the Crimson Sword
Book One of the Legend of Asahiel
“I began devising The Crimson Sword years ago while in junior high school. Weary of writing stories that might be considered carbon copies of those by Tolkien, Alexander, Brooks, and so many others, I set out to write my own, original adventure—never mind that there is nothing new under the sun. Most fantasy, as I saw it, involved the triumph of a young hero over evil in some form, with a coming-of-age, a love interest, and a generally happy ending. What I wanted to explore, then, was what might follow this classic tale, since it seemed to me that even heroic deeds should have unforeseen consequences. What if, in saving the day, our hero had done more harm than good, unleashing an evil greater than that which he had vanquished? I envisioned the typical Prince Charming, on top of the world with his new kingdom and his new bride and I couldn’t wait to shatter that peace in true-to-life fashion.
The problem, I soon realized, was that my ‘Prince’ was not a very sympathetic character. It seemed paramount to me that the trouble brewing should not be random happenstance, but a direct result of his own previously heroic—yet ultimately reckless—actions. So why should we care about this pompous charlatan, living it up in his palace? Would he not deserve to be punished for his own misdeeds?
I had come full circle, back to the standard coming-of-age tale I had originally thought to avoid. For I needed a setup story to precede this fall from grace, a story to establish our hero in an effort to make him human, well-intentioned, and thereby deserving of our sympathy. Not only that, but if I expected to riff on the traditional happily-ever-after ending, then my setup story would need to generate just that, following the existing, tried-and-true format.
Still, I did not want to slip back into photocopy. So I began looking at the conventions and trying to figure out which ones I could twist. While there were several minor ones that leapt out at me, I settled on two of the biggest. The first would be the nature of the artifact after which our hero gives chase. A sword, yes, but what if that sword was not the cure-all talisman he expected it to be? Going hand in hand was the notion of destiny. By most accounts, the hero is the one person upon whom the fate of the world rests. What if this hero wasn’t? What if he was merely deluded into believing such until it was too late to do otherwise? My plan became to have an orphan thrust by circumstance into a quest beyond his imagining, called upon to be a savior of mankind by retrieving a lost artifact, only to learn that the weapon’s power is not his to control. Before the end he finds himself just like the rest of us, sheathed not in the certainty of preordination, but with a fate that depends entirely on his own choices and determination.
A bit heady, perhaps, but I was too naïve to be bothered by it. I wrote the first book in high school, and a pair of follow-up novels in college—a trilogy in the Aristotelian sense. The manuscripts went straight into a drawer, not to be seen by anyone until years later, when I submitted the opening pages for the Rupert Hughes Award at the Maui Writers Conference. Placing as a finalist was encouraging, but I remained unconvinced, thinking I could come up with something much grander in vision and scope. It wasn’t until Terry Brooks suggested I focus on telling a traditional, coming-of-age adventure story that I rediscovered this discarded work—which, after years of rewrites under the sage guidance of numerous professionals, became the book we see today.”