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Several elements influenced the creation of The Sworn. The book’s action takes place against the backdrop of war and plague. I’ve been fascinated by plague since I was a kid listening to my grandmother’s stories about surviving the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Some of the background details in the book were borrowed and/or adapted from contemporary accounts of the social impact of the flu in some of the hardest hit areas like Philadelphia, where my grandmother lived.
I also enjoy fantasy that has both a strong primary element of action as well as rich character interaction, including romance. Characters become more real to me when they have a network of personal relationships, and when the reader can see those relationships deepen and change as the books go on. So in addition to the butt-kicking sword and sorcery action, most of the main characters have very realistic worries about what’s going on back home or with their significant other—ranging from revolution and the fear of assassination to a soldier’s desire to be home for the birth of his child.
As a working mom, I’ve also tried to make my lead female characters multi-dimensional in terms of their responsibilities and their fears. So a warrior-queen does what she has to do for her kingdom, even though privately she is torn apart at the thought of having to leave behind her young son. A trained female fighter faces a dilemma on how best to use her training to protect those who depend on her when she is in the early stages of pregnancy. I like these kinds of character issues going on in the background because they are the same kinds of issues going on in every mobilized army unit, every boardroom and every business setting.
Too often we see characters who seem to think of nothing but the task at hand, and yet in my experience, soldiers worry about loved ones at home, road-warrior business people Skype home for bedtime stories, and tough-as-nails executives have to duck out of meetings to deal with an issue about children or aging parents. We learn a lot about characters by seeing how they handle their private conflicts as well as their public ones. And as an author, it’s a much-neglected dimension that makes the story more interesting to write.
I also wanted to create an access point into my world of the Winter Kingdoms for reader who hadn’t read my first four Chronicles of the Necromancer books. Sure, I hope that someone new to the series will enjoy The Sworn (and its sequel The Dread) and decide to read the other books, but I didn’t want to make it a requirement that readers plow through an ever-increasing number of volumes to enjoy the newest story. That’s especially true since I tend to write duologies—two-book stories. Each two-book set begins and ends a story arc, although characters and settings carry over from book to book. So I’m excited that The Sworn is accessible for people who haven’t found my work prior to this—and I hope that they enjoy exploring my world and decide to move in for a while.
- Gail Z. Martin
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