L.L. Stephens is joining us today to talk about the novel Sordaneon. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Secrets sheathe swords.
A fallen world is littered with the corpses of broken god-machines, and a sheltered, angry youth is destined to re-awaken their power. But to embody a god, Dorilian Sordaneon must first learn to be human…
Dorilian is blood bound to the Rill, a quasi-living artifact that spans continents and empowers a privileged few to reap the riches of an entire civilization. Unfortunately, decades after seizing control of the remaining god-machines, those privileged few aren’t willing to give up their power—even if it means destroying the human bloodline to which the Rill is tethered.
What’s L.L. Stephens’ favorite bit?
One thing few people know about Sordaneon, and something I love about it, is that while it is being published as the first book of a series… the Triempery Revelations… it was written as a prequel. My favorite bit about Sordaneon is its central relationship — that of Dorilian and Marc Frederick — and how they bring every aspect of the rest of an entire series into focus.
Sordaneon almost didn’t happen at all. I published my first novel with DAW many years ago. The reason I didn’t follow up on my early success is a story for another essay, but my experience with DAW did leave me with a nugget of pure gold. Peter Stampfel read the (then) first book of what is now the Triempery series and told me my epic story wasn’t ready yet — then he said that what he really wanted to see was Dorilian Sordaneon’s back story.
Dorilian was not the main character. He was a quasi-villain, an arrogant asshole with too much power who complicated the hero’s journey at every turn. But he was also interesting. As an editor, Peter picked up on something I, as a new writer completely focused on my own vision, did not see. Having my series rejected was disappointing, but I continued to plug away on making my epic tale ready, believing in it with all my heart. As for Dorilian’s story… I let that idea sit. I wrote a chapter or two about Dorilian’s childhood just to see what would happen, then I left it to simmer on the back burner.
In the meantime, courtesy of a hard left turn in my life, writing fiction became something I did at nights. Writing at night and in stolen hours over a period of many years, I finished my series. I revised and rewrote the story of a civilization’s fall and the annihilation of a magical race. Princes and potentates vied for power. Economics achieved life on the page. Cultures took shape. Gods awakened. Version by version the story became truly epic: stronger and better and deeper. It also became more about Dorilian. Because it had to become about him. He was an amazing character strong enough to carry a whole series, and he let me know that.
Peter had noticed something that made Dorilian’s volatile nature intriguing: Marc Frederick. The relationship between these two characters, which occurred in Dorilian’s back story — not in the series I had written — resonated through the entire arc of the series. It moved within every plot and relationship. It had emotional weight. It lived and breathed and explained.
THAT was the story readers — and the series — needed. That was the book I needed to write.
So I wrote Sordaneon.
I wrote it twenty years after I had already worked out — and fully written out — the rest of the series. Certain things, including deaths and many events, were already done deals: hardened and unalterable. They had to happen. The Triempery series did not evolve from Sordaneon; Sordaneon was poured as a foundation beneath an existing story. I introduced the Entities and made them even more powerful. I showed a way of life that, by the time of the series I had written, was vanished, a way of life that had created the world of the series, of the otherworldly Rill, and a villain named Nammuor. A world that had created someone like Dorilian Sordaneon.
And Marc Frederick too. A character dynamic powerful enough to reverberate through six books has to be something special, about someone special.
“I honor your family more than you believe,” Marc Frederick said to the brooding young man before him. “If you ever become open to explanations, I will explain all I have done. If you ever become open to friendship, I will offer it. If you ever become my enemy, I will show you what that means as well. But know this: I will not let you fall into any hands but my own.”
“You think you can rule me?”
Marc Frederick signaled to Gareth that breakfast had ended. It was time for Dorilian to meet with his grandfather again. “No. But someone will, because you are still a very long way from ruling yourself.”
Enemies. Embattled. Boy meets man. Building the relationship between Dorilian and Marc Frederick — writing a clash of forceful personalities destined to either save the world or leave it helpless — is the most fulfilling thing I have done as an author.
Sordaneon is majestic. That’s what I built it to be. What the cover art shows it will be. Will readers appreciate the story’s focus on politics, family, and how those who come before us pave the way? Dorilian has the potential to awaken a god… but has Marc Frederick succeeded in awakening his potential to be human? I hope readers want to find out. An author can only hope the hard work pays off by giving readers something unique and memorable. Writing it certainly was.
L.L. Stephens writes books with complex characters who inhabit large, fully imagined worlds and encounter exotic dangers. Borrowing from a nomadic childhood, her stories about an outsider looking for ways to survive in new and strange societies come naturally. L.L. has had a few careers, including respiratory therapist, legislative assistant, and airport public relations coordinator. When not writing, L.L. enjoys voyaging on the high seas, playing deeply immersive board games, and family time. Right now, L.L. is living in and trying to figure out the western suburbs of Philadelphia and assessing whether the neighbors really do sound like characters from Mare of Easttown.