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The Big Idea: Marshall Ryan Maresca

Writing characters is often one of the most fun parts of the creation process, especially when those characters end up doing more — or doing things differently — than we initially expected. Sometimes, as Marshall Ryan Maresca explains in this Big Idea, they even end up making, shall we say, An Unintended Voyage.

MARSHALL RYAN MARESCA:

The big idea of An Unintended Voyage is right there in the title, because this was not a book I had originally intended to write. I had a whole plan, and here came this idea, blindsiding me at 4pm on an idle Tuesday. But as soon as it hit me, I knew I had to buckle up and head out on this new journey.

Let’s back up. I am, in the lingo among writers, a “plotter”. I am very big on planning and outlining my work before I dive in, both in terms of writing each novel, and in the grander scheme of the larger series. And when it comes to the Maradaine Saga, I absolutely have a Big Wild Plan for the entire series.

But then Corrie Welling leaped into the story.

You see, in the original plan I cooked up way back in the mid-aughts, Corrie Welling was not part of the mix. I hadn’t even conceived of her yet. She didn’t even come into existence until the second draft of what would become A Murder of Mages. When I wrote the first rough draft of that book, I had a lot of talk of Minox Welling coming from a family with deep roots in the city constabulary, but we never saw that family. So the next draft was a massive rewrite where I didn’t just give him a family, but a huge one, including a younger sister who was a patrol officer in his same stationhouse. Thus Corrie was born, a complete counterpoint to Minox: brash, foul-mouthed, expecting a fight at any point. But she also had Minox’s same moral center, that belief that her work as a constable was, at its core, about serving her neighbors and protecting her community. And, friends, Corrie Welling was so much fun to write. So much so, that her role expanded in An Import of Intrigue and A Parliament of Bodies, the next two Maradaine Constabulary novels, and writing her sections was always a delight.

That is probably why, while writing Parliament, the idea for this book dug into my brain and would not let go. This was not part of the Big Wild Plan, not at all. But the more that idea germinated in my brain, the more I wanted to do it, the more I knew I needed to do it. Even if it meant adding another entire novel into the Maradaine Saga, one that isn’t part of any of the other subseries. Even if it meant I had to do something horrible to Corrie (and the characters who love her) to set it up.  

So, at the end of Parliament, for Minox and other members of his family, Corrie is missing and presumed dead. But the readers knows that Corrie is alive, having been knocked out by corrupt members of the constabulary, is chained up with a large group of abducted children, on a ship destined for parts unknown. A major cliffhanger for her, and when I finished all of Phase One of the Maradaine Saga with People of the City, the one question I heard from readers the most, the biggest dangling thread going into Phase Two, was this: BUT WHAT HAPPENED TO CORRIE?

So, here, in An Unintended Voyage, we see what happened to Corrie.

After additional tragedy and misadventure, Corrie finds herself in the Mocassa, a metropolis on the other side of the world from Maradaine. Circumstance lands her there with a massive debt over her head, and no sense of the language or the culture. She will have to navigate her way through earning her way out of the debt and getting back home, all while learning how to live in this city as a working-class foreigner.

In essence, a Working-Class Epic Fantasy.

We don’t get the fate of kings or the fall of nations, but something rooted in the personal, grounded in the stakes of debt, responsibility and Corrie’s own code. Plus I got to throw in an apocalyptic cult, a mystical astronomical event, and a giant library.

Now a lot of this is because, since I am also a large-scale worldbuilder in addition to a long-term planner, I wanted an excuse to share some of the rest of the world beyond the city of Maradaine. And Corrie Welling, in being the heroic character in Maradaine probably the most unsuited to suddenly finding herself in a foreign city on the other side of the world, was actually the best one to put on that journey. She gave me the opportunity to approach the whole world in a fresh new way, writing a book that expands on the Maradaine Saga without being reliant on the rest of the books.

After writing the full saga of the first phase of Maradaine, this was a wonderful and unexpected adventure to go on, that let me explore the world further, while giving both new readers and seasoned fans a thrilling ride with Corrie Welling.

Because sometimes, we all need that thrilling ride we weren’t expecting. We’ll find ourselves in magical places we had never planned on going to, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll be exactly where we needed to be.


An Unintended Voyage: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

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