The Madness of Light Afterword (+ Recording!)
This afterword delves more into the plot and character process of the story than anything else. It's how process and prose intermingle.
All the Choices Made and Not Made
The Madness of Light always had a coherent start.
It starts off with Balon. No Trinity and the One, no Hequera, no Wolfen, no Humans, nothing tying it to the old. Just Balon, not even named until the end of the first chapter. It was brutal; it was jarring; it was unabashedly Balon.
The Madness of Light is Balon’s story—Balon Zfnoctewoohi if she ever admitted it. But she does. She goes from being a nebulous concept that thinks itself defined to something actualized.
The book is a reflection of Balon’s journey. But it is also my journey too.
See, I had this grand idea of where I was going in this book and The Corruption of Dark (book seven). The whole plan was right there in my Neraq. I just had to write it out. But then I started actually writing it.
The intended beginning stayed the same. Everything was being laid out. No surprise there.
And then it happened.
The first major deviation took the form of a being named Rayacha Chajaran.
At first, Rayacha Chajaran was just this crafty woman who was more modernist than she let on or not as traditionalist as people thought she was.
Then I thought…let us make her the other parent of Lana and Nielkov Zfhi. The ‘mother’ so to speak. It just came to me and it felt so right. I had this revelation before I wrote anything about her. I thought, well, let’s make that a sort of secret. It’ll come out later to Balon and it’ll be a mini-twist.
Rayacha Chajaran defied that path I had roughly outlined for her. She rejected all the expectations I had for her once Balon entered that room for the first time. She just said everything and bared it all to Balon right there. Her words and phrases, so deft and precise, came one after the other and I knew that I could not let things stay the way they were.
Her part grew. Her influence spread out across the book, the future of the series, in intangible ways.
But I kept chugging along, letting her significance simmer all while Lana’s machinations, the Trinity and the One’s quest, and Balon’s indecision came to head. The story was rising to a crescendo, not caring for where it was going.
I cared but I could not decide the destination.
The end—what end for Lana Zfhi and all that had encircled her. Her goals, her quest, I believed in them for they were the way, but her way, her end, was a question mark looming over it all. I had felt so strongly in the beginning that she needed to live so she could die later. But when I was writing her words, Balon’s anguish over the choices of which side to choose or whether they was any side asides from Lana’s, I changed my mind.
I let her die. She wanted that death and I gave it to her.
Her dying is one choice and the manner of that death was another. Specifically Lana’s last words. Whether Lana would say Balon or Balon Zfnoctewoohi to her daughter at the end.
Both were wrong. If she said Balon, she would be going against everything she had done. But if she said Balon Zfnoctewoohi, Balon’s owning of her identity would be more like loyalty to her mother than a choice she had made on her own.
So I chose silence. I left it up to interpretation. Balon’s interpretation. That void gave Balon the choice to own who she was and who she would be.
Balon at the start doesn’t know who she is. She thinks she does, but she does not. She makes choices upon choices and they don’t make sense with each other but she thinks she is perfectly sensible. All those choices pile on top of each other.
It all blows up when Balon confronts them all with that lack. She makes her choice. Balon Zfnoctewoohi finds herself.
At the same time, I am confronting my choices through her. At the revelation that makes four five, I find again the passion of performing the raw act of creation. Through all the change and challenge, The Madness of Light gave that to me as Balon took it for herself.
That is the essence of the story. It is about the choices we made, the choices we did not make, and how we made them. How we carry on having made our choices. How all the alternatives flash in our mind and we either turn away or we keep going. How we want to be in that other place to see what it is like. How we have to keep on in this reality.
I pushed myself in the creation of The Madness of Light. I was wavering, I was frustrated, but I chose to keep going. I chose everything. All the choices, all the not-choices, are mine. I owned them all.
And so this is where we go from here.
Balon Character Development Spotlight
Since Amethyst Shards is (finally) out, I wanted to talk about Balon Zfnoctewoohi. Balon, Balon, Balon. Balon who is the only member of the Trinity and the One to debut mid-series (excluding Dien who is like an evolution of Hequera). Balon who has only been in five books (half of the series) thus far but has has dominated so throughly thematically and plot-wise since her debut.
Tarot Minor Arcana Matching: Cups
The continuation of the Minor Arcana matching series: The Suit of CUPS! Cups was evocative of political prowess and also religious power to me. Thus, Cups finds ourselves with characters from The Madness of Light, and the political spaces of the Empire. It also includes the characters presented in Sepulcher of Shadows.