Brontide Deep Dive
Welcome back to the second author blog post in my ongoing series of trying to make myself more available to my fanbase XD Is it working? Who knows, but let’s keep trucking regardless!
So, I wasn’t all too sure what to talk about this month. I have so many different ideas and things I could talk about—too many, actually, and that hardly made it easier to make a decision. Looking at my current projects gave me some guidance though, and I figure now is as good as any to start delving into my book deep-dives—Brontide, in this case.
I suppose establishing the background is the best way to start this thing. I originally wrote Brontide as fanfiction. Some of you may already know that, but it’s been long enough at this point that a good majority do not. In my opinion, it’s pretty obvious it was something else before it became what it is, if that makes sense. It’s taken a long time for me to reconcile how bad I find Brontide to be with the enjoyment people still get out of it, and in some ways, I’m still working on it. Some part of me probably always will be.
I published the finished version in 2016 on my birthday at Sun’s behest (the artist who truly is to thank for The Tempest Series even seeing the light of day let alone gilding it in the most beautiful cover art a new author could as for). I was just turning 22, and wrote the bulk of it while I was 21. I wrote it during college, published it during college, and launched my writing career on its back. It was the first book-length thing I’d ever tried writing, and the first time I’d ever tried to write something with a fully developed plot as well. Up to that point I generally only wrote vignettes cobbled together into semi-cohesive narratives. I think it’s pretty damn obvious when you read it how out of my weight class I was fighting, but as I’m very fond of saying these days, Brontide taught me how NOT to write a book, and for that, I’ll always be grateful to it.
But we’re here for the deep-dive. Let’s get to that.
For those of you who haven’t read it, Brontide recounts the fateful meeting between Corbet, a French traveler and thief lost in the Irish countryside, and Ruari, King of the Seelie, Monarch of the Summer Court, and masochistic romantic extraordinaire. It’s largely about Corbet trying to keep his head above water as he’s thrust into a dangerous new world of Fae politics, machinations, and subterfuge all while contending with Ruari’s ever-increasing desire for him to stay with him for an eternity—after all, being king is lonely business, and Corbet hardly has any better place to go.
It’s a silly, sentimental book that combined so many of my favorite things at that point in my life: history, folklore, purple prose, and dramatic, unrealistic romances that are borderline antagonistic even as each character falls into the other’s gravity without much of a fight. At the time I’d been knee deep in my history studies, which made it really easy for me to fall down the rabbit hole of historical/folkloric fantasy fiction. The characters were my favorite kind—still are, now that I think about it. Hot/cold, overt/covert when it comes to revealing their wants and desires. Shameless versus cautious, but both ready to fight for what they want—even if it means risking death in the process.
Now, onto the questions. A kind soul on Twitter had some, so let’s get down to it.
What made me want to write a story based on the fae?
Well, I was sitting behind a desk at one of my college jobs (a front desk receptionist in my campus’s Honor Center) reading a book of common folklore tropes and objects. It was almost set up like a dictionary. I came to one titled “Fairy Locks” or “Elf Knots”, one of the two—I can't remember at this point, but I fell in love with the idea. Fairy locks were an old excuse as to why people woke up with tangled hair. It was because the fae had been tying knots in your hair while you slept, and that idea just took me by storm. From there I started the first version of Brontide, which ended up becoming a 20k HxH fanfic which ended up becoming the ~42k illustrated novel in the end. It’s pretty hard to believe that all started because I read a silly phrase in a folklore dictionary, but honestly, I’m sure better novels were written for worse reasons.
Were there any components I had to cut/didn’t make it in the final draft?
Straining my brain as I am, I really don’t think there was. Brontide was, again, a poorly written book, not just in how it ended up turning out but also in the way I physically structured, planned, and wrote it. If I wanted to write something into it, I did. I didn’t think too hard about how things fit together tonally and thematically, so I was pretty heavy handed when it came to indulging every creative bug I got while working on it. I was making additions straight up to the day it launched. For example, the entire scene during the solstice ball with them all dancing? That was a spur of the moment addition perhaps a week before launch.
