Alix Rickloff combines two of our favorite genre in this month’s Earl of Darkness, a January RT Top Pick! This novel's inventive paranormal and historical elements has RT Senior Reviewer Kathe Robin praising the story as “a tangled tale of good and evil, magic and mystery, passion and desire — one that won’t be easily forgotten.” Check out a behind the scenes look at Rickloff’s inspiration and don’t miss the excerpt of Earl of Darkness at the end of the post.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
Every writer has been asked this, and, if they’re like me, they dread answering. I’d love to say, “Oh, I send $19.99 and receive a huge box of ideas in the mail. Any idea I’m not completely satisfied with, I can send back guaranteed.”
If only it were that simple.
But asking a writer how they come up with their stories is like asking a runner how they run so fast. Call it a gift or a talent or simply good luck, it just happens—without explanation.
That’s not to say, it’s easy. At times it’s a lot like swimming through mud. I can spend days staring at a blank screen, the cursor impatiently blinking at me. Other days I free-write any and all thoughts as they come. Sometimes it’s complete gibberish. Other times, the tiniest seed of an idea bursts out of the mad scrawl across the pages. And sometimes ideas don’t happen all at once, but emerge slowly even as the story is being written.
With my new Heirs Of Kilronan series, I actually came up with the initial flash of inspiration while writing a previous novel—a family torn apart by a dark secret. Three children. Each one deeply affected by their father’s mysterious murder. Each one struggling to discover the truth while struggling to stay alive.
Intriguing. Exciting. Rife with possibilities.
But what was the truth? What was the deep dark secret at the heart of the story?
I hadn’t the foggiest idea.
It wasn’t until I started and restarted the book countless times that the answer came to me. Call it a visit from my muse, call it a bad dream after too much pizza and ice cream, but as soon as the idea burst into being, everything else fell into place.
Earl of Darkness—the first book in the series—follows the eldest son and heir, Aidan Douglas. A man desperate to understand the forces that destroyed and scattered his family. A man teetering on the brink; financially and emotionally, whose only lead to discovering the facts behind his father’s murder is an indecipherable diary. While Cat O’Connell, the beautiful thief with the power to read the magical book, is a woman suffering from her own tragedies. Both bruised by life. Both cynical and suspicious. Together they begin to unravel the violent mysteries surrounding Aidan’s father while fighting an attraction that seems doomed from the start. After all, each of them are the last person the other one needs or wants.
A bit of unexpected dialogue, a snippet of unplanned introspection, and a hearty dose of Arthurian legend, and what began as a simple premise plus a pair of character sketches grew and evolved into a fully layered story and a final plot that barely resembled my initial vision.
Like a sculptor, a writer takes a rough idea—adding bits here, shaving off bits there until the story stands perfect and polished. It may end up looking nothing like the image in his or her head when they first held that premise in their hands, but that’s the fun in being a writer. The ability to see a story where others might see only a headline, a quote in a book, or a line of dry research. To take that seed and say, “what if?”.
Although, between you and me, if I ever come across a box of ideas for $19.99, I’m grabbing it. That’s a bargain!
- Alix Rickloff