If I recall properly, I began writing this book toward the end of 1997, and worked on it fairly regularly for awhile... but eventually, I slacked off. Long stretches would go by in which I did no new writing, and only occasional editing of old chapters. Though I have often jotted down new ideas, over the years. It really is a good thing I'm such a procrastinator, because the book wouldn't have been nearly as good, in my opinion, if I'd finished it within a year or two. Or five. Or ten. Anyway, I also wanted to mention that, from the beginning, I intended "The Chaos" to be the first in a trilogy, followed by a prequel called "The Order," and then a sequel called "The Balance." (I thought of it as "The Corny Trilogy," because of the books' initials C-O-B; I do like bad puns.) I suppose it was in 2010 that I started thinking of it instead as "The Landian Chronicles," though even back during my initial creative phase, I figured there might eventually be other books and short stories set in the world of the trilogy.
In November 2010, I started The Landian Chronicles Wiki. Originally intended as a reference source for both myself and, hopefully, my readers (though you should be advised that it contains some spoilers for at least the first three books in the planned series). But aside from being used for reference, writing the wiki has also forced me to make up more details than I previously had about any number of things, which in turn inspires new ideas for the books themselves. But there will probably be things on the wiki that never make it into the books, so hopefully you'll find it fun and useful to read at least a bit of the wiki, even if you've read the books.
But now for some of the more specific things I wanted to say about the books. First of all, I assume there'll be a disclaimer to the effect that any characters are fictional, and any resemblance to real people is a coincidence. Which is great and all, but I don't believe there's really such a thing as a character in any work of fiction that is in no way based on... real people or fictional characters the author has seen/read in the works of other writers. Still, this usually just amounts to tiny details, which could be shared by any number of real and fictional people, rather than any one specific person. The degree of inspiration can vary, however, and for my books... I have to say that some of my characters are completely made up, but some are sort of based on real or fictional people. Most notably, there's my protagonist, Darius Lonewander. I've always meant for him, or at least his personality, to be based on myself. I'm the first to admit this is wildly self-indulgent, but I have my reasons. The main one being my desire to give people an idea of what it's like living in my head, as I do. I've always seen myself as different from other people. There are ways I like being different, but mostly it tends to be painful. I don't know if I can "officially" claim to have any specific condition, though ever since I first heard of Asperger's, back in probably early 1998 or so, it has seemed like a good explanation for how I can get more depressed than most people, feel worse social anxiety, sometimes have greater trouble understanding or accepting certain everyday situations, than most people do. Of course, in the years since then, Asperger's has become increasingly common in fictional characters, many of whom seem less normal than me in some ways, and more normal in others. Everyone's an individual, and so I wouldn't expect the same condition to affect everyone who suffers from it in exactly the same way (be they real or fictitious). So anyway, this has become one of the main points of my book: to try to help "normal" people understand what it's like to be... the way I, and people like me, are, the way we feel. But it's entirely possible many people with Asperger's won't relate to Darius much at all. And anyway... I've tried to make him a bit more normal than me.
Back to the subject of fictional characters being based on real characters... first, there are actually two other characters in my book who are somewhat based on me, but they're relatively minor. And I have my reasons for including them. More importantly, I should say that Darius's family is based to an extent on my own, but they're still fictional characters. I wanted him to have the same size family as mine, with not only parents and a sister, but plenty of cousins, aunts, uncles, etc., so I used my family as a template. It's possible many of Darius's relatives will have similar jobs to my relatives', and in some cases similar personalities, but they're far from being straight translations; there will be any number of differences, as well as similarities. The same goes for any of the few (minor) characters who are to an extent based on other people I've known, throughout my life: for the most part they are fictional characters. So I really believe the disclaimer not to be a lie. (Well, it would be better if it didn't say "any" resemblance... but take that one word out, and it should be a true enough statement.)
I said earlier that giving a vague sense of what it's like to have Asperger's- or whatever condition(s) I may have- was one of the book's main points. There are others. First and foremost, it is simply my attempt to tell a fun fantasy story. This is actually the level that's most important to me, and what I hope readers will enjoy most about the book. It's gotten a lot more complicated over the years I've been writing it, as I've continued to come up with many new ideas about not only this book, but the rest of the series (set in both the past and future of the time frame of the first book). I like to think it all interconnects quite cleverly, so it'll probably make more sense to you as a whole, the further you get into the series (assuming I get to write all the books I have planned). Particularly as you read the second book, you should occasionally say "oh, that's what that meant, in the first book." But hopefully, every book will also work independently.
On a third level, I think of the book- the whole series, in fact- as a very long love letter to pop culture. Entertainment is essentially the most important thing in life, to me. It's what makes life worth living. So... there are any number of characters or ideas in these books that might be seen as rip-offs, but I don't see it that way. I see them more as homages to some of the various entertainments I enjoy. Pop culture references, some of which are specified, and some of which are more subtle. The subtle ones in particular, I like to think of as "easter eggs." Kind of a game for readers, to see how many hidden allusions they can spot. This is another matter my editor will have to deal with, perhaps, and if it causes trouble, I apologize. But it's important to me. I can't help it.
