What is Earldust?

NB: This page is about a year out of date, and Earldust is a finished writing project. I will update it in the coming weeks.

The above is quite a good question, and there are times when I’m probably more uncertain about the answer, than you who probably know nothing about it are.

What Earldust is a project I’ve been working on it for over that time it’s changed enormously. Over that time my standard of writing has developed greatly, and my overall vision for what this work is supposed to represent has also changed.

A few months ago, I would have been content to label Earldust a political thriller set in a fantasy world. The thing is, I hate genre labels (they’re good for booksellers and publishers, but they tend to construct imaginary walls limiting artistic creativity), so I’m going to avoid mentioning that again where possible. So to translate that genre label into real terms: it’s a novel set in a world of my own construction (a country called Rodaria), and the plot involves a political crisis (among other things).

The main character is Lady Camillia Montclane, a rebellious young noblewoman, who uncovers a plot to overthrow the monarchy. The main plotter, the crime lord Oliver Curlofa, is someone whom (for good reason) she has good reason to hate, and so she tries everything to stop it. The net result is that she is forced to defend the established order, to which she is ideologically opposed, against an even more undesirably threat. Throughout the novel, a number of things happen to alter her perception of the world, and of how much she as an actor can viably achieve to change it for the better. Despite perceiving herself as worldly and experienced (not without some justification), she’s forced to confront her own residual innocence, a process which threatens the idealism that she used to cherish so dearly.

FAQ

  1. So your main character is a woman, but you’re a man. Isn’t that hard to pull off?

    Yes and no. A lot of the potential problems can be avoided by considering the character as a person who just so happens to be a woman. Women for the most part tend to be weaker physically, but I’ve seen plenty of men who aren’t Achilles (actually, I see such a man every single time I look in the mirror). And there are obvious female exceptions to the general rule, like Denise Lewis, who proudly sports her six pack. People tend to over think gender as an issue, when all they have to do is build another character.

    I think that most of the idea regarding women thinking circularly and men thinking linearly is more to do with upbringing (how society expects you to behave) and less to do with neurological differences. I could be wrong on this, of course, but I don’t include much stream of conscience anyway.

    The only possible problem area is sex and romance, where the biological and mental differences between women and men become truly apparent. Then again, I despise it when other authors interrupt the plot of a novel so that the characters can use the biological functions God bestowed upon them, especially when these romantic subplots have little or no bearing on the main plot. I’m not going to repeat that mistake in Earldust.

    It is of course difficult to explain how a young attractive and intelligent noblewoman doesn’t have a prince charming waiting upon her, but practical impediments to that – for example the fact that events are in the novel move at a sharp pace, and that the courting rituals of this world are quite long and drawn out. Marriages among the nobility are more likely to be arranged, and thus based on loyalty rather than true love.

  2. Doesn’t altering perception involve a lot of character development – something one often doesn’t find in the average Robert Harris thriller?

    Yes. This is something I’m finding hard to resolve at the moment, but I’m going part of the way towards solving it through simple “show don’t tell”. Using the prose to show my main character behaving dismissively at one point towards an individual, and then later on showing them behaving much more attentively is quite a powerful way of showing a change of heart. However a certain amount of inner musing and soul searching is required to achieve such a profound transformation. Despite initial misgivings, I’m growing less adverse to this idea – probably because I’ve seen that it’s quite commonly used to great effect in other novels, albeit those that aren’t considered fantasy or thriller. So long as profound soul searching is followed by equally profound plot developments, its use is justifiable.

  3. Why is it that your vision of the plot changes so often?

    Firstly, the novel that I’m writing is something incredibly ambitious for someone of my current skill level. I started writing it when I was 18 years old (I’m twenty now), and my characters are several years older than me. They’re also a lot more experienced at life, and much more intelligent (especially the main character).

    As I get to know the world around me a bit better, and study a lot more history, I of course note how my characters behave unrealistically, and seek to mend that. Of course this leads to the plot changing direction, and while this can often be resolved with only the most minor of edits, other times I’m not so lucky.

    For example, I had to remove the entire ending that I had planned. I tend to take this as an opportunity to think of a better idea, instead of fretting and frowning over it. It’s incredibly necessary when being a writer, that when things don’t work out as planned, to start from scratch and try as best you can to improve.

  4. The outlook from your brief summary appears to be bleak. Do you share such an outlook on the world?

    I think it’s a little premature for any to decide whether the novel is a whole is bleak or not, without reading it, and it’s difficult for me to give a concrete answer without extensive spoilers. Yet in a nutshell Camillia is a highly idealistic person, and her ideals are rattled by what she sees and hears as she moves through the book. What happens to her is a much overdue loss of innocence, because her background sheltered her from the woes of the world.

    I do in part share this world view, in that I think it is generally true that all too often the people who focus on changing the world from a theoretical viewpoint, are the least likely to succeed. To a certain extent philosophy distances us from reality (see Plato’s Georgias, where Callicles pleads with Socrates to stop philosophising). Robespierre is also an example incredibly intelligent person with a philosophical vision for a bright and dazzling future. In reality, though, his vision could not be implemented because the human cost was too high.

    But the real question is that what will she do once her innocence is lost? How will she adapt to it? If she breaks and abandons her quest to make the world a better place, then the outlook is indeed bleak. If not, then the outlook is much brighter. Of course I have my own opinions on the matter, but I’ll let you decide if you get a chance to read it.

  5. Camillia can’t fight this one alone, though – can she?

    No she can’t – she’s is the most important of three main characters, that are later joined by others. Nathan is someone with a much more practical outlook on life. He only somewhat idealistic, but while he is of a fairly rich background, he has lived among the poor for some time (as a government spy) and knows what problems need to be fixed. Camillia defers to him quite a bit when it comes to poverty, and he defers to her (grudgingly) when it comes to dealing with the nobility, whom he seems to be quite hostile to.

    Shane is something of a mystery, and his true importance is only shown later on. He’s Camillia’s bodyguard, but there are a… certain number of unanswered questions where he is concerned. I’m also not in a good position to explain much about him, as he is the subject of a major reevaluation. See my actual blog posts for further details regarding this.

    Stephen is a character that appears later on in the novel, and his role is decisive in deciding the course of the future. Though they share different values, ultimately his relationship with Camillia will decide whether she succeeds or fails (as much in her own eyes, as in everyone else’s).

    At the end of the day, although these other characters are of huge importance, she and the choices she makes are the main focus of the book.

  1. Long as she doesn’t look like Camilla Parker Bowles, it’s cool.

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