In the Beginning- Story Genesis

Everyone has them.

Little ideas. The “I wonder if’s…” and “At least I’m not’s…” in a given day. A picture surfaces and we see some other world, some other life, some other person. Most authors have a story or a moment just like that. It was the genesis of their work, the beginning of lifelong journeys shared by hundreds of thousands of readers. I wanted to track down some of those stories and share them with you. Here are a few:

I requested that Michael Martinez give a personalized, “genesis” story as his NEW BOOK is coming out on May 6th. It is the sequel to the much-heralded Daedalus Incident. (Twitter Handle: @mikemartinez72)

1. Michael J. Martinez, The Daedalus Incident and The Enceladus Crisis (Available soon! Can’t wait!)

“The genesis of The Daedalus Incident, and thus the Daedalus series, can be traced back to a movie poster.

More than ten years ago now, I was walking by a Blockbuster store – you remember those, right? – when I saw the poster for Treasure Planet, Disney’s scifi riff on Treasure Island. And I remember thinking how absolutely cool it looked, with a sailing ship in space. So I went in and rented it and…well. It wasn’t Disney’s finest. And so I thought, OK, I can do better. I’d like to think I did.

As for The Enceladus Crisis, I really wanted to find a model for writing a sequel that avoided basically retelling the first book with a different plot and a few new characters. I felt like I wanted to shake things up, really put some characters through the wringer, and expand upon the setting while I was at it.

Again, it was a movie to the rescue. Everyone, myself included, seems to think that The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the Star Wars movies. And it did all those things, and then some. It took a pretty simple story from the first movie and broke it wide open. It was brilliant.

The Enceladus Crisis ended up very different in flow and tone from The Empire Strikes Back, of course. But there were great lessons I learned from that film. Sequels need to up the stakes, broaden the world, deepen the characters and change up the arc of the series. And that, I think, is what folks will see in the second installment of the Daedalus series.”

– Thanks for sharing this, Michael! What a treat to hear the inspiration behind it. Now, how about some of our other favorite authors?

2. George R.R. Martin- A Song of Ice and Fire – In an interview with Rolling Stone, Martin talked about how his world-renowned sagas began. For him, it started with an image of a man beheaded and some direwolf pups in the snow. He set aside other work to begin crafting the images that refused to leave him alone, and wrote the scene from Bran’s perspective. That scene led to one of the most expansive fantasy worlds we’ve ever seen. According to the interview, he wrote a hundred pages that summer and couldn’t stop once he’d drawn the map.

3. J.K. Rowling- Harry Potter- On her website, J.K. Rowling describes her appropriate setting for a moment of revelation: a train. Like most good ideas, it fell right into her lap. We are all very happy that her train was delayed, and that it took four hours to get home. Those four hours gave her time to picture, as she puts it, “this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard.” That was in 1990. Twenty-four years later, Harry and the rest of us are very aware that he’s a wizard, and very in love with her work.

4. J.R.R. Tolkien- The Lord of the Rings- Being a traditional scholar and a linguist, it’s natural that Tolkien’s first glimpse of Middle Earth came in an old poem. He was reading Crist of Cynewulf and this couplet pulled him in:

Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast

Ofer middangeard monnum sended


Hail Earendel brightest of angels,

over Middle Earth sent to men.

Though the actualization of his world came later, our journey with Frodo began that day.

5. C.S. Lewis- The Chronicles of Narnia – One of my absolute favorite authors, Lewis described most of his stories as starting as “pictures”. Some of the most beloved children’s stories of all-time began with the picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. Lewis claimed this picture had been with him since he was 16 years old. At age 40 (that’s no typo… Twenty-four years later!) he decided to buckle down and make a go at turning the picture into a story. Aslan bound to life and the rest can be found on our bookshelves (I love my illustrated edition).

6. Ursula K. Le Guin- Earthsea Series- Le Guin doesn’t get nearly the amount of credit she deserves in this generation. Her groundbreaking series began when a publisher requested that she write a book for “the older kids”. Welcome to the Young Adult genre you love so much. Le Guin’s genesis came from a little planted seed about older and ancient wizards. How did they get so old? Didn’t they have to learn it all at some point? Wouldn’t there be some kind of training? Enter Ged. Forty-six years later, a host of fantasy authors have her to thank for the exploration of wizarding schools. Patrick Rothfuss, J.K. Rowling, and a number of others follow “adolescent” wizards, and Le Guin, in this respect.
7. Robert Jordan- A Wheel of Time- Jordan began with an image of an older man that discovered he was “the chosen one”… Well… that didn’t last long. Jordan eventually looked at Tolkien’s model of having younger characters going through experiences that were difficult and produced Rand Al’Thor and the gang.

8. Suzanne Collins- The Hunger Games- In an interview with Scholastic, Collins explained that her idea came from an activity that we all participate in… channel-surfing. Two channels caught her tired attention. On one, young people competing for money. On another, young people fighting in a war. She was tired enough that the lines blurred and Katniss was born.

9. Scott Reintgen – Gray Harbor- My story came to life during a reading of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror. One of her lines describes the plague, saying, “…as well as to Norway, where a ghost ship with a cargo of wool and a dead crew drifted offshore until it ran aground near Bergen. From there the plague passed into Sweden Denmark, Prussia, Iceland, and as far as Greenland..” This idea fascinated me. I couldn’t get the image of a ghost ship run aground out of my head. I had the image of the dead and the ignorant living, coming aboard to take bolts of wool because of their greed. From there? It was just about imagining what type of world I wanted this plague to devour, and in what ways I could make this plague unique in comparison with the Black Death.

These are just a few examples. They were really fun to explore and I’d encourage you to look up the genesis story of your favorite authors!


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