A Thread in the Tangle: A Fantasy Author Crafts Legends
In a shattered realm where gods breathe and battle, sixteen-year-old Isiilde must find her feet among people who both despise and crave her kind. She trembles on a precipice, caught between the lust of men, the greed of kings, and an eternal struggle for dominance. As three powerful kingdoms vie to own her, the fire in her blood awakens, sparking a cataclysm of events that spiral into disaster. A barbarian, a madman, and a timid nymph are all who stand between light and oblivion.
This is a rather short summary for an epic fantasy series, but as one Amazon reviewer said, “Sabrina Flynn has created an extremely original tale, a fascinating world, and, most important to me, characters you love and feel as if you know by the the end of the book. The synopsis truly doesn’t do it justice, but I’m not sure how a synopsis really could. You just have to read it to understand what a great storyteller Ms. Flynn is. With every line, she paints a picture with words and you imagine yourself going through the experiences along side the characters.”
There are currently three books in the Legends of Fyrsta series:
NORSEMEN AND NYMPHS
I’ve always loved fantasy books. When I was twelve, I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I cried when Gandalf fell into darkness, and to this day, Eowyn’s confrontation with the Witch-king of Angmar sits vividly in my mind along with the words, ‘But no living man am I!’ That was the first book I read where a woman hero made a difference, and I loved the hobbits—the concept of small, simple people doing what was right even when they were terrified, and holding onto hope despite overwhelming odds. Those are the kind of books I enjoy.
In my early twenties, after reading a long string of fantasy books that featured protagonists who were more villain than hero, my love of reading was completely obliterated. I wanted a protagonist who I could cheer for, not one who I was hoping would be tossed into a dungeon. So I started writing the kind of books that I wanted to read, and the realm of Fyrsta was born.
Fyrsta is heavily influenced by Norse mythology. Although it is subtle, like Odin disguising himself as a wanderer, gods walk multiple realms, or worlds, and wage war with each other and creatures. I also took elements from epic sagas like Beowulf, and the idea that humans had a fighting chance against god-like creatures. Heroes like Beowulf are not uncommon in Fyrsta. One race in particular, the Nuthaanians, are a race whose entire society is centered around battle. A Nuthaanian is more likely to spit in the face of his god in challenge than bow. And this, to a Nuthaanian, is the way in which they show respect.
The history and lore of Fyrsta is very complex, and there is an underlying theme that ripples throughout the series: That knowledge is the only thing separating men from gods.
Fyrsta used to be a sanctuary that was slowly transformed into a battlefield, a place where its own Guardians turned on each other and unleashed a devastating power that shattered the land. Civilization crumbled, and yet the gods continued to fight. Eventually, in an act of desperation, the Keeper of Fyrsta separated the gods, in a sense, caging them behind powerful wards. So the world has a very scarred history.
All of this is really secondary to the main storyline, which is a very character-driven story of a nymph named Isiilde. Nymphs are found throughout real world mythology. In Greek mythology, nymphs are depicted as sort of these young nubile maidens who were eternally innocent and carefree. A nymph was usually bound to a place, and if she mated with a god, then she gave birth to immortal children.
At first glance, it might seem like a simple concept, but nymphs are pretty complex creatures. When I first started writing about Isiilde, I had never come across a fantasy novel that explored this type of creature, so I decided to put my own spin on things. However, eternally innocent creatures don’t generally make good heroes in fantasy novels. So it was a challenge to center the story around an airy, carefree creature who flits from one thing to another. Total innocence can be annoying, but it’s also beautiful and something to be cherished. I wanted to paint that with words.
The second book, King’s Folly, is dedicated ‘to the survivors with scars unseen’. Through the years, I have noticed a trend in the fantasy genre. Sexual abuse is fairly common in mythology, as it is in real life; however, in fiction, it’s often used as a motivational backstory for a character, pure shock value, or added for flavor—to bring realism to a brutal world. Whatever the reason, as a survivor of sexual abuse, whenever I came across a reference to it in a fantasy book I was reading, it deeply affected me.
What stayed with me in these books was that so much emphasis was put on the act rather than the victim living after the fact. Words like ruin and damaged lingered with me, and when the survivor suddenly emerged as some fearless, larger than life, vengeful warrior… it made me feel weak. Fantasy fiction never seemed to address the doubt, fear, self-loathing, or the difficulty of trying to reassemble the shattered remains of a life.
With the Fyrsta series, I wanted to change that. I wanted survivors to see some of themselves in the character: the fear, the shame, the devastation. And the growth. To know that it takes courage to keep going, that it’s not as easy, or hopeless as most works of fiction would have you believe, and to hold on to hope when all you want to do is lie down and die.
