As a writer, I enjoy hearing from people who’ve read my work. Reader Questions, looking for clarification on certain points, is a welcomed part of that. This page is where you will find those queries and my answers, so I guess you can think of this as kind of an FAQ about my writing. I hope you enjoy, and if you have questions of your own you can ask them here. Also, my email address will be listed at the bottom.
Reader Questions about A Lord’s Duty – Book 1 of the Chronicles of Galennor series:
Question: “The name Brunni, given in your book for the boss of the village visited by the Newport patrol, sounds familiar. Is it from Game of Thrones?”
Answer: Yes, the name I give for the Headman is a deliberate homage to Game of Thrones, specifically the show’s expanding of the character of the captured wildling-turned-Stark servant Osha. In Season 3, Episode 7 she tells a story of once having a romantic partner, described by her as “a good man” named Brunni whom she lost when he was turned into a Wight by the White Walkers. It is one of the experiences that explains her fear of going back north of the Wall and presumably is meant to explain why she came south in the first place.
I realize there are some who don’t care for Osha on the show, because she’s largely a creation of the showrunners with her much-expanded role beyond what she had in the books (at least, in the first five books anyway). George R.R. Martin himself has spoken in a positive light about the character, however, so I lean toward liking what they’ve done. Honestly, I think the show gets unfair judgement in general sometimes from heavily-invested fans of the books, whereas I learned early on simply to view it as a separate entity from the books and enjoy both. Anyway, I utilized the name Brunni in my story as a means of tipping my proverbial hat, though lacking a copy of the script meant I had to come up with the spelling on my own. Lol.
By the way, I’ll go so far as to also tell you that there are a few other obscure references and homages to fantasy and science-fiction, other fiction, and maybe even some real world stuff sprinkled throughout the texts and supporting materials of both currently published and planned installments. That’s all I’m saying, though. It’s up to the readers themselves to locate and identify them if so inclined.
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Question: “The two noble youngsters being focused on in part of the story seem to be called by different titles at different times. Why is this? Squire or Prince?”
Answer: That’s an easy one to answer, although I can see how it might have been confusing. Basically, any male member of the royal family who could conceivably lay claim to the throne is a prince of the royal blood, regardless of what office he might hold.
An example of this would be King Richard III. He was the brother of King Edward IV, who had taken the throne through the claim of his father Richard of York. As a son of the original claimant and younger brother of the King, Richard was a prince, but during his brother’s reign he held the office of Duke of Gloucester, another brother George was Duke of Clarence. Both were still princes, however; they just weren’t typically referred to as such, because the King had sons and daughters of his own. Richard would eventually be crowned King of England himself, though, which is another story altogether, but it shows that his claim to the crown didn’t go away upon being invested as a duke.
Similarly, Jonas is a prince in the story even though he is currently serving as a lowly court squire when we first meet him. Alastar is serving as a squire also, even though he’s heir to his father’s title as Earl of Woodmont. Both of these boys are simply serving in lower office as a part of their education in statecraft. Jonas will eventually inherit his father’s title and become a duke like Richard III was in Gloucester, but he will still technically be a prince of the kingdom as well, because he is a male member of the royal line (though admittedly distant).
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Question: “I’m a little bit confused about the timeline where events in the novel are taking place. The chapters focusing on different POV characters sometimes make vague mentions of time that has passed between the previous scene involving those characters and the current scene, but I’m having trouble making them match up with one another.”
Answer: Honestly, that’s just something that couldn’t be avoided with the way the story evolved. One thing that might help to remember is that chapter order is more about the flow of the story, rather than being tied to a specific date events are occurring. One thing I can tell you definitively is that all of the points-of-view portrayed in the novel begin and end at roughly similar points in the timeline. You can tell that by my mentioning that the same festival, something practiced in virtually every community throughout the kingdom, is right around the corner both in Ansel’s final chapter and the Epilogue that follows Jonas. The story as a whole takes place during the Spring of the year 748 K.R. (Kingdom Reckoning), but don’t get hung up on individual chapters of different point-of-view characters lining up perfectly chronologically. Hope that helps. These kinds of reader questions and answers are very productive, I think.
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Question: “Your book has common (non noble) people speaking in obvious uneducated accents, but the barbarians sound more formal. Why is this?”
Answer: The Wodonni clanspeople that those in the kingdom consider barbarians have their own unique language that is vastly different from the common trade tongue spoken by the other characters. Most of them are likely fluent in that language as well, since they trade with kingdom renegades that have gone over the border illegally, but when speaking to each other they should be understood to be speaking their own native tongue. With that in mind, it’s best to think of the Wodonni dialogue in the book as my having translating their speech for the reader. Such translations are typically presented in formal verbiage, since someone speaking a foreign tongue won’t likely have the same kinds of contractions, etc. that you and I utilize every day in common parlance.
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Question: “In your book, you talk about the barbarians trading garnets that are yellow-green to people in the kingdom, but garnets are red. Is this a unique trait of your world?”
Answer: Most garnets are red, but not all. In fact, they can be lots of colors with blue ones being pretty rare. The yellow-green variety I described are my world’s equivalent of the demantoid garnets found in Russia. They are rare, bright stones. I thought it fitting to use that variety since they are not only valuable but iron-rich gemstones, and the Wodonni are essentially an Iron Age culture. That’s why they have to trade for steel weapons… or steal them. Plus, Russia is a colder northern latitude, much like the Northlands inhabited by the Wodonni in my book.
