Josh Martin is one of our newest authors and writer of the beautiful and fantastical, Ariadnis which published in February.
He’s written a letter to all of his readers of his new book and we loved it so much we thought we’d share it here with you.
You seem to be holding a book in your hands. Or, perhaps it is near you, or just about to fall off the table or a little too close to your cup of tea. Perhaps you have dropped it in the bath. Either way, I am glad it is somewhere near your person because that means you are reading it, or at least thinking about reading it.
A story doesn’t work very well if it isn’t read. It’s a bit like that philosophical question: “if a tree falls in a forest with no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” So, if a story is written but never read, does it have any impact at all, does it make anyone besides the author laugh or cry or think deeply?
Here’s the strange part – I didn’t write this book for a reader – because I had no idea if it was going to be published. I wrote it because I love stories, I love writing and I was looking for a story that I wanted to see on the shelf but wasn’t there yet.
Authors are all human beings by which I mean they are all different, by which I mean they all write differently.
My writing process for Ariadnis was a bit like throwing multicoloured spaghetti against a wall and seeing what stuck. Yes, strange metaphor. Sorry, just try to bear with me:
The spaghetti is all the things I’m interested in – all the colours of spaghetti are story worthy, but only some of them have the right amount of stick for this story.
Here are a few things that stuck:
- My Dad telling me, aged fourteen or so, that my generation was going to have to deal with global warming and potentially, a ruined planet. What responsibility I felt! What trepidation! What fear! I put it in the book.
- We always, always need heroes. We always need glorious figures to pull our spirits out of the muck and dust us off. What happens if you have to be your own hero as well as everyone else’s hero? What happens if these two heroes were pitted against each other? I put it in the book.
- I adore superpowers. I put it in the book.
- Including prophecies and prophets give you some tight guidelines for the story to work alongside or against.
- If you are a woman you might have noticed that you are getting a raw deal compared to the men around you. You may also have noticed that you only show up in a lot of stories to be the male hero’s love interest. Or if you’re more interesting than that, you may have noticed that you are literally the only woman there. Or if you aren’t the only woman there you might have noticed that you only seem to talk about men or your relationship to men or that the only women with you are pretty and cool or that there are no older women to look up to or that… well anyway, I could go on. I put women in the book. I put a lot of women in the book.
- The world is not only white people. It never has been, it never will be. I put it in the book.
- Sexual Diversity: similarly, the world is not full of straight people. I put it in the book.
- Nature, enormous trees. In they went.
- It is very very difficult to be truly wise but I have seen wisdom from every age group, even in very very small children. I think we could all do with a little more. I did my best to put it in the book.
Of course, not all the spaghetti stuck, for example:
- I didn’t get to include a trans or non binary character because I didn’t have the understanding of gender fluidity at the time of writing as I do now (lucky for me I get to write a sequel).
- Every character gets a backstory. I have cut at least forty thousand words of backstory from this book! There’s just not enough time (or words, I guess I should say) to give you a story and a character study.
- Proper explanations for the magic system. Lots of fantasy writers love doing this – I tried my best to show how the magic was working rather than outright state it but I appreciate this can be confusing.
There are loads more, but I do not wish to bore you. You have a book to read, and I have another one to write. These were some of the why’s and how’s of what went into writing Ariadnis, but I hope you enjoy reading the story more than my ramblings. It may not seem like it, but writing and reading stories are very much interlinked. A writer does the first bit of the job, but the reader does the rest. I have given you a piece of line art, and it is your job to colour it in. Only you can do it, and every one of you will do it differently.
That, guys, is real magic.