As the title says, in this post I'll be answering the AuthorTube Work-In-Progress ("WIP") Tag. The original WIP tag is unavailable and I’m uncertain as to who the original creator is, but here is the link. My first draft of Marrow is drawing to a close, so I decided to do this tag!
What is the working title of my book?
Marrow, as in “bone marrow”. I briefly considered *Belladonna*, but I think that defeats one of the major themes of the novel.
What genre does it belong to?
Dark Fantasy. It is not what I would necessarily describe as “traditional” dark fantasy, being written in first person and having a fairly limited scope as far as plot scale goes, but it some of the themes it deals with are definitely not for the faint of heart.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
“An elite artisan gifted with the ability to sculpt metal with magic recounts the events that led up to her arrest on charges of treason, espionage, and murder.”
Where did the idea for Marrow come from?
Marrow the story was born out of pondering the shockwave consequences of my other novel, Silverblood, which primarily deals with the resurgence of a magical necrotic plague. The events of Silverblood (which I won’t go into here) had myriad far-reaching consequences, the most dire of which in the context of Marrow is laying the foundation for the Candrish Civil War.
As for Marrow the character, I wanted to explore someone who was uncertain of her own morals, ethics, and especially her identity. This was a pretty easy thing to slide into the characterisation of someone in a profession such as hers. Marrow is an elite artisan called an uzņika. Uzņika are inspired by Japanese geisha/geiko, but are in no way meant to be an accurate or faithful representation of them. Uzņika are trained in classical dance, voice, instruments, calligraphy, and the art of holding effective and engaging conversations to entertain their patrons. Marrow herself is gifted in a form of elemental magic, “metalweaving”, which she uses to sculpt metal. Uzņika are also easily the most educated group of Brisian women and are more well-educated culturally than most low-to-mid-grade nobility. The training process takes six years to complete and is extremely demanding; around ¾ of potential uznika fail out before getting their license. Uzņika perform under a registered name (Lady + Flower/Herb/Tree/Spice/Plant), which is unrelated to their real name. Marrow goes through two stage names and three legal names throughout the course of the story. Because of this and other things she deals with, Marrow struggles with rather extreme issues with her identity, paranoia, impulsivity, and feeling “empty” or unlike a real person. I would not say that Marrow's mental state is the primary focus of the story in that it is not what's entirely driving the plot, but it is key to why she does many of the things she does throughout the course of the novel. However, even if I untangled her from the story, there are very strong lore-based reasons for the things that happen.
Who or what inspired you to write Marrow?
Marrow began as a short little novella idea as a palette cleanser for Silverblood, and then I quickly realized it was going to be a bit more involved than that.
What other books would you compare Marrow to?
I...honestly am not sure. I’m sure something like it exists, but I have not come across it yet. If you have any ideas, feel free to send them to me and I will check them out!
Will Marrow be self-published or represented by an agency?
Some of those who have read snippets have encouraged me to seek representation for it, but whether I do that that will depend on a number of factors. I don’t hate the idea of trade publishing, but I have some reservations that I feel would be stupid to ignore. Briefly, I genuinely abhor the idea of giving up a lot of my artistic freedom with my work because they are such a huge part of who I am. I am very protective of things like covers, character art, film rights, audiobook rights, and similar. So, for now my answer is “Uncertain”. I just want to enjoy writing the book.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
If you don’t count the time I took away while dealing with real-life issues, it will have taken me around four months. If you do, about one and one-quarter year.
Which actors would you choose to play in your movie rendition?
I have never envisioned any of my stories as live-action films; one of my aforementioned reservations has to do with film rights, because if anything visual comes of it I would like that to be an animated miniseries. Marrow could potentially work as an animated film, but I am iffy on that. Anyway, as far as voice actors go and keeping in mind that none of them look anything like their characters, I think I would choose…
Alexis Bledel as Marrow
Charles Dance as Artis Maj Melidi
Carice van Houten as Rutgita Maj Melidi
Max Pirkis as Pashzak
Jean Gilpin as Elgana Yolkerev
Saorise Ronan as Martere Maj Sutki
Joseph Fiennes as Tavars Maj Impozars
Diana Rigg as Ozelyga Maj Impozars
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Marrow is presented as if it’s a run-of-the-mill first-person past-tense political intrigue romp, but in the final chapter the tense switches to first/present and you find out that what you probably thought was going on is not actually what was going on. It’s really hard to explain this without spoilers <_<. Marrow the character is somewhat unique in that because of the way the story is structured she doesn’t really appear to have any obvious personal goals until you get to the twist at the end. I know that can send off alarm bells in some of people cos passive or obfuscated characters are very easy to make boring, but it seems to be working out so far with test audiences.
