I had so much fun doing one of these for Crest, I decided to go back and do it for the two previous books in the series. Since these posts are for readers who want to know more about the writing process behind each book, there may be mild spoilers.
Proceed with caution.
Five things about Whirl:
1. I rewrote the beginning of the novel eighteen times. Since I’d plotted out the rest of the series, I knew the first few opening chapters were key in laying out the thematic threads of the series.
Another consideration lay in the challenge of Naida Irisavie. She is an invisible, omnipresent character throughout the Ondine Quartet, someone readers never really see alive and yet her overwhelming spirit is a vital part of every book. I had to find some way of firmly tying her into the narrative right from the start so her presence would always be woven into the fabric of our heroine and her journey.
Because Kendra’s character development is the heart of this story and this series, her complicated and emotionally abusive relationship with her mother would gradually be explored throughout the rest of the books, but I had to reveal enough to establish a backbone of why our protagonist is the way she is.
Easy to say, definitely not so easy to do.
2. The size and location of the city of Lyondale is loosely based on Bellingham, WA.
I envisioned Haverleau as a small town full of quaint shops and residences surrounded by a lush, verdant landscape. A few months prior to writing the book, I’d spent two weeks in Gijón, Spain and wanted to recreate a beautiful community nestled along the coast that burst with Old World European charm. Haverleau was the result.
The name itself, from the phrase havre de l’eau, came from listening to Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau (Reflections on the water).
3. On character names/terms/magic:
The trickiest aspect of the first book in a series is world-building. Magic operates by a set of rules and limitations are just as important as possibilities. Ondine magic needed to be a natural extension of the world’s cultural history. Therefore, each Virtue was an asset used in their race’s assimilation into human society.
A large group instinctively wants to impose some kind of hierarchical order, even if our rational, logical brain understands it’s not always morally or ethically right. Sometimes it’s through acquired qualities (wealth or job/education), sometimes through physical/external traits (racism, perceived physical strength/power, appearance). Over time, as ondines established themselves on land, it made sense for these distinctly human flaws to also have seeped into their world.
There also existed a more fundamental layer of order based upon magic. Ondines who possessed Virtues (Redavi first-borns) gained greater societal privilege than those who only had elemental magic. The political structure and matriarchal society also gave me freedom to explore thematic threads of power and women’s roles.
I also spent a great deal of time studying etymology to construct terms. The history of langue d’oïl and Old French influenced the construction of selkie names and language. There is a Welsh influence, particularly in some of the selkie names (because of the Norman invasion of Wales), and the selkie language incorporates both Celtic and Latin roots.
4. In initial drafts, Nexa had a pet, a small, hybrid creature I named Laramie. But as Nexa’s quirkiness and backstory fully emerged, I realized the beast sidekick detracted from her eccentricities and decided to eliminate Laramie.
She still has a special place in my heart, though, so I may include her in a future series.
5. I initially intended Chloe to take on the role Miriam Moreaux ultimately played. But as I worked on the story, two things became clear.
First, Chloe’s friendship and her own character growth were entwined with Kendra’s development. Second, the imperfect reality of being a parent and the individual, human mistakes parents make that affect a child’s future choices are both crucial elements of this series.
The fate of Miriam Moreaux and the continuing consequences experienced by her daughter is a journey mirrored in Kendra, Julian, and other characters. It was a conflict I couldn’t throw aside.
Others in the series: