The Writer Behind Arrival.

I promised to write more about the Arrival story line, but I think the relationship between author and story may be more relevent to others who read this blog.

Firstly, although it is the third novel in the series to be published it takes place at the beginning of the adventures. I can explain how it became left behind in the process of writing but why did I feel it necessary to go back in story time to write it? If you write or know anything about writing fiction you cannot fail to have heard the admonition ‘show, don’t tell’.

It dawned on me that this aphorism applies to the basic scenario of fiction as well. In the other novels I explain that unusual circumstances have marooned a group of modern people in an analog of our 17th century Earth. I have described the difficulties and dangers arising from the cultural differences – but these are all ‘tells’. Arrival goes through this period in their troubles as a ‘show’. Even my editor, who has now read all three very attentively, commented after editing Arrival, “I understand the difficulties you describe after reading the scene in chapter 11″.

This suggests to me that every new novel will have the same problem if it’s plot requires grounding in previous events. Perhaps a straightforward or familiar set of circumstances might get by, but if you are attempting to delve into anything outside of conventional knowledge – better not tell, but show.

So, how did Arrival get left behind? To be brief, the whole scenario changed after I began writing the original novels. Two critiquers ganged up on me and said the scenario I had didn’t fly. I won’t even attempt to explain the original scenario, except to say I learned a great deal about cosmology and modern physics from trying to make the time shift between the 17th century and modern times work in a computer simulation. All I’ll say here is that if you try to pull tricks with Einstein’s equations you will gain a deeper understanding why he said that space and time are inextricably entwined. As a result I changed the background to an inexplicable displacement into an alternate universe and left it at that. In the opening chapter of Arrival the people aboard Iskander are astounded to arrive at the alternate Earth, and they never do figure out how it  happened.

Two novels that I had written in the old scenario no longer worked (they weren’t very good either) so I began rewriting in the new scenario at “Deadly Enterprise”, that was then at an early enough stage to change. Neither of the originals was Arrival, but along with my revising of notes on characters and scenario I wrote its trial chapter – what I call an idea fixer – that subsequently became incorporated into the novel. The history that Gisel had been a medal-winning gymnast in her pre-teens and switched to competition foils at 13 were concocted to explain the position she held aboard Iskander, and the few years spent in the care of her grandmother in Greece followed as soon as I decided to kill the Roman Empire on Gaia and make Greek the language of scholarship.

Those two scrapped novels leave a hole in Gisel’s story that needs to be filled one day. The first included her reckless love affair with Lord Ricart and the second showed her almost dying aboard the privateer Zigany, both mentioned in “Deadly Enterprise”. While some chunks of the second, “In Harm’s Way”, can fit into a replacement novel, the first plot is beyond salvaging and so one day I must write an entirely new “Iskander’s Wildcat”. If Arrival attracts enough interest from readers who want another YA story, I have an ‘idea fixing’ chapter written that begins its sequel – to be titled “Masquerade”. This adventure takes place when Gisel is in her year of training that completes her father’s engineering course, followed by Hather’s medical practicum that sees Gisel qualify as an EMT. When her training with Hannan aboard the Sirius, now their covert operations launch, coincides with a hasty Iskander Security mission Gisel gets to put everything to use.

While thinking about visiting the local schools to try Arrival out on its intended audience it struck me why I began writing the adventures of Gisel Matah. I really have no experience of being a young woman. As a young fellow of that age I found it impossible to develop any relationship with girls. I just didn’t know how to talk – or more importantly – how to listen to them. Looking back it seems to be a function of growing up as an only child in the care of my widowed mother. When I reached puberty and started developing my own goals and methods to reach them, our beautiful relationship started to break down. My mother was a strong character and so becoming my own person meant regular battles with her. Having to fight off the domination of one female at home, I wasn’t about to develop a friendship with any of the females at school. They were enigmas, outside my world, except the girl I always competed with for top marks in history exams – who I always regarded as a deadly rival. It has taken me many years to learn to appreciate listening to the views and knowledge of my female peers – and perhaps much patience and understanding from my wife who has been here while the development has taken place.


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4 Responses to “The Writer Behind Arrival.”

  1. joylene Says:

    It never fails to amaze me how other writers accomplish their dream. You took on such a huge undertaking. My hats off to anyone who write historical. How you get everything straight is mind boggling.

  2. Joel Orr Says:

    Kudos to you for Doing the Right Things!

    Joel Orr
    You have a book inside you. I want to help you set it free!

  3. Margaret Fieland Says:

    “Arrival” sounds really interesting — I am a ‘way back sci fi fan and I’ve always liked alternate history stuff. Since I haven’t read the earlier Iskander novels, I now get to start from the beginning, so to speak.

  4. Penny Ehrenkranz Says:

    Thank you for sharing how your series developed. It’s an interesting approach to go back and start at the beginning after two books are already written. Reminds me of Frank Herbert’s son, Brian, going back and telling back story for Dune.

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