In terms of worldbuilding…
Early Imperial Rome, Byzantium, Han and Qin dynasty China, Cyprus, limited Greek influence, and Tsarist Russia in the styling of some titles specifically.
Marrow makes heavy use of the Roman concept of patria potestas, or “power of the father”. Whereas Silverblood takes place in a matriarchal society, Marrow takes place in the Empire of Bris, whose society is almost totally male-centric. Men are generally favored and privileged in law, business, most religious positions, and everyday society. However, Marrow takes place during the reign of the first and only Empress of Bris, Ozelyga, who was inspired by both Wu Zetian, and Theodora of Byzantium. Her reign is the source of a lot of issues within the Empire as she has introduced many (to the Brisian layman) odious concepts such as broadening women's rights and reforming several major laws concerning slavery).
In terms of architecture, Rome definitely has the most influence in Brisia (the capital, which is where the majority of the story takes place). Byzantium has heavily influenced Brisian fashion. Örös, a tributary state under Brisian rule on an island far south of the mainland, takes a lot of its influence from Cyprus and Greece. Early Imperial China has influenced some of the inner court structure (both the physical structure and the social), some fashion, and a few naming conventions. The Brisian language is derived mostly from Latvian phonology. The conlangs of my setting are almost all derived from the Eastern European or Baltic language families (with the exception of the Seadweller languages, which are derived from the Polynesian and Chinese language families).
All that said, I think that about sums things up! But before you go, don’t forget to answer this week’s Weekly Topic!
Journal it, think about it, send it as a comment, keep it to yourself, do whatever you like! I always appreciate your comments, likes, and subscriptions. Thanks again for reading, and I’ll see you sometime soon!
Goal One: Finish chapters 9, 11, and 12 from Marrow
I’ve technically already begun chapters 9 and 11, both of which are quite long, so I’ve tacked on 12 as well because it will be a short and easy chapter coming in at only one scene. I’m saving chapter 10 for November because I will be moving cross-country around Thanksgiving week and it will be its own beast to get through.
Marrow was supposed to be a novella-length side project to help me while I was dealing with burnout from my main project, titled Silverblood. I very quickly realised that Marrow was going to be a bit more involved than I intended. So, I did what any reasonable and well-adjusted author would do by panicking and pretending it didn’t exist for a while.
After some back-and-forth with Silverblood and my side-side project Thirty-Three Tales of War (interspersed with periods of intense burnout where I got absolutely nothing done), I eventually returned to Marrow and decided it was the story I would dedicate myself to finishing this year.
Briefly, I will call Marrow a fantasy spy novel kind of but not really. Longly, I’ll say (in very informal summary)
Marrow is the story of a young Candrish girl adopted by a high-ranking Brisian nobleman who sends her to a special art school to become an uzņika, sort of like a geisha or a tawaif. Before Marrow is allowed to obtain her license to conduct business as an uzņika within the Empire of Bris, she must contract with a sponsor to guarantee reimbursement of debt to her father and the school—and this is where the trouble begins. Unable to find a sponsor and with her graduation date looming, Marrow begs her father to convince one of his illustrious colleagues to help her—which lands her the support of the Candrish Yellow Queen of Chariv, who traitorously rebelled against their home country’s lawful ruler. The Yellow Queen suspects the Empire is clandestinely working against her and wants Marrow to discover what, if anything, is going on. Enter absolute mayhem as Marrow is sent to the Imperial Court, which leads to a series of events including sabotage, counter-spying, dueling, metal-weaving, and multiple crises of identity.
Marrow is unique in that it is my only work thus far that is A) written in first person, B) contains only one point-of-view and C) uses a noun for the main character’s name instead of an in-world one. It is a huge departure from my norm, but that’s because of this lovely thing called x-treme insurmountable burnout. Although it is a lot less violent than Silverblood, it’s not really any less dark. Quickly, I would also like to clarify that neither uzņika, geisha, nor tawaif are or were consorts or prostitutes, and while uzņika resemble these traditions, they are not intended to be an accurate or faithful representation of either.
I have no idea if I want to try to trade publish Marrow or simply self-publish it. Thinking about trade publishing makes me want to forget writing is a thing that exists, so onto the next thing!