If you read my post about finishing the first draft of The Heartfriends Book 3, then you know I'm embarking on a reread of Books 1 and 2! Which I was a little bit intimidated by, to be honest. I started writing The Dying of the Golden Day in 2013 and published it in 2016, so it's been a minute since I looked closely at it.
Now that I've started to reread it, I thought it would be fun to do a short blog series with annotations on the story, like what inspired certain choices, how I drew from my experience in Kazakhstan, and notes about my writing process. I'll do about five chapters at a time, so let's begin!
The Dying of the Golden Day, Chapters 1-5
The first thing I want to talk about is the epigraphs to each chapter. I know they're not everyone's thing, but I like that they can add to the world-building in a fantasy novel, especially at the beginning, which can help better ground a reader. In this series, I wanted to use them in conjunction with songs and poems (which I'll talk about in depth in another entry) to help explain the world in which Aurelia grew up. We're shaped by the stories surrounding us, a theme that becomes very important in this book.
From a narrative standpoint, too, I like that I can make the epigraphs relate to whatever happens in the chapter, such as in chapter 2. The epigraph is an excerpt from the Code of the Order, which Aurelia follows, and it helps explain why she decides to trust Brennus. I wanted to make the Code representative of the larger world in that they both value honor and, to an extent, goodness. It was probably partially a reaction to fantasies like Game of Thrones, which can glorify backstabbing and violent conflict, and it was partly because I happen to like honorable characters.
That brings us to Aurelia. I may go into her character later on, but for now, I want to say that even though epic fantasy tends to incorporate multiple points of view, I deliberately focused on Aurelia's. That didn't end up working for Book 2, but in Book 1, I very much wanted to give the sense that Aurelia is a solitary human being who's witnessing history happen around her, and she needs to decide whether to watch or whether to act.
Brennus and Renfred are also introduced in these early chapters. With Brennus, I started with the idea that I wanted two people on (loosely) opposite sides of a conflict to get to know each other and challenge each other to confront the "truths" they had grown up with. With Renfred, I very purposefully wanted to write a book about friendship. Both relationships are important to Aurelia, who goes through a long process of learning to trust others and herself. As I'm writing Book 3, I hope I'm doing justice to that process and to Aurelia and Renfred's bond.
Next is Edana's short chapter, which was originally the book's prologue. But prologues tend to be divisive among readers, and I was urged to change this into a regular chapter. Ultimately, I think it worked out because I was able to follow Edana's journey through short chapters throughout the book, and because I set that precedent, even though I was sticking closely to Aurelia's point of view, I was able to use this technique toward the end of the novel to show some key scenes from characters other than Aurelia and Edana.
Chapter 5 reveals more about the queen of Sunniva, Renfred's older sister, as well as their relationship, which can sometimes be tense. We also touch on the purpose of heartfriends and get some brief backstory on Minerva's heartfriend, and the flashback scene demonstrates that though Renfred and Aurelia's bond may be strong now, their relationship didn't start out perfectly. Since in the present, they're inseparable, I wanted to give some weight to the journey it took to get to that point.
Hopefully this gives a little insight into my thought process while writing! It's certainly an interesting experience reading something I wrote so long ago, and I can already tell that this exercise will help me with crafting Book 3.