Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by Tarn Richardson. In this guest post, Tarn Richardson writes about what inspired him to write The Darkest Hand trilogy.
Tarn Richardson is the author of The Darkest Hand trilogy, published by Duckworth Overlook in Europe and Australia, and Overlook Press in the US and Canada.
Consisting of The Hunted (free prequel novella), The Damned (2015), The Fallen (2016) and The Risen (2017), The Darkest Hand trilogy unleashes the flawed but brilliant Inquisitor Poldek Tacit upon a Europe engulfed by the First World War. The Damned was one of the book depository's 'Books of 2015'.
Having grown up in Somerset, he now lives in Salisbury with his wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson.
GUEST POST: "What inspired you to write the trilogy The Darkest Hand?" by Tarn Richardson
Writers; we’re an odd lot! Sitting for hours, days, weeks and months - sometimes even years - on our own in our studies and bedrooms and hotel lobbies, writing down words and worlds from our heads, rarely happy when we’re writing, even less happy when we’re not. And then some of us, the really stupid or mad among us, decide we’d like the challenge of writing not just one book, but a series of books, a trilogy!
I am such a writer.
It’s always been a dream of mine to write a trilogy. Ever since I read Lord of the Rings as a kid. Being published wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to write and publish a trilogy, a fantasy trilogy unlike anything before it. A trilogy that would move and inspire and terrify. A trilogy to make people think and wonder.
Unfortunately I had no ideas, or more to the point I had no GOOD ideas. For twenty years I wrote absolute drivel, directionless overblown waffle that lit many fires (the heating kind, not inspiration kind) and filled drawers. A million plus words of nonsense.
And then, in 2012, I travelled to France on the trail of a great uncle who went out to fight in the trenches of WW1. It was an incredible trip, really moving and inspirational and I just felt I had to write about the experience. And all of sudden I had found the thing I knew I could write about, something that moved me enough to dedicate years of my life to working on. Something that could help me conjure the words and visions that would keep me, and potential readers, hooked.
So, I got home and I started planning this grand epic of World War One, sort of like Game of Thrones meets Band of Brothers. Which no one really wants. And pretty soon I had got myself tied into knots. And I realise that these knots saved me from creating something ghastly and laboured and a waste of time. I was lacking that spark of originality, something that would lift the whole piece from being just another world war caper cut with fantasy to something bigger, bolder and braver.
Then one night I was sitting down and reading the brilliant Artemis Fowl to my youngest son and he stopped me and said that it was 'boring'. “Boring?!" I exclaimed. "This is one of the greatest kids books ever written!" But he wasn't having any of it. So I went off to find something else brilliant from the shelves, and got the same reaction. So I asked him what he would write a book about that wouldn’t be boring and he immediately replied, "World War One and werewolves" and a light came on in my head and instantly I knew there was seed of an idea there! Out of the mouth of babes!
I loved the idea of werewolves and war, the whole thing of ‘monsters we are lest monsters we become’, of soldiers doing horrific things simply to survive, of werewolves cursed to do the same. Immediately I started researching werewolves and was staggered to discover this rich and long history of them within folklore, of curses and connections with the Catholic Church. It was staggering to find such wonderful material and at once I knew I had two points of the triangle that would form the basis for the trilogy. I just needed the third.
Inquisitor Poldek Tacit walked into my life one day. He just materialised on the page. In an early draft he was a Russian Major. But after discovering about the Catholic Church, excommunication and werewolves, the Inquisition seemed the most obvious route down which to go and the Russian Major was rewritten as an Inquisitor. I've read that writers of songs say that some of their best ideas just come to them out of the blue, like gifts from heaven. Tacit was like that. He just came to me. *plink* Out of the ether.
I really liked the ideal of someone who was a hero but fundamentally flawed. And Tacit is gravely flawed, a sadistic alcoholic, but who happens to be the best at what he does. But, of course, he wasn’t always this cruel individual, not always this damaged. The road to making us who we are is long and Tacit’s journey is one of the longest and hardest. I had immense fun writing him and making him who he is.
World War One was a terrible conflict, perhaps the worst in mankind’s violent history. Yes, the Second World War killed and displaced a lot more people, but it could be argued that World War Two was a justified war, in that it was a conflict of good versus evil. The same cannot be said of World War One. It was a conflict that grew out of dislike and jealousy from cousins of the same royal family; Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, George V of Great Britain and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, all grandsons of Queen Victoria. It was an opportunity for these empires to set their weight and might against each other and see who was the most powerful, all played out by the innocent populations of these empires.
The brutality and futility of the conflict is marked, and I knew it was the perfect setting for a trilogy which examines who we are, why we do what we do to each and how our leaders have such control over us.
This is what lead me to write The Darkest Hand trilogy. And with the reach and opportunities presented by the metaphors of horror and fantasy, I hope I have been able to write something that really moves and inspires readers. I hope you enjoy it!