A lot of readers are curious after reading books about where the idea came from. So I thought I’d share with you here a bit about the story of “The Worker Prince, Book 1 of The Saga Of Davi Rhii.” I have stated often that the genesis occurred when I was 15 years old. I don’t remember exactly but I know it was while I was in early high school, and I’m 42 now. It’s a long time ago. The kinds of movies and books I was into then were Star Wars, Star Trek: The Original Series, Planet Of The Apes, Space 1999, Superman — noticing a pattern here? I liked my genre stuff and I liked it larger than life with good v. evil and heroes who were clearly good v. bad guys who were clearly bad. As a young kid, raised in a Christian home, listening to Sunday sermons and Sunday school stories, reading the bible, and reading these books, I dreamed of grand adventure. I wanted to be the dashing hero. I wanted to save the world. That was the start of it.
Also in the midst of this, I struggled with being adopted. Being adopted challenges your sense of belonging by forcing you to ask: why didn’t they want me? The irony of this, of course, is that the adoptive parents who love you chose you and wanted you. But somehow your mind and heart just dwell on the rejection part and tend to gloss over the other, at least for a while. Add to this sense of unwantedness my sense of being an outcast amongst my peers as a geek, a Christian, and a kid who wasn’t afraid to follow his own drumbeat, then you have someone whose life was and has often remained focused on questions of: who he is and where he belongs. So those elements combined into the Davi Rhii coming of age story and his quest, upon discovering his own adoption, to figure out who he is.
The movie The Ten Commandments ran on TV annually back then on the big networks, and I often watched it. I have always loved Charlton Heston despite his annoying association with the NRA. The movie was so well made and the saga so dynamic. It seemed to lend itself well to the large stage of space opera as I loved it. I dreamed up the saga, then titled The Exodus, as a huge miniseries involving a group of slaves breaking free and fleeing from their captors much as the Israelites did in the biblical story. I came up with the father of the main character, a man named Sol, and the antagonist, an evil ruler named Lord Xalivar. I even wrote the first line of the novel: Sol climbed to the top of the rise and stared up at the stars in the heavens — later changed during editing to: Sol climbed to the top of the rise and stared up at the twin suns as they climbed into the sky. I made pages and pages of notes and story outlines and dreamed of the day I could go further and write the story.
Then I went off to college and life happened and somewhere along the way those notes got lost–or at least buried in a box where I have yet to find them. But the names Sol, Xalivar, that opening line, and the basic plotline stayed with me, gestating mostly in the closets of my mind, but occasionally popping out for air. I did continue to read Science Fiction and Fantasy whenever I could and revel in the way they stimulated my imagination.
In the Fall of 2008 I made my first attempt at a novel–a love story a la Nicholas Sparks which I still hope to write some day–written without any knowledge of craft and little of the genre. I finished it around 60000 words, then prompting rewrote it several times before discarding it as crap and me as unfit as a novelist and began studying my craft. I bought various books, read author interviews, got into On Writing by Stephen King, etc. I also returned to reading novels, a habit I developed as a preteen and continued for years but then dropped after college in favor of nonfiction and other research and rarely revisited. Over the next year as I read, I suddenly rekindled my passion for science fiction and fantasy. And, of course, the Davi Rhii story came back to me again and again. I practiced my craft, studied it in novels I read, and then, finally, in August of 2009, sat down and wrote those words: Sol climbed to the top of the rise…
From August 15 through November 15, I wrote 89000 words, day after day, sometimes writing as much as an entire chapter in a day, sometimes only a few scenes. I wrote every morning, first thing when I woke up for a couple hours. Then worked my telecommute job for the day, wrote a little at lunch, and then did more writing in late afternoon before dinner. I was cooking along, despite restarting Chapter One over after realizing I’d started it in the wrong spot. The story just flew out of me with very little planning–pantsing all the way, being as surprised as I hoped my readers would one day be. Despite my wife’s hospitalization for mental illness by a judge and all the ensuing stress, I wrote every day, the only time I got stuck being on the final chapter, Chapter 13, which somehow took me three weeks to write. Finally, I wrote the quick Epilogue in one day and wrote: The End.
Then, following the encouragement of author Ken Scholes, whom I’d met and talked with on Facebook, I set about to write short stories while I let the first draft gestate a while. For a month, I wrote around 2 stories a week. Then I went back and read The Worker Prince again, finding it wasn’t half as crappy as I expected it to be. In fact, it might actually be good. The draft that comes out October 4th is probably around number 18 or 19–counting even partial drafts or drafts to eliminate -ly adverbs–but I did it. The book went from 89000 down to 85000 and back up to the 89700 it is now along the way.
The story developed in the process. I added a lot of political intrigue, a story of divided belief systems which reflects our own U.S. culture today, I added subplots, twists, and even various characters, and I somehow divided my original idea into three books, even though I wasn’t sure what the other two would be yet. All I knew was, there was no exodus in the book I’d come up with so I had to find a new title. The slaves being called workers, the hero being a prince born a worker, I then devised the title and I was set. I found fascinating the way belief systems and cultures interact and cause clashes and wanted to write a more realistic world than is often depicted in stories with Christian characters by Christian novelists because I thought this story was one which would appeal across belief lines and from the feedback I get from early readers, I hope I’ve accomplished that.
The Worker Prince is not a Christian novel in my mind, even though it has characters in it who engage with that belief system. I made a conscious effort never to stoop to proselytizing because I don’t like to be proselytized either. And I have as many or more non-Christian characters as Christians in major roles. It was the milieu of conflicting beliefs which fascinated me as a setting for a space opera which I have not seen explored and which led me to write it.
The journey of the idea to publication is an altogether different story, and at some point, when it’s been out a while, I may break down the nuances of the various plot lines, twists, and motifs which ended up there, but for now, that’s a summary of how The Worker Prince and Saga Of Davi Rhii came about. It’s an incredible accomplishment in my life. My greatest writing success, and I am truly grateful to that 15-year-old kid for having such a great idea, and also grateful for life keeping me from trying to write it until I had the depth and wisdom to do it right. I could have log ago tried, failed, ruined it and given up, then where would I be now. It would be sad if no one got the chance to read this story because so far, people love it. So here I am on the cusp of my debut novel which had quite a journey, grateful for every step.
For what it’s worth…
To read a synopsis of book 1, The Worker Prince, click here: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/2011/01/22/the-worker-prince-synopsis/
To read excerpts of The Worker Prince, click here: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/tag/excerpt/
Blurbs so far:
“Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s “The Worker Prince” will appeal to readers of all ages. Bryan deftly explores a world where those who believe in one God labor against oppressors, and a single man may have the power to change their situation for the better. But will he be able to rise above all that his powerful uncle has taught him?” — Brenda Cooper, Author of “The Silver Ship and the Sea” and “Mayan December”
“I found myself thinking of stories that I read during my (misspent) youth, including Heinlein juveniles and the Jason January tales, as well as Star Trek and Star Wars.”
— Redstone SF on “The Worker Prince” series (Book 1 forthcoming, October 4, 2011, Diminished Media)