing company, and consulted as an engineer. Patrick’s day gig for the last five years has been teaching high school math in Nashville, TN. He currently makes his home in Nashville with his wonderfully patient wife, Mary, and four sons he thinks are amazing: Patrick, Connor, Daniel, and Ethan. Sometime in the future he would like to be a jazz pianist. Patrick thinks writing about himself in the third person is kind of weird.
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