Today I would like to welcome author J.D. Sanderson to my blog. J.D. has a new book out this week!
This week marks the official release of my first science fiction novel, A Footstep Echo. This book is incredibly personal to me, partly because it’s something that I’ve worked on for the past 16 months. While I’ve dreamed of publishing a book since I was a child, I cannot begin to describe how incredibly happy that it’s finally coming true.
I guess I’ll start off with a little bit about my book:
“A Footstep Echo starts out as the story of Bernard, a 70-year-old widower living alone in Upstate, New York. His lonely, routine life is thrown into chaos one day when a young woman knocks him into another point in time to save his life.
Soon after he realizes what has happened, he discovers the Mystery Girl cannot speak. She’s unable to tell him who she is, where she comes from, or how she can travel through time. Worse yet, she’s unable to tell him what it is that is chasing her.
Along the way, Bernard meets a number of people, all of whom claim to know the truth about his mysterious new companion. The only thing he knows for certain is that the secret to humanities future may lie with his new time-traveling friend.”
That’s the gist of it! It was an idea that I toyed with a few years ago but didn’t end up finishing. Looking back now, I think that I spent too much time and energy trying to emulate all of the influences that made me want to create original stories. The pattern repeated itself for years – I’d start off with an idea and immediately start writing, only to crash and burn a few chapters in when it didn’t sound how I imagined it did.
In December 2016, I saw something that changed my point of view. A new wave of serialized storytelling became popular, with shows like The OA and Stranger Things making waves on Netflix. The OA, in particular, blew my mind. Creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij absolutely floored me with their realistic characters, original sci-fi premise, and creative story that they allowed the necessary time to develop organically. My wife and I were left hanging on the edge of our seats after each episode.
Most important of all, it made me realize that I was trying to tell the wrong kind of story.
In February 2017, I picked up my laptop again and revisited the Bernard story I had tried a year ago. Rather than try to do what everyone else had, or work towards a specific goal, I just shut off my brain and let my fingers walk across the keyboard. The ideas rolled out and the characters and story began to develop.
One of the biggest differences between A Footstep Echo and every other story I had attempted to tell previously was how it was structured. The book is neatly divided into three parts. I sometimes think of it as a trilogy of novellas than rather than one giant novel. The funny thing is it happened almost by accident. By the time I got to page 82, I noticed that a substantial part of the story was wrapping up, so I decided to wind it down while leaving the rest of it open.
Unlike a lot of writers I know and admire, I don’t have a strict writing process. I wrote at different times in the evening and didn’t try to hit specific goals each day. Instead, I had a mental note with five words I wanted to keep in mind throughout the process.
Anagnorisis – The moment in a story where a character makes a critical discovery. I wanted one of these in each of the three parts that (I hope) will floor the audience.
Intertextuality – the shaping of one story’s meaning through another. I threw in a few little “Easter eggs,” but I didn’t want the book to be a reference guide for sci-fi readers.
Language – Early on, people told me that I may want to edit a few things to make the book more accessible for younger readers and children. I ended up disregarding their advice. First of all, I wrote the book for adults. Secondly, I wanted to convey how people really talked. If there’s a group of criminals in my book, I want them to talk the way I’ve heard them over the years. I didn’t want to clean it up in case a child picks up my book.
Bathos – This is one of my trigger words. Bathos is the literary concept of breaking the tension of a serious, sad, or sincere moment with unnecessary comedy or some other kind of anti-climax. It’s everywhere in movies and television nowadays and is something I worked very hard to avoid. I look at humor as something that is very expensive, and I don’t want to spend the money unless it’s absolutely necessary. My story has some humor in it, but there are certain moments I was simply not willing to pay a dramatic cost for.
Mood – Setting up the right mood is soooooo difficult. I just kept this work in my mind to help me avoid straying too far from the kind of atmosphere I wanted for my characters.
Thanks for allowing me to prattle on. If you love science fiction, mysteries, or character-based stories, I hope you’ll check my book out. You can find it at my author page on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/author/jdsanderson.
And finally, a big thanks to the owner and operator of this fine website for giving me a chance to tell my story. J