After 14 years, I am ready to work on something entirely new. Although my current novel, Ages of Aenya, was started in 2006 and written from scratch, the characters and the basic outline originated from The Dark Age of Enya. As you can imagine, fourteen years is a terribly long time to wait for a new book, and an even bigger age gap when you consider I was 24 and now 38. In 1999, when I first posted the short story He-Man fanfic, The City by the Sea, which became The Dark Age of Enya much the way Fifty Shades of Grey started as a Twilight fanfic, I was still single and living with my parents. Today I own a home, a business, and am married 12 years with daughters ages 3 and 8. When I created Xandr, he was my age; now he seems too young, or maybe I’m just an old fart. Either way, I am not the same Nick Alimonos anymore. I lack the enthusiasm I once had. At thirty-eight, I can go to the premier of Man of Steel or wait for Netflix. For me, a hero fighting monsters often counts less than dramatic dialogue. This doesn’t mean that monsters won’t be meeting their demise in my future novels, but in terms of heroics it’s going to be more Eddard Stark (sans unwarranted decapitations) and less Conan.
My biggest worry is that, like a baseball player past his prime, I’ll no longer be able to hit those home runs. After reading 100+ novels as part of my research, I hesitate to explore an idea. I realize that everything has been done, is cliche. It’s only in the nuances, in the subtle details, where story telling matters. While I’ve learned a whole lot over the past decade and a half, I sometimes fear that I’ve traded imagination for skill, that I’ve lost that childlike sense of wonder so necessary to good storytelling. Ultimately, a story has to be fun for the writer, otherwise, it’s too much like work. Writing a novel is like building a cathedral; it takes passion and faith.
The Princess of Aenya is my next cathedral. It’s not a direct sequel to Ages of Aenya, but takes place in the same world. After all, I spent almost two decades crafting a world, which is why, like Anthony with Xanth and Herbert with Dune and Martin with Westeros, I am going to continue to explore it. In the Princess of Aenya, the reader will go to the northernmost point of the planet, which, unlike Earth’s pole, isn’t frozen but green and habitable. In a circular mountain range, the Crown of Aenya, there is a kingdom cut off from the rest of civilization, Mythradanaiil, or Tyrnael as it is known by its inhabitants. Tyrnael is the most ancient of human cities, once the seat of power for the Zo and the ancient capital of the world. Fallen from glory for untold millennia, its people know little of their glorious past, however, or of the uber-advanced power their ancestors once controlled. Massive terraced structures tower into the sky, abandoned and in ruins, their design largely forgotten. But the people of Mythradanaiil are far from ordinary. They live for hundreds of years without suffering illnesses of any kind, but there are no artists, writers or great thinkers in their society. Marriages are arranged by committee and childbirth is so rare there is no need for daycare. In short, it is a false and stagnant paradise.
This is what I know of Tyrnael. But a good story is about characters, not setting. Here there are two: the princess, known as Radia Noora, and her protector, Demacharon. Keen readers may remember Demacharon from Ages of Aenya. He is an old sword at 55, a jaded warrior burdened by a lifetime of guilt. Radia is fifteen, naive about the ways of the world, but with all the gifts of youth; she is a dreamer, has faith in tomorrow, and is the very embodiment of innocence. These two characters play into the central theme I have longed to explore in my writing, the conflict between realism and romanticism, pragmatism and idealism, a harsh and gritty view of the world vs. happily-ever-after fairy tale. The book will challenge reader conventions. Game of Thrones fans may rethink how accurately Westeros represents life. Fans of lighter fare, like Harry Potter, may reconsider what it means to be a good guy. In terms of overall tone, I hope to strike a balance between two extremes, but am inspired by Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, to capture its sense of timelessness. In terms of setting, I am striving for something along the lines of a Miyazaki film; think Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away. I am really fond of his mechanical marvels and flying machines, not quite steam punk but more gear and crank-punk. If much of this sounds heady and dull, never fear, there is also the tetra claw beast, a monster straight from a D&D game I played when I was thirteen. It propels itself through corridors by clawing into the walls and ceiling!
The Princess of Aenya shouldn’t take a decade to master. I know a lot more about writing than I once did, and more about Aenya, so stay tuned for new artwork and sample chapters!
2020 UPDATE: THE PRINCESS OF AENYA IS NOW AVAILABLE!!!