I don’t think I knew enough about what I wanted the book to be or how to properly outline a story to say that there were things that didn’t make it in. But I’ve got a lot of regrets looking back on this work on things I now wish I’d done instead. Innumerable, honestly. If I ever had time to rewrite the thing, I would, but doing so would vastly change the story and the subsequent sequels. I’d have to rewrite them all, and try as I might, I just never see that happening. So… we’re left with what-could-have-beens instead.
First on the list is a doozy. If I was just starting to plan the Brontide of 2022, I would have changed the time period entirely. I would have set the story during the initial war between the fae and Milesians (which are an actual thing, I didn’t make that up! Despite my freshman-level execution, I truly did so much research while building these plots). I would have had Corbet meet Ruari during that conflict instead of organically and randomly in the forest like he did. This would have added so much more tension and depth to their relationship, making the story more of a war-narrative instead of the Labyrinth-esque hodge podge it wound up being. This would have incorporated so much more of the Court lore from the onset instead of how it gradually increased as the sequels went on, and would have led to a better pay off once we hit Petrichor.
I also think it would have unified the books tonally too. If you look at Brontide compared to Apricity… Well, I think you’ll get what I mean by that.
Secondly, and in the same vein as above, I would have made more of an effort to incorporate so much more of the fae political sphere right off the bat to make the shift between Brontide and Deluge much more organic. Lore aside, I really glossed over Avenir’s entire role as the Unseelie monarch and barely touched on the reason why they were truly so antagonistic towards Ruari. I won’t spoil things, but those who have read Deluge and Apricity especially know what I mean by this. I would have made sure Aisling and Avenir had more screen time so their decisions would have more dimension to them instead of coming off as cardboard cutouts of villains—for Avenir especially. I really liked that character and I did not do them justice in Brontide at all. My favorite sort of antagonist isn’t a villain. It’s someone who opposes the protagonist with their own fully-realized motivations and ideals guiding them. I didn’t want Avenir to be wrong in what they did—Ruari, if you think about it, probably got everything he was owed when Avenir did what they did. But it didn’t come off like that enough. How could it? We didn’t know Avenir when we needed to most, and that’s something I’m always going to regret.
Thirdly (and finally, since I really could go on for 40k alone on how much I’d change in this initial book), I would have actually delved into Corbet’s backstory. That’s probably one of my biggest regrets when it comes to this series as a whole. I fucked up Corbet’s introduction and never actually got into the bulk of the reasons why he ended up in Ireland. He’s one of my most underdeveloped main characters in a series—which is particularly egregious since I have entire write-ups on him that never really saw the light of day. I only wrote them up during the planning process of Deluge, so I can’t say it was something that got cut during the Brontide creative process, but God, I wish you’d all gotten to see more of his terrible life before he met Ruari. And visibly seen it, not just the glimpses of threads and hints I was forced to speckle throughout the subsequent books since I’d already lost my chance to exposition organically after Brontide.
But hey, maybe that’ll be another subject for a future blog post. Chime off in the comments if you’d like me to do a formal write up on Corbet next.
I think it’s natural to have some animosity towards a work as old as Brontide. Given the things I’m capable of now and the experience I’ve gained in plotting and developing characters, concepts, and worlds, I think it’d be a shock if I didn’t cringe every time I crack open Brontide just to look up some detail that I have to incorporate into the final work in the series, Hiraeth. I’m equal parts nostalgic for this series and utterly disappointed in myself for how I’ve executed it, but above all, I can’t help but still really love Ruari and Corbet. For those of you who don’t know, Hiraeth, the final book, takes place during their wedding. Even though they’re both side characters in this final book, the sheer pride and happiness I feel at finally getting to write their happy ending after is just—indescribable. Pure and simple. I owe them both so much for getting me to where I am now, and even if I’m unable to appreciate my old work, I can still respect it for the stepping stone it’s been towards the works I have yet to write.
Knowing there are still fans helps too, of course. I think it’d be impossible to hate any of my work when I view it through the much kinder eyes of all of you readers instead.
This is getting long. Too long? Who’s to say? Be sure to let me know what you’d like to hear me ramble on about next, and hey, if you like Brontide, sound off too. What’s your favorite part? Who is your favorite character? I think for as juvenile as Brontide is, it still satisfies some child-like dream we all had to be whisked away to a different world. If you’ve read it, if you’ve shared that daydream… then thank you.
I think we’re all in good company that way.
Until next time,