The inspiration for Road to the Soul came like a match strike, lit by my publisher Stephanie Smith in the spring of 2008. I wasn’t looking for ideas at the time or even thinking about new characters. Far from it!
Stephanie and I were going over the ‘proof reader queries’ for The Spell of Rosette, a gruelling process of discussing the copyedit questions. My first novel was nearly ready to print, save for these scribbles and marks still waiting in the margins. We got to page 131, a moment in the story where Rosette stops to collect herself. She sits under a jade statue of a Were-fey, a winged serpent-like creature leaping out of an ‘angry’ sea.
Steph asked, ‘Kim, why is the sea angry?’
I said, ‘Because it surrounds the Southern Continent which is . . . in trouble.’
‘Really?’ Steph was interested. ‘What kind of trouble?’
‘Big,’ I said to HarperCollins Voyager’s Associate Publisher. ‘Big, big trouble.’
‘I see . . . Will it appear in future books?’ she wanted to know.
Pause . . .
‘Yes.’ I said. ‘It will.’
And that was it. The story of the lost Southern Continent and a magical Were-fey named Quillian had begun.
In the end, the Were-fey statue at Treeon Temple wasn’t depicted in a roiling sea, but the story had gotten a foothold and there was no stopping it. The deeper answer to the question—‘Why is the sea angry?’—has turned into the Road to the Soul and one jade Were-fey has come to life in full Technicolor.
Were-fey are amazing creatures and like most of my ideas, they began with a grain of truth. I wanted to portray a sentient, non-human being with a sharp mind, agile body and Shakespearian wit. This Were-fey had to be adept in four elements–land, sea, air, and time. He had to be special, the last of his kind.
My first reference for creating him was Archaeopterx, the Greek name for ‘ancient wing.’ This first ‘bird’ was a sharp toothed, claw-winged, feathered dinosaur that lived in the late Jurassic period, 150 million years ago. I mixed in the Bird of Paradise for a brilliant plumage and the Loon for underwater grace and fishy appetite. Thus was born Quillian, a perpetually hungry, telepathic, highly vocal risk taker, bonded to the young apprentice Tryn and the pivot on which Road to the Soul turns.
I had a very clear picture of Quillian in my mind but it wasn’t until my cover artist, Aaron Briggs, interpreted the depictions that I trusted readers would see him vividly as well. I hope they continue to engage with this character as book two in Quantum Encryption unfolds its epic journey.
Speculative fiction is full of ‘made-up’ creatures and environments from Tanith Lee’s Silver, Glenda Larke’s myriapedes, Karen Miller’s Vampire Butterflies and Mary Victoria’s World Tree. What are some of your favourite beings? What makes them so believable? I would love to hear more about it.