Guest Post: “How I Write, and How It’s Changed” by Ian Irvine

IrvineI-AuthorPicI’m not sure when I had the idea of writing a fantasy novel, though I first acted on it in 1977 after reading Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara. My inspiration came from the sketchy map in the book and I decided to create my own realistic fantasy world, though worldbuilding soon became an obsession. I was supposed to be writing my doctoral thesis in marine science but I redrew my fantasy maps in greater and greater detail until they were the size of house doors. I had created the Three Worlds.

In 1979, on a train above the Arctic Circle in Finland, I wrote the first snatches of a story, including a scene that I later used – Faelamor’s dramatic defeat of Mendark in the abandoned city of Havissard. Then it stopped for nearly a decade. What with finishing my thesis, taking a demanding job that involved a lot of travel, children, and renovating a decrepit Victorian house in Sydney, there wasn’t time for writing.

But I had to write, and in September 1987 I began A Shadow on the Glass with a dramatic event – Karan, compelled by Maigraith, breaking into Yggur’s fortress of Fiz Gorgo to steal the Mirror of Aachan, a corrupt magical artifact that contained a deadly secret. I wrote three pages a day I’d have a first draft done by Christmas.


I didn’t have a plan – I made Karan and Llian’s story up as I went along. It was frustrating; I was a novice at storytelling and many times I wanted to give up. Then, after I’d written 25,000 words, I got into the story and thought, This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

ONCE THERE WERE THREE WORLDS, each with their own human species. Then, fleeing out of the void came a fourth species, the Charon. Desperate, and on the edge of extinction, they changed the balance between the worlds forever.

My story was different – a Darwinian fantasy involving the conflict between four human species, each trying to ensure their own survival even if they drove another human species to extinction. No right or wrong, no good or evil, just survival of the fittest.

A Shadow on the Glass ended on a cliff-hanger that opened up a vast conflict I hadn’t imagined. It was going to take another three books to complete The View from the Mirror quartet, the first series in my Three Worlds sequence.


But it’s not easy for an unpublished author to get an 800,000 word quartet accepted. While I waited I kept revising the 4 books and in 1996 Penguin Australia bought the series. It was a big success and a few months after the final book, The Way Between the Worlds, was published the series had been sold to publishers in many countries. I promised to write a sequel – one day.

At the end of each big series I write something completely different, to recharge my creative batteries. In the past 16 years I’ve written 28 more books, including a trilogy of thrillers set in a world undergoing catastrophic climate change, Human Rites, and 13 books for children. Each new series has changed my writing style a little – especially the children’s books which have to be simpler and more accessible.

Many years had passed since I’d given my fans a new Three Worlds book and I had to write that sequel, The Gates of Good and Evil. It was a big challenge as I hadn’t opened The View from the Mirror since 1999. Also, few sequels are as good as the original and I didn’t want to disappoint legions of fans who had grown up with it.

By now I’d become a planner, doing detailed outlines of 80 pages or more for each book, but now felt this was counterproductive – too much planning was inhibiting my creativity. For this series I went back to much simpler plans and made the rest up as I went along, and the story is better for it.

That’s how I wrote The Summon Stone, Book 1 of The Gates of Good and Evil. It begins when Karan and Llian’s gifted nine-year-old daughter, Sulien, envisions a great army of Merdrun gathering in the void between the worlds to invade Santhenar.


The Merdrun are a cruel warrior race, unbeaten in thousands of years of warfare, and on Santhenar their long-hidden summon stone is waking, corrupting good people as well as bad. If it is not destroyed it will open a portal and call them through.

Then Gergrig sees Sulien, orders her killed and brings the invasion forward, to the night