I met Brad when we were taking Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp back in 2005. He was one of the people whose story made me think, “Yep. This guy will have a career,” because it had really interesting world-building combined with lovely writing.
Behold! I was right. How smug I feel to recognize someone else’s talent.
Like his short story back in the day, he’s created a fascinating and rich world for his novels that feels like something out of Russian folklore, but with windships. Not zeppelins. No, no. These are wooden ships that fly through magic. But let me get out of the way and have Brad tell you about his Favorite Bit.
BRADLEY P. BEAULIEU:
And my favorite bit in the book—is a bridge.
Hey, don’t roll your eyes! Yes, it’s a bridge…
Let me explain. In the book, the eponymous straits bisect the island of Galahesh. The island has been settled for centuries, and although the people of the islands have had the ability to navigate the wind using massive, age-of-sail-styled windships, they have not been able to cross the straits. This is because the ley lines that run through and among the islands are thrown about wildly at the straits. You see, at the straits—that is, because the straitsexist—there is a confluence of currents both in the sea and in the magical lines that allow wind-based travel. It twists the magic the ships need to fly so significantly that they cannot easily cross it, nor, in fact—due to the peculiarities of how the ley lines whorl—go around. Because of this, trade has always been difficult. But the barrier at the straits isn’t all bad. It is also a natural barrier, preventing Anuskaya’s bellicose neighbor, the Empire of Yrstanla, from attacking the islands directly.
As the book opens, a bridge is being built by the Emperor over the straits. The bridge is massive, an undertaking never before thought possible. The reason for its construction isn’t clear to our heroes, but they judge that nothing good can come of it. The bridge itself, known as the Spar, is something that represents a bit of the Anuskaya and a bit of Yrstanla. It has a foothold on both sides of the straits, and that makes it a meeting point between these two powers, a catalyst, if you will. It could lead to increased trade, increased relations… Or it could lead to war, and I loved that as simple a thing as a bridge could not merely represent such things, but directly provide for them.
The other part of it (raising my geek flag a bit here) was that I wanted something grand and cinematic for the book. The cover for the first book, The Winds of Khalakovo, was a beautiful rendering by the amazingly talented Adam Paquette. The cover for Straits went in a new direction to try to “code” better for the epic fantasy fan, but I didn’t know that early on, and I had in my head this beautiful white bridge with churning seas below and tall cliffs to either side, windships above with stately white clouds and blue skies beyond. In my mind’s eye I pictured some of the mesmerizing paintings by Michael Whelan, covers like the ones for The Integral Trees and The Way of Kings and The Memory Sorrow and Thorn trilogy, paintings with such wonderful scale. It helped me to visualize not only the scenes at the Spar, but others where I wanted similar feelings of depth and breadth and height.
I also like that the bridge was not quite complete as the story opened. In fact, in the prologue, its construction had yet to begin. And so the work on the bridge was an analogue for the work I was doing, not merely writing and completing this particular book, the second in a trilogy, but creating a bridge of sorts from Book 1 to Book 3.
The Spar was one of those elements that felt good in its early conception, and, now that the book is done and out in the world, feels larger than the spans that rise above the white waters below and the stone roadway that runs across it. It feels as though it’s connecting many things, both within the book and without, which gives me deep satisfaction.
And that’s why it’s my favorite bit.
STRATA: A story of the Future Suns, available now on the Kindle and Nook.
The Winds of Khalakovo, available now in print, and on the Kindle and Nook.
The Straits of Galahesh, available from Amazon, B&N, and Indieboo
Bradley P. Beaulieu is the author of The Winds of Khalakovo, the first of three planned books in The Lays of Anuskaya series. In addition to being an L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award winner, Brad’s stories have appeared in various other publications, including Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future 20, and several anthologies from DAW Books. His story, “In the Eyes of the Empress’s Cat,” was voted a Notable Story of 2006 in the Million Writers Award.