So what’s your book about?
Is there any more difficult question for an author to answer? I know I have a hard time with this one. After spending so much time (often years) crafting a novel, living inside the souls of your characters, building the intricate world in which they live, overseeing the progress of an invented history and chronicling the fictional exploits of your literary “children”, it’s hard to encapsulate all the diverse threads of a novel into a single statement.
Yet the market demands a “hook” or “premise” on which any novel can hang its metaphorical hat. After all, if readers don’t know what to expect, why should they even buy the book? Blind faith? Hardly. Word of mouth? Well, that’s the best advertising you can get . . . but consider the irony. If you as the author don’t come up with a satisfying answer to “What’s your book about?” then your early readers and reviewers are going to do it FOR YOU. They’re going to summarize, encapsulate and foreshorten your Massive Undertaking of Artistic Purity to a description worthy of a sound-byte (or at least a Facebook update). So authors are better-off coming up with their own answer to this big question, rather than leaving it up to somebody else to explain.
All of this begs the question: “What is SEVEN PRINCES about?”
If you look at the cover text, SEVEN PRINCES is about war. “An age of legends. An age of heroes. An age of war.” Now that’s a great tag line. It’s engaging, evocative, and it rings with mythic resonance. Ready for more irony?
Here’s the thing: I never considered this book a “war novel” when I was writing it. Yet war itself is definitely one of the themes that drives the characters and the plot. Some characters want to prevent war—they know the red tragedy and the pointless slaughter that it brings—while others actively seek war to prove themselves, to avenge wrongs, or simply as a means of grabbing power. So the concept of war itself is definitely buried in there. There’s even a conversation at one point between two characters who argue about the essential nature of Man as a war-like being. Is Mankind capable of living in peace—true peace—for long? That’s a question that also lies at the heart of SEVEN PRINCES. So yeah, it’s about war. But it’s also about a lot more . . .
SEVEN PRINCES is about family. It’s about sons (and daughters) living in the giant shadows of their fathers. It’s about generational differences, the human drive to change the world to suit our tastes, our desires, and our terrible pride. It’s about people . . . mostly members of various royal families embroiled in a conflict that goes back farther than known history.
SEVEN PRINCES is about sacrifice. It’s also about Wisdom, and the journey from youth to adulthood. It’s about the timeless depths of infinity, and the confining walls humanity builds about itself to avoid staring directly at the Shape of Eternity. It’s about hidden forces that move behind the veils of the known world and drive the currents of history, spinning the tapestry of civilization to suit cosmic ideals, theoretical imperatives, or wicked perversions. It’s about POWER. It’s about the mad fires of Love that burn us hotter than flames, and the killing frost of Hate that chills our beating hearts and splinters our souls.
SEVEN PRINCES is about intriguing characters caught in dire circumstances. The fact that most of them are members of royal families makes them no less human, no less relatable, no less interesting than common folk. In fact, it makes them MORE interesting. In most fantasy worlds the common folk are far too busy herding goats, building roads, tending crops, and generally making a living to explore the great Emotions, Conflicts, and Adventures that make for epic storytelling. And besides, who among us hasn’t wished to be a member of the glorious elite at least once in his or her life? The closest that most of us ever come to being a prince or princess is when we visit Grandma’s house and she spoils us rotten. So this book may also be about the burdens carried by royalty . . . but it’s far more about the burdens of simply being human.
SEVEN PRINCES is about the clash of sword and shield, the fury of unleashed sorceries, the unyielding passions light and dark that drive us to our destinies. It’s about loyalty, friendship, jealousy, rage, vengeance, death, and the overwhelming power of blood. (Both the literal and hereditary kinds.)
This description of the novel may not work too well as a sound-byte, and it’s definitely too long for a Tweet or a status update. But stories are too complex to be completely reduced to a single line or two. So let this piece serve as a brief-yet-comprehensive answer to the most common question I’ve been asked about the First Book of the Shaper.
I can already hear the next question echoing at me from somewhere in the near future: “So what’s the NEXT book about?”
I’ll tell ya later.