Welcome to my blog post for the month of March 2021. I wanted to begin by saying how humbled and appreciative I am by the initial response to my debut novel, A Drowned Kingdom. To reach the top position on the best-selling lists of my Indie Publisher, https://www.friesenpress.com/ , for the first two weeks following the February 02, 2021 release day, was spectacular, and a proud achievement for me! All of the positive reviews, and kudos I have received, have meant the world, to know that people are enjoying the book. I would like to say thank you to all those who spent their hard earned money, and valuable time, to buy and read my novel.
Along with all the kudos I have received, as anticipated, there appears to be much speculation, fascination - even angst and horror - about the novel's protagonist, Lord Othrun, Second Prince of the Atalanteans. It would seem that, while they love the book, my readers either personally love Othrun, hate him! Or love to hate him, I am not sure which!
I certainly understand this phenomenon. After all, I wrote Othrun a certain way. I fully anticipated such a reaction. I would like to take the time to explain a bit about why Othrun has been written that way, and thus why my readers have found him so compelling, even if they don't necessarily like him at all!
Make no mistake, Othrun is the hero of the story of A Drowned Kingdom. I've done several interviews prior, and since the release of the book, and in those interviews I made a point of noting that Othrun is the "flawed" hero of the story. If you've listened to any of those interviews, it should be no surprise to you that Othrun, from whose first person perspective comes the narration for A Drowned Kingdom, has lots of issues.
But this is not uncommon for fantasy stories, or any stories for that matter, if we truly consider what makes a great story. Typically, at the start of many novels, the heroes or heroines are in trouble of some kind. They are either bitter, facing doubt and dismay, or lacking personal growth or development that is hampering their lives, or effectiveness to achieve their aspirations. At times, they even enter the story with a set of inaccurate beliefs about themselves, others, or the world surrounding them. These preconceived notions are frequently swept away, as the protagonist navigates through life, learning about things, gaining wisdom and experience. Yet, that's what titillates readers, as they see the protagonists grapple with their issues - many of them self-created - and try to overcome them, to grow, evolve, and succeed.
Moreover, if a protagonist is to be believable, they must appear human. To be human is to come with a myriad of faults, foibles, and eccentricities that everyone has. If those don't show up in the story, it can rob some of the credibility from the writing. Readers, including fantasy readers, are intelligent and discerning. They demand realistic world settings, and realistic characters for the novels they deign to read. Fantasy authors need to give that sense of realism to their readers, if they want to be read.
We are all flawed humans. Thus we know, as flawed people, we have a propensity to make tons of mistakes and bad choices. So it's realistic when we see Othrun make his share of those too, in A Drowned Kingdom. Still, for many reasons, those who perhaps did not revel in Othrun in the beginning of the novel, may come to appreciate how he is able to apply logic, in order to mitigate his errors, as the pages turn. Readers have commented on Othrun's ability to reason and potentially be very open-minded and accepting, as the novel progresses. He doesn't always consistently exhibit those positive traits, and it's never a complete about-face from his core beliefs. That in itself, is realistic. People typically don't just change overnight. To paraphrase what one reader said to me about Othrun, "I don't like him, but I have potential to like him, because he has potential to be better. He has to do better, before I can like him."
More important, perhaps, than liking Othrun, is attempting to understand him. This is especially critical when it comes to Othrun's backstory. Because of the first person narrative, the reader is in Othrun's head, and is permitted to go back in time and see episodes from his upbringing. The reader has the advantage of viewing some of what has made Othrun the way he is, including his emotional scars, tastes, and how his current beliefs and personality have taken shape. One can see why some of Othrun's flaws have manifested the way they have, and how it guides his thinking on matters where he must make decisions.
And because Othrun's flaws can compromise his decision making, this also helps the reader comprehend how he interacts with other characters, and the friction that can be created when Othrun and others disagree. The other characters interacting with Othrun have flaws too, and when these opposing flaws clash, it can create a lot of friction and tension. And who doesn't love a little friction and tension in a novel? One might argue, that's what makes a great novel!
On the back cover of A Drowned Kingdom a line reads, "Othrun will be forced to confront the truths of all he believes in on his journey..."
My protagonist, Othrun, will undergo a journey where he’ll evolve, change, and shape a continent. He’s not always likeable. He’s a snob, bigot, is vain, yet struggles with confidence. He’s patriarchal. He's a misogynist, and he is intolerant of the religions of others. Overall, he’s extremely flawed.
But even ordinary flawed people can change. We’re all redeemable. Ordinary people can change, evolve, and make a difference, not just fictional Princes. I want that message to shine through my work. I believe as Othrun's journey continues throughout The Drowned Kingdom Saga, readers will enjoy the completion of his character arc, as he strives to overcome his flaws, overcome his fears and prejudices, and tries to reach a place of greater insight. All this, on his route "...to become a king, and a legend."
That journey towards a hope of greater insight will continue in 2022, with the debut of The Last of the Atalanteans, the next chapter in Othrun's story.
Please feel free to comment on this and future blogs and I will be sure to get back to you. Chat soon!
P.L. Stuart's Blog
I am a Canadian high fantasy author. My debut novel, A Drowned Kingdom - first in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, is now available! Book 2 in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, The Last of the Atalanteans, is now available here!