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Question: “I really like Vytaus as a character but can’t make myself root for him with them being slaveholders. Can you elaborate why you made that choice?”
Answer: The Wodonni are definitely a slaveholding culture. There’s nothing really defensible about that. Believe me, as a libertarian, I would be the last one to try to justify such a barbaric practice. There’s also nothing wrong with it sticking in your craw when it comes to trying to root for Vytaus. He’s definitely an imperfect man, living in an imperfect culture.
That being said, cultures supporting the practice of slavery were simply the reality for the vast majority of human history. I have tried really hard to keep things with the story sensibly on a historic footing, even though it’s set on a fictional world. I thought it would be disingenuous to whitewash things and not be true to the uglier parts of human nature. Pretty much every warrior culture on Earth, the Danes (Vikings) being a prime example, kept slaves. So did the Romans, the Egyptians, etc. Cultures like that basically look at everyone who isn’t them as subhuman barbarians, so even though the people in the kingdom think of the Wodonni as barbarians, the Wodonni pretty much think the same thing about everyone who isn’t Wodonni. They are very much a warrior culture, so the idea that they would support the practice of slavery is rooted in history.
Like I said before, Vytaus is an imperfect man from an imperfect culture. Most cultures throughout history have been imperfect, arguably even our own in many, many respects. Still, even with that being true, I can’t bring myself to think that there weren’t heroes among those cultures that deserved veneration. The best characters, in my opinion, are the ones who aren’t all good or all bad, but rather exist in the gray area between. That’s pretty much how I see Vytaus.
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Question: “You talk about both the kingdom villagers and the barbarians having hospitality laws that sound almost the same. Was this a mistake?”
Answer: Rest assured, it was no mistake. That was my small way of showing how very different cultures can sometimes share certain customs. The Galenni people living in the kingdom, at least in the north, are on lands that once belonged to the Wodonni. Not so long ago either. Kingdom expansion into the north only started a little over a century before the story takes place. During those decades, as they were displacing the indigenous peoples, it makes sense there might have been mixing of customs. Notice the stories are very similar, but not exactly the same; that was by design, since the Wodonni pass things down through oral histories, etc.
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Question: “In the barbarian chapters (Edit: Vytaus’s POV chapters), you mention elk, but the description doesn’t sound right. We have elk out west here that don’t fit what you were talking about. Are the elk in your stories some fantasy creation?”
Answer: No, but I’m glad you caught that and asked your question, because it’s one I was wondering if anyone was going to notice. Truthfully, I’m talking about moose when I say elk in the story. This is because that’s what they called them in England back hundreds and hundreds of years ago before they were all hunted out. When you read something about someone in Britain in the Dark Ages hunting elk, they are actually talking about what we would call moose. Since the Kingdom of Galennor in my world is mostly analogous to Dark Ages-Medieval Era western Europe, it fit. I realize what we think of as elk in the United States are more like deer, and I could have avoided confusion by simply saying moose instead, but it just didn’t seem right to me.
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Question: I have looked at the map included in the front of your book, but I can’t find some of the towns or castles talked about. For instance, the little town where Ansel is from. Why?
Answer: Galennor is a large kingdom. In fact, what you see on the map is only part of the Northern Realm in which most of the story takes place. What you see depicted on the map are cities, rather than small towns or manor estates. Pretty much the seats of earls and dukes, rather than barons and lesser manor lords. Baronies are many, so frankly including all of them would have cluttered the map to the point where it would’ve been difficult to read.
While reading, you’ll notice that each of the smaller locales are referenced as being close to one of the larger cities. An example of this would be both Eborhum and Durleston being near Sarton, subject to the rule of the Earl. It’s the same with Reylie Hall, the seat of Baron Tomas Reylie, being near Newport.
To be honest, there are a few exceptions. Hallsville is depicted, despite being described only as a small village south of Newport. Ditto for Questridge, which is a barony. My explanation for that is pretty simple: these are carryovers from the very early days of writing and the very first map I ever created. Needless to say, the story has evolved quite a bit over time, but I’ve always worked from the same materials, simply adding what was needed. I know that’s not some great story that explains the whole thing, but it’s the truth.
If you pay attention to clues in the text, you can get a pretty good idea of where places mentioned but not included on the map are located. In the future, I intend to produce a larger, more detailed map that will show all of these smaller jurisdictions, but for now that will have to wait. Hope that helped make it a bit more clear.
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Question: “Without giving away the plot points and character arcs by the end of this book and or by the end of whatever number there will be in the series how much achievement and or failure will we see. Those issues normally ebb and flow. Will we see it coming from far off or will we just not see what is right before our eyes?”
Answer: With respect to the first book, A Lord’s Duty, it’s important to understand that we’re talking about the jumping off point at the beginning of a much larger story. With one set of point of view characters, it’s very much a slow burn; the first book is all about them trying to prove themselves and earn the respect of those who will be their mentors. The other two POVs are a bit more fully-formed. They involve individuals, trying to do the right thing by either their people or simply their families and running into the requisite dramatic obstacles. People make bad choices for what seem like the right reasons, there’s plenty of danger, etc.
As for whether or not you will be able to see any of it coming as a reader, I think that’s kind of subjective. It’s going to be different for every reader. That being said, I’ve done my best to work in some surprises along the way. This is going to be a lengthy series if it continues the way I currently have it planned, so the first book is very much about world-building and introducing characters and their struggles. The ending of A Lord’s Duty is really just the beginning of what comes next.