The Novel Approach welcomes author B.R. Sanders today to chat world building in the just released Fantasy novel Ariah. Enjoy! And also be sure to click on the Google Form link to enter for the chance to win one of two e-copies of the book.
Hi folks! I’m thrilled to appear at The Novel Approach! My second novel, Ariah, is officially released today, so it’s all very exciting all around. I have two ebooks cordoned off for a giveaway for readers here at The Novel Approach—all you need to do is sign up here: http://goo.gl/forms/xe2KMzM6aU! Mobi, Epub and PDF formats are all available! The giveaway will close at midnight tonight, so sign up quick!
Ariah is a queer romantic fantasy novel set in the world of Aerdh. Aerdh is an expansive fantasy universe: over the course of six pieces of published fiction set in Aerdh, I have covered a half dozen cultures and a span of about a hundred fifty years. Aerdh is pretty classically high fantasy on the surface–elves are present, magic permeates the world. But much of my writing is fixated on how the people in Aerdh navigate oppression and marginalization in their lives; Aerdh is as much influenced by the conceits of high fantasy as it is by the themes characteristic of low fantasy.
A recurrent theme in Ariah is family. Ariah meets different kinds of families: functional ones, dysfunctional ones, ones that are somewhere in between. He sees families fall apart and families begin from scratch. The book explores the complexity of family, how being part of a family can be a source of joy for one member and torture for another. How being parented by the same person in the same context can create two very different people. And that’s all within one cultural definition of what a family is.
Over the course of the book, Ariah moves through three unique cultural spaces, each with their own understanding of what constitutes a family. Who counts as a parent? What makes a spouse? Who are your children? What obligations do you have to these people? What are the boundaries, and what happens if you cross them?
Like most Semadran elves, Ariah is raised in a nuclear family–a mother and a father, no siblings, that’s it. Ariah’s experiences make him question assumptions he’s made about families. When he is taken to meet his mentor’s family in the City of Mages, he learns that family can be built from something other than, or at least in addition to, blood ties. It’s there first that he is exposed to queer families with non-biological parents and adopted children. In these families, the glue that bonds the members together is need and loyalty. Nothing so cut-and-dry as genealogy, but something just as real.
Later on, Ariah lives a nomadic clan of elves called the Droma. The Droma understand family in altogether way from the Semadrans or the City-folk. For them, family bonds are loose and fluid. Children are communally raised, and so bond as a large sibling group with little sense of parentage. There are marriages, but beyond that, the clan itself is really the family.
The beauty of writing speculative fiction is that we don’t have to take things for granted. That extends to things like family structures. Family structures don’t come from thin air. They are social constructs–they develop over time in response to the push and pull of cultural and institutional structures. That’s true in the real world, and that’s true in fantasy worlds, too. So, in writing these different family structures that Ariah interacts with, I had to understand why they were different than how he grew up. What did the differences in the family structures reflect about the differences in the cultures more broadly?
Much of it had to do with things like availability of this resource or that group’s social position compared to this other group–a ton of minutia which, maybe, is only interesting to me (although, if you’re interested about anything in particular, feel free to say something in the comments!). Ultimately a lot of it doesn’t bear much on Ariah’s plot, and so is left rattling around in my brain and in my notes. But it’s important that I thought it through. It’s important that I did the work, because the bits that made it into the book enriched the narrative. It gave me a firmer grounding in the world. Besides that, taking the time to understand how and why families developed the way they did in each of these cultures was invaluable for understanding my characters as people.
Blurb: Ariah’s magical training has been interrupted. Forced to rely on a mentor, Dirva, who is not who he claims to be, and a teacher who is foreign and powerful, Ariah is drawn into a culture wholly different from the elven one that raised him.
As his friendship with Dirva’s brother blossoms into a surprising romance, and he slowly learns how to control the dangerous magic in his blood, life finally appears to be coming together for Ariah—but love and security are cut short by a tyrannical military empire bent on expanding its borders.
War, betrayal, passion, and confusion follow Ariah as his perilous journey leads him beyond the walls of the Empire, and into unfamiliar territory within himself. Along the way, he’ll discover just how much he’s willing to give up to find his place in the world, and he’ll learn what it means to sacrifice himself for freedom—and for love.
Author Bio: B R Sanders is a white, genderqueer writer who lives and works in Denver, CO, with their family and two cats. Outside of writing, B has worked as a research psychologist, a labor organizer and a K-12 public education data specialist.