The Ilvannian Chronicles: How it all began
My love for fantasy began around the age of fifteen when my mother bought me a Dutch copy of The Lord of the Rings, and I devoured it. I bought the English version, which I read front to back four times before moving on to something else. At sixteen, I went to my first fantasy fair, got into Live Action Role Playing, text-based roleplay on fora (it's where I met my husband, but that's another story entirely), and writing. One of the characters I played online was Shalitha, an elven warrior with a tattoo covering one side of her body and a sassy, smartass, sentient sword to keep her company. As I got older and these fora I used to play at ceased to exist, I stopped writing altogether and Shalitha disappeared into the dark recesses of my mind. Until one October night, in 2018, a friend I met online challenged me to participate in NaNoWriMo. I wasn't sure what to write, until 4 lines resurfaced.
When past and future come together,
And love and hatred silently gather,
When darkness your only companion at night,
Only then shall be your return to the light.
It was the beginning of a prophecy I wrote for Shalitha so long ago that when it came back, I knew that was the story I should be working on. Bit by bit, some of who she was and where she came from emerged, and I remembered she was a Tarien, a princess of a realm she was exiled from before that roleplay ever started. She was from Ilvanna, a country I imagined to be cold for most part of the year.
I also remembered her love interest from the story I had started writing when I was seventeen, a young man named Grayden who would do anything for her, but when I started NaNo, I came up with a certain captain of her guard, and he soon took up the role of love-interest instead. Grayden does still have a role in the book, but it's entirely different to what I imagined.
Then there are the two brothers; Evanyan and Haerlyon. For reasons unknown to me, I've always loved the idea of having an older brother (maybe being the older sister sparked that). I love stories where the older brother is protective of their younger sister, and they'll go to hell and back if they have to. Evanyan and Haerlyon would definitely do that for Shal even though they know she'll probably fight her own way out of it.
Because I'm an avid fan of strong women, not necessarily physically strong, but capable, with emotions like every one else, who doesn't need a man to save her, I wanted to make Ilvanna a matriarchy. It wasn't something I often read in books, so, why not? Mind you, when I started writing this story, I never once in a million years imagined I would actually be publishing it (also another story entirely). So, I wrote what I liked, piecing the story together bit by bit until the last day of November and beyond.
The entire premise of the story changed when that same friend who convinced me to do Nano also persuaded me to publish the story. From that point onward, I had to look at the story from a different angle. I chose to go on to Instagram, and during my publishing journey, I met several people who helped me on my way. One of them suggested I should do more with the titles. I had Tari (Queen) and Tarien (princess), but I had regular military titles, for example.
And so the development of the Ilvannian language started (but that's a blog for another day).
Building Ilvanna and the world around it happened gradually. I'm not someone who plans it out start to finish (although after 3,5 years and 5 books, I am starting to get to the planning part) so the scenery evolved as I went. If I were to do it again, I might start with world building first and writing later, although I do have to admit that I built the world in The Erlandian Chronicles in quite a similar fashion.
I love the discovery process even though it's a long and challenging one. Things might change as I go, so it's important to keep a good account of everything (which I don't, so don't be me). But I know my characters, and I know where they need to go.
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