Jonathan D. Allen: Builder of Worlds

I’ve been talking to Jonathan Allen, author of The Corridors of the Dead and The Station. He has a created a large, complex world for his fantasy novels.

In a time long before humans walked the Earth, a mysterious being known only as The Lost Aetelia crafted an elaborate series of Watchtowers, along with their resident guardians, the Aetelia, to watch over the operations of the Universe. In time, a rebellious group of these Aetelia came to Earth in an attempt to challenge the established structure of the Universe. A bitter war ensued, and these rebels, who had come to be known as Watchers, disappeared from human history.

Since I’m fascinated by the process of world-building in fiction, I had to ask that cheesy question, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ Actually, what I’m really interested in is the ‘trigger’ moment. The article, the snippet of dialogue, the event or person that made you think, ‘Hmn, there is a story here.’

So what is yours, Jonathan? What launched your journey, so to speak?

World-building has become second nature to me at this point. I think it has to do with my early need to escape from the real world, due to some completely-out-of-my-control circumstances during my childhood. That or something in the rural water supply. Could be either, really. The thing is that I’ve always synthesized my influences into something that, I hope at least, is greater than the sum of its parts. Because of that it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint just where a world or story originates. This snippet of conversation comes from a scene I watched on, say, the show Carnivale, or this concept is an evolved idea from something Lovecraft wrote. I think you get the idea.

I spend all this time laboring this point because The Station is nothing like that. The confines of the world had been somewhat established during the writing of The Corridors of the Dead, and the first sequence popped into my head practically full-born. Okay, that’s not quite true. Two distinct works probably influenced the kernel of the idea: Lost and Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

I tend to get my ideas when I’m falling asleep, somewhere between the wrenching anxiety of thinking about my next workday and dreaming that I’m a Viking. One night during the last half of writing Corridors of the Dead I saw two men locked in a desperate battle in the middle of a snowfield. I held on to that idea for a few nights, continually asking myself what the men might be fighting over.

One night the dual influences that I mentioned above paid my subconscious a visit, and the answer became apparent: they fought over a piece of ancient technology. Before I knew it, that one scene expanded into a running film in my head of a librarian from the distant past descending into an even more ancient technological wonder. From there, linking it to the underpinning ideas of my trilogy was pretty simple: the nominal “good guys” had gone after the place to save it from the angelic bad guys, and the thing in the station tied to the revelation at the end of City of the Dead.

After that, it was all about trying to establish different levels of technological advancements between the ancient culture and the even-more-ancient cultures. Most of that came from some old Greek technological wonders. Perhaps not the most obvious connection, but you go with what you know, right?

I love the twisty, turny ways a writer’s mind works. Thanks, Jonathan. Your books are my TBR pile. Looking forward to seeing how you pull all this together.

Also available now (go ahead, click on the image):

You can visit Jonathan on his blog, Shaggin’ The Muse.


One response

  1. This sounds truly fascinating. Going to look now.

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