This is a question and answer page where you may submit questions you have about the Kingdoms of Broken Stone series or the author. Please use the contact form below if you would like to submit your question for consideration. If you place it in the comments I’ll try to read it, but I might miss it. I might decline to answer certain questions or parts of questions. but never without reason.
Be aware there are or will be potential SPOILERS below this line.
Q. Why did you choose Hebrew for the language of the First Words?
A. I don’t necessarily believe that Hebrew was the actual first language or first language spoken. I have no idea what that language would be. I chose Hebrew for a number of reasons: It is a very ancient written language and has a long history of being meticulously copied by scribes throughout the centuries. It has different rules, pronunciations, and sounds than English (written from right to left, vowel marks but no written vowels, etc.).Visually, it looks very different and very old. Lastly, its connection to Biblical stories and themes present in the series is apparent.
Q. How did you come up with the names of your characters and countries?
A. There were a number of ways I came up with the names I used. Some are purely made up with no connections whatsoever. Others were found in the Bible or from history, some of which I altered and some I did not. A few were found translating an English name or word into Hebrew and then putting that Hebrew into a transliteration program (I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the results of this, only that it helped me find a few names). A few names I looked up based on their meaning and then altered a little. For names such as Grenwood, Tryphena describes the process in chapter nine of Boy of Dreams. More specific information about names and their meanings/history will be coming in the future.
The following is a series of questions and answers born from conversations with Aaron Schmid during and after his time reading and reviewing the book. The questions and responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Q. Why did so many people seem unaware of the existence of magic, especially the kids in Southland? Why would the council or the prince allow almost all knowledge of even the existence of magic to pass beyond the recollection of the laypeople, especially if it seems so vital to the path towards unification?
A. At the time Boy of Dreams occurs, the only wizards are Torcan, Tehtra, Tryphena, Latirus, Bryndalin, and Senterin. With so few wizards for so many years their “foot print,” for lack of a better word, is small. On top of that, Torcan has dictated the policies of the wizards in Esten in such a way that they rarely make themselves known and when they do it is in isolated incidents combating potential dark magic.
For many years, those who practice dark magic have been mainly present on the Continent. From time to time, wizards from Esten travel to the Continent to stay abreast of what is going on there and attempt to track down former wizards from Esten that turned evil. Torcan is convinced that the events of the prophecy are far in the future and has even come to doubt whether Esten will ever be reunified or not. He saw the destruction of the country and what it did to those he knew. In essence, he has pursued a policy of isolation for many years and that has caused magic to fade from the memory of many in Esten.
Prince Eider keeps alive the dream of unification under a king, but for most if it is known at all, it is more myth than anything else. His family has kept that small flame alive, but it has been a very long time and many princes before him have come and gone without seeing it. Those in Orelain are actively opposed to the idea of giving up their autonomy to some other king. Waymar and Southland are mostly ignorant of it and those who know are indifferent towards it. For many, the history of the High Kings isn’t a realistic thought, akin to how we look at the tales of King Arthur to some degree. Tryphena is the most staunch supporter of pursing the prophecy and eventual unification, but her passion is an outlier.
Tryphena is a good indicator of how long the policy of isolation has been followed by the Council in Esten and how long the process of magic fading from the public eye has been going on. Tryphena was born and trained well after the Civil War and she is quite old herself in comparison to other people. At one point in the story Warrenfin realizes this and wonders how old she must be, but as of yet, her age hasn’t been revealed.
Q. Hadn’t Tryphena been traveling in search of the Boy of Dreams for a long time? And wasn’t the prophecy specific about the boy coming from Southland? So wouldn’t she have visited almost every part of Southland previously? Why wasn’t she more well known, and if she’s telling these educational stories everywhere she goes, how would magic have become such a forgotten or outright denied force, so much so as to be scoffed at by children?
A. Tryphena had been personally searching for the boy for a long time, but Torcan never sanctioned her doing so. Therefore, she was only able to do so when she could work it in or do it on her way to somewhere else. The phrase I used in the book was that she “often searched the western farmlands of Southland.” In a lifetime potentially spanning a couple hundred years, “often” can take on a different level of frequency.
The Prophecy simply says “south” so it could be Southland. But Ejigore was found on the Continent and brought to Esten to become a Wizard. I don’t think it is explicitly stated in the book anywhere, but she has also been searching the Continent – this piece of the story would be included in a prequel book focusing on her if I get a chance to write it.
As for why she isn’t well known throughout Southland. If she popped up in a small rural community one day, created a weird stir and then left, it might be something to talk about for a few days, but unless something brought it back to mind, it would probably be forgotten. I tried to account for news spreading slowly, wizards trying to keep a low profile, and her search not always being as personally directed as she would have wanted and therefore not as consistent in action, just thought. She also never demonstrates magic at the little lessons.
Q. This is something I might consider nitpicking, and maybe I’m remembering incorrectly, but wasn’t Southland referred to as a rather wealthy province at some point? It was good farming land, where food grew rather capably, right? Why would children be so encouraged to listen to a tale from a stranger peddling “myths” about forgotten magical kingdoms, if the promise of food was their only reward?
A. I should have made it more explicit that it wasn’t merely free food, but free fruit. In the instance depicted in the book, she gives an apple. Food such as vegetables, grains, and some livestock would be more abundant, but fruit would still be a treat to some degree. Also, I talk about this a little more on the webpage titled “Realms of Esten,” but Southland is fairly class divided. Great landowners that live in the cities own most of the rural farms, so while the country is well-to-do, many of the rural farmers are basically share croppers. They have enough food to eat, but beyond the basic staples aren’t all that wealthy. There is a stark divide for the most part between the wealthy and influential cities with their landowners and merchants and the rest of the population to some degree.
Q. Am I right to think that one’s ability to use a First Word with strength is dependent on the level of their belief therein?
A. Yes. A combination of knowledge and belief. Often it seems like knowledge can eat away at belief or belief can sometimes spurn knowledge, that is tension there. An increase in knowledge can lead to a better understanding of the extent of meaning one word can have, and belief is the engine that allows one to fulfill or not fulfill that knowledge.
There were a number of other questions and conversations we had that have not been included because some of the answers would reveal more than I wish or are waiting for book two.
Q. When do you think Book Two in the series will be complete? What will be its name?
A. I have a general plot outline complete and the name, but as for when it will be done I don’t know. I’m excited to flesh it out and once I start working I put almost all of my free time towards it, but I also want it to be done right and won’t rush it. Boy of Dreams took a little over a year from the time I started writing it until it was published. I’m not saying Book Two will be ready to read a year from now, but I’m not going to drag my feet either.
Q. What’s your writing process like?
A. I start with a general plot and major points. Once I’m actually writing, I like to edit what I did the day before first and then move on to writing new content afterwards. As I fill in the gaps between the major points I “discover” minor conflicts and scenes that work together with the main points and add to the character development/reveal. One the rough draft is done, I rewrite, edit, edit, have others edit, and then edit, and edit some more. It can get a little tedious, but I enjoy the shaping and refining of the story. At some point, you have to decide it is as good as it’s going to get for the most part. It will never be perfect. Judging when that time has come is difficult.