Another thing I wanted to mention is that, aside from the intentional pop culture references, over the years I've noticed a number of things in other works of fiction that remind me of some of the ideas I've employed in my book(s). Sometimes, these things make me worry that readers will assume I've stolen these ideas (or made homages to them), when in fact it's a complete coincidence. Perhaps the earliest example came in 1999, when I was watching the opening scrawl of "Star Wars: Episode I," which mentioned "the newly elected queen of Naboo." I worried when I read that, that people would think I'd stolen the idea of elected royalty from George Lucas, even though I'd had my idea back in 1997. Another example came in probably 2005, when "Naruto" began airing in the United States. That anime includes a jutsu called "shadow clone," which I worried sounded a bit too close to "shadeclone" (a term which doesn't even appear in the first book, but which I'd been planning all along to include in the second and third books). Of course, the shadeclone in my books is nothing like a shadow clone, so... it's not important. There've probably been any number of other coincidences over the years, but the one that worried me most came on February 29, 2012. It was probably about a year earlier that I'd come up with the idea that one of my characters, whose name is Cameron, had been born on "Quad Day," which is the Landian equivalent of "Leap Day." And then, months after editing the scene that mentioned that into one of my much older chapters, I was watching an episode of "Modern Family," in which I learned that a character named Cameron had been born on Leap Day. It wouldn't bother me so much if both characters weren't named Cameron (and in fact, my Cameron's original name was "Cam," which also happens to be what the Modern Family character is most often called), because it's not an unheard of plot point... but they do. They have the same birthday and the same name. And if you don't believe I didn't steal the idea, I shall scream.
Deep breath. I need to point out that I think a lot. I'm not saying I'm great at it, or that I have particularly original thoughts... but I often wish I could put my brain on a dimmer switch, because it won't shut up. Especially when I'm trying to get to sleep. But the point is... while I am certainly no philosopher or theologian, philosophy and theology have always been of at least abstract interest to me. Which brings me to the fourth level of my book. I very much doubt that anything I've written hasn't already been said by great thinkers of the past (or present). But it is an important point of the book to make readers think. There is a lot more talking in the book than there is action, and while much of the talk is frivolous, there's also much that is important. My characters are no more philosophers than I am (not even the spirit-talkers), but like me, they do have a tendency to think a lot. And some of what they discuss is religious in nature. Religion on the Land is not quite the same as any religion on Earth, but there will be similarities, because they worship the same God as Jews, Christians, and Muslims. And while I was raised Christian, I've long had a fair amount of skepticism on various points. And I need to tell you, there are things in the Bible, that if I held them to be true, I would feel no choice but to hate God, and consider him evil. I desperately don't want to do that, for any number of reasons, from not wanting to piss off an omnipotent being, to not wanting to alienate my own family. So... on a certain level, this book is an attempt to reconcile my religious beliefs with my moral beliefs. I'm sure a lot of religious people out there will disagree, even be deeply offended by some of the things that are said in my book. But I can't help believing what I believe. And believe it or not, I'm not trying to sway anyone to my way of thinking. (Not that I'd complain about it if anyone's minds were changed, but that's not what I'm going for.)
Anyway, if you don't believe in God, I don't think genre fans should have a problem suspending disbelief for the purposes of enjoying a fantasy story. Just think of God, Lucifer, and any "spirits" in my books as mythical, and leave it at that. I mean, if you can suspend disbelief for things like magic and dragons and whatnot, why not do so for things that some people believe in, in reality? On the other hand, many people who do believe in God may find some of what I write blasphemous (though I think most of it shouldn't be objectionable to anyone). I ask that believers as well as nonbelievers remember this is just fiction, and take it all with a grain of salt. (That's what I'm doing, and what I hope God's doing.) The religious views presented in my books are more or less how I'd like things to be, maybe even how I psychologically need things to be; but I'd never presume to suggest this is how things are. So I repeat: this is a work of fiction. I have no agenda, beyond telling a fantasy story. (Oh yeah, and the Asperger's thing and the "love letter to pop culture" thing.) I'm not trying to push my religious beliefs on anyone. I am not for or against any religion (or lack thereof) on Earth. What I believe most fundamentally is that spirituality is a very personal thing, and everyone should determine for themselves what to believe. This includes choosing a faith (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Neopaganism, any of the countless other world religions, or atheism), as well as what individual tenets of your chosen faith make sense to you. And as long as you don't hurt anyone over those beliefs, no one should hold those beliefs against you (and vice versa). Oh, and one other thing I need to point out: while the Order may bear certain surface similarities to the Catholic church (such as some of its terminology), I reiterate my earlier statement that religion on the Land is not directly related or comparable to any Terran religion. So for the love of God, I beseech you: do not take any aspect of the Order as any sort of "message" regarding Catholicism.
And honestly, while religion is integral to the plot of my books, it's really just one small part of the plot.
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