Legends of Fyrsta explores all of this and more: The death of innocence, the brutality of life, and the determination to rise above it. In a word—hope.
THE VOICES IN MY HEAD
I alternate between writing a historical mystery series set in 1900, San Francisco and my fantasy series. Switching between genres helps me put some distance between each storyline, and allows things to stew in the back of my mind. At least, I hope they’re stewing. Writing isn’t really a conscious effort for me. I’m what is known as an organic writer. I don’t use outlines, but rather, I let a story grow naturally, so I never know what the characters are going to say or do until I’ve written it. This makes for an extremely entertaining writing experience!
My writing process is a lot like hiking to a distant mountain. I know that’s where I’m going, but I have no idea what lies between—whether I’ll have to forge rivers or chasms, or hike down valleys. Since I only have a vague idea of where I plan on ending up, I just start writing, and let the story take on a life of its own.
The same applies to the characters. Each character takes on a life of his or her own, and constantly surprises me. In my mind, they are living and breathing people, and I try to bring them to life on the page.
I’ll freely admit to having a rather large crush on Marsais. He defies the stereotypical male lead, yet there is still something incredibly appealing about him. One of my beta-readers called him a cross between Gandalf and Sherlock Holmes. I was very pleased.
Isiilde is always a challenge to write. Having an innocent, naive creature as your main protagonist isn’t always easy, but her story is a heart-wrenching one and her character growth reminds me of what the hobbits went through in Lord of the Rings. And then there is Oenghus, who’s loud and crude and complicated. He’s a Nuthaanian berserker and a healer with a large heart and a long past. He’s the ultimate protector of the weak.
All of my main characters are people who I love spending time with, and I hope readers will enjoy meeting them, too.
THE ACCIDENTAL AUTHOR
I pretty much fell into publishing by accident. Although I had penned four books set in the realm of Fyrsta, publishing never entered my mind. I was writing for my own enjoyment. It wasn’t until an editor contacted me that the idea even entered my mind. I was writing Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell fanfiction on a fan website, and an editor, who loved my fanfic, contacted me asking if I had anything of my own. I sent her A Thread in the Tangle, and she loved it!
This was probably the first time that I even entertained the idea that my writing was good enough to publish. The editor took the manuscript to her publisher, and told him that my book was good. Would he look at it? The publisher didn’t even open the first page. He took one look at the synopsis and said that nymphs don’t sell. And that was that.
While I was completely prepared to be rejected based on my writing quality, I was surprised to be rejected for something so superficial. I later learned that this really isn’t uncommon. Publishing houses are in it to make money, which is certainly understandable, but it doesn’t leave much room for taking chances with something unique. A good example of this is all the rejection letters that J.K. Rowling received from publishing houses before she found one for Harry Potter. One wonders if the publisher even glanced at the manuscript, or simply read the synopsis and declared that boy wizards don’t sell.
That is why when something like Hunger Games hits the bestseller charts, the book world suddenly gets an influx of copy-cat Dystopian series. Publishers are hoping to get another success like Hunger Games. Until, that is, the market gets flooded and readers move on to another hot genre.
All I could do was shrug. Although I submitted a few query letters, the whole process felt so very constricting, and considering that I had had an inside editor personally vouching for my work, it seemed pretty hopeless. So I kept writing, and having fun, and entered a fanfiction contest hosted by award-winning and best-selling author Annelie Wendeberg. I ended up winning, and made a friend in the process. Annelie gave me a firm push towards Independent publishing.
Independent publishing is not for everyone. It’s a lot of work. I started by doing a lot of research, and learning all I could about the business. I taught myself how to format ebooks, hired editors, cover artists, and handle the marketing end of things, which is constantly changing. And although I’m not opposed to the idea of signing on with a publisher one day, I very much have the attitude of ‘what can a publisher do for me that I can’t do for myself?’
Regardless, it’s really nice that authors have options now. A lot of traditionally published authors are turning to the independent route, or doing a mix of both. Independent publishing is no longer a dirty word. It’s simply a parallel road that, depending on the authors whim, can intersect, crisscross, or run alongside the traditional route. And we see this with Indie successes like Wool by Hugh Howey and The Martian by Andy Weir; both Independent authors.
So my advice to aspiring authors is to 1) finish your book, and 2) do your research. There are pros and cons to both routes. Each author is different, and what might work for one, won’t work for the other. The key is to find what works for you.
By Sabrina Flynn