Before the Spear 1.) - The Homalis and the Agency
Authors are regularly badgered about where their ideas come from, but do we really do anything different to everyone else? Perhaps we allow ourselves to daydream more, perhaps we're more trained to notice ideas, perhaps we're less afraid to connect thoughts or chase them to their conclusions, but I'm not convinced that I have - or any author has - some innate ability to get any more ideas than usual.
Fundamentally ideas flow from a place of creativity and imagination that's abundant as a wellspring when we're children - a part of ourselves that risks drying up as we grow older if we let it. I like to think that writers and all creative types are just those that kept that part of the brain youthful through repeated exercise, or renewed it back to its childhood form. So it's no surprise that the thought processes and daydreams that spawned ideas for this trilogy were first sparked by a childhood game my friends and I played when we were just six or seven years old.
The game was called "Mantooth"; in it my friend Etienne took the role of a boy called "Mantooth" who had a variety of abilities such as turning into a sabre-toothed tiger, taking out his sabre-like teeth and use them as swords and riding about on some kind of ice motorbike. I played the artistically-named "Werewolf," a - you guessed it - werewolf that fought by his side, and James Fulcher - now a frequent and trusted beta reader of all my books - would fill a variety of roles, usually some sort of villain for us to overcome.
Random, I know, and I couldn't tell you where Etienne got the character of Mantooth from, but I can tell you that young me was absolutely obsessed with werewolves - or any shape-changing monsters for that matter. I was transfixed by transformation scenes like that of Professor Lupin in "Prisoner of Azkaban," the monster in the chilling "Doctor Who" episode "Tooth and Claw" and the parodic but nonetheless terrifying transformation in "Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Wererabbit."
There was something about that idea of a normal human turning into a bloodthirsty beast that really struck me. So, as I grew up, my mind often lingered on the adventures of Mantooth and Werewolf, wondering what they got up to in their spare time. Eventually they were swapped in for different people entirely, and I'll talk more about this when I talk about the characters of Jake, Claw and Daniel, but it got me thinking about a strange fantastical world not unlike our own where many people with strange transformative powers existed.
As I grew up, this world of animalistic people swung between the more magical aspects of fantasy and the faux-realism of science-fiction, and I slowly ended up somewhere right in the middle of the two extremes, where there was a science and a logic behind these creatures, but one that was not too well understood, with potentially supernatural origins.
There were many iterations of stories in this world in my head - some with evolutions of characters halfway between "Mantooth and Werewolf" and "Jake, Daniel and Claw," others with early versions of Orville and Lilly. I also started to incorporate my own twists on other mythical and legendary monsters - vampires, merpeople, swamp monsters - and even threw in new types of Homalis like the falcons or Bjorn (because frankly nothing is cooler than a man that can turn into a bear).
I made rules for each branch. Vampires and falcons had to be incredibly light for their wingspans to be able to support them, werewolves had cryptochromes in their bodies to sense the full moon like certain types of algae do, merpeople's abilities were triggered by water (with a look partially inspired by another iconic "Harry Potter" scene - that of the gillyweed in "The Goblet of Fire") and all these creatures had crossmorphic cells flowing through their bloodstreams. I fleshed out their origins with the spear (although early versions had the meteor that killed the Dinosaurs - actually an alien machine - to blame), carved out their individual societies and collective Agency, hypothesised how they'd be able to stay hidden in a world like ours, and finally ended up with the Homalis. That name was probably the last part of the creative process in fact, as for many years I'd planned on calling them Animorphs, but it seems Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant beat me to that without me even realising (I'm still yet to read those books, but perhaps I should wait until I've finished writing this trilogy - do let me know if you'd recommend them).
So there you have it. A fantastical children's game sparked the inspiration of ten years of daydreaming that ended up as a more brutal epic trilogy that's certainly not suitable for kids. Creativity can come from the most bizzare of places. In fact the first book I was involved in was a 10 page collaboration with then illustrator James Fulcher when we were eight or nine based off another playground game called Foodworld - we'll see if that one ever seeps into a novel.
Next week we'll be diving into the behind the scenes of the character of Orville - Descendants of the Spear's most conflicted protagonist. Make sure to get an account with this website so you don't miss out on it!
(P.S. If you want a really fab Werewolf story for this Halloween (and no I'm not doing a shameless plug) check out Marvel's Werewolf by Night on Disney Plus. Michael Giacchino absolutely nailed the tone of that one and it's 54 minutes of pure fun).