I’ve been asked where the idea for the Quarton series came from. If I was being dishonest and at my most ‘arty’, I could say that it was a totally original concept, born out of the depths of my creative soul. So, let’s go with that because that sounds good... except that most people know that, really, there are no totally original stories. They all come from somewhere and have to be based on something: another story or, maybe, experiences that have happened in life. Even experiences are not totally unique and will have some similarity with other events (although I am willing to be convinced otherwise - in which case, if you do have a totally unique experience, you should definitely write a book about it).
It was me, Ian Hornett, who originally and definitely said: ‘Writers are thieves and liars.’ I’ll leave you pondering that as I tell you where the idea for my book actually came from.
Imagine the scene – lakes, mountains, fresh air, trees, fan tails swooping around, blue skies. No, not the platform at Grays Railway Station. I was on holiday in New Zealand about 3 years ago. As is my habit when I go away, I went into philosophical mode. I started to think about what it was all about: life, the universe and everything (to quote my hero, Douglas Adams). The lovely scenery I have been lucky enough to see now and again has encouraged that introspection. Ironic: why does looking outwards towards nature, make people look inwards? Or is just me? In the past, I always, rightly, concluded that I am very lucky and I return home feeling refreshed.
This time, it was a little different.
I was at a place called Glenorchy, near Queenstown on the South Island. You can add lagoons into the stunning mix of things we were enjoying. My wife, Ang, had often said I should write a book. Great idea, except that I was teaching full-time and, in any case, I had no clue what to write about. But for a couple of days before going to Glenorchy, the shoots of a story had been nudging at me. It wasn’t what I actually ended up writing but it was the precursor to Quarton. I might still write that first idea so I should keep it under wraps. But since it is just you and me and, I’ll tell you what it was about.
Here is the hastily written elevator pitch (with author notes) for that original concept:
Mankind has reverted to a feudal system following the complete degeneration of the capitalist system (not at all original, been done, many times). Frodo and Harry (check, just in case these names have been used before)) live on an island whose exclusive function and trade is to provide carpentry services to the other islands around, each of which has their own exclusive and reciprocal trade specialty. Their idyllic lives are disrupted when Goldfinger, (don't stop, you’re on a roll, Ian, with these character names) whose volcanic island is the centre for metal production, proposes they build huge iron structures to bridge the islands instead of using boats, the traditional method of transport. But that isn’t all the cunning Goldfinger wants them for. A bridge too far? (that’s catchy... might use that as a title...)
Hooked? Well, it could work, or a variation of it could. File it away, I said to myself, and move on to the next experience. It’s not a good idea anyway and you have a full-time job. Except, this time, I didn’t file it away. At Glenorchy, the idea grew and changed.
The bridge idea was by no means new. There are loads of books about bridges. What about a bridge to another world? Again, not original; you need go no further than Thor and the Bifrost Bridge at Asgard. But that’s okay – no-one has the exclusive right on bridges in stories (I sense the ‘cease and desist’ letter is already in the post from MacBridges). I needed an angle and I got that at Glenorchy. Where exactly it came from, I do not know.
What was that angle? It was reincarnation, again a well-written about theme but maybe not used in combination with the bridge idea. I wanted to have characters in conflict, a bridge to another world is destroyed and that conflict continues in later lives on that new world. Had it been done before? Don’t think so. Could I guarantee the concept was totally original? Maybe not but it would be my story so it would be different to anything written before. Would it be a good story? Yes, possibly, as long as I gave up full-time teaching to write it. Ah... What was an expensive holiday of a lifetime could be rapidly turning into an expensive holiday we might be paying for for a lifetime.
In the car, I pitched two ideas to my lovely and very understanding wife.
Pitch 1) – ‘I have an idea for a book and this is it...’
Pitch 2) – ‘To write it, can I stop teaching full-time... pleeeeaaassssee?’
She said, ‘Great idea,’ to pitch 1) and ‘Of course, yes,’ to pitch 2). I was very relieved; trying to negotiate twisty roads and operate the clutch, brake and accelerator while on your knees, is not easy.
It was either the pitch of a lifetime or I have a lovely and very understanding wife. (Give you a clue: it wasn't the pitching).
I did one more term at my school, during which time I barely thought about the story. My brain was too full of teacher stuff. But, somewhere in the depths of that creative soul I didn’t know I had, was a book. It came out really quickly after I stopped teaching. After seven weeks, I had over 100,000 words.
During that time, there were things I found out that I wanted from the book. I wanted it to have a little bit of sci-fi, a dystopian setting for some of it and a lot of pace, intrigue and engaging plot twists. I wanted to write for the Young Adult audience but make it appealing for the 50% plus of adults who read YA. I wanted plenty of action, not massive amounts of description and I wanted it to be set at different times in different places. I didn’t want to make it too easy for the reader to work out what was going on. I wanted the same characters cropping up and for the reader to think, ‘Ah, these are reincarnated characters... so which one is that?’ I wanted readers who like to know exactly what’s going on to stop and flick back to check. I wanted those who don’t like to do that to be able to go with the flow and ‘hope it all makes sense at the end.’ (It does). I wanted to try out a few different writing styles in the stories within stories to see if that worked. I don’t know. Does it? I would love you to have a read and tell me.
I loved writing it. It is a book that I am very proud of because it is my first and I put a lot of effort into it. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have had the opportunity to do it.
I am looking forward to doing more blogs about the characters and some of the themes and talking points from it. I would love you to contact me to ask questions about it or me. Drop me a line via the contacts section on the website or email directly on Ianhornettofficial@gmail.com.
You can find Quarton: the Bridge on Amazon Books by searching on the title or my name. Or follow the links from the main pages of this website. There is more background on there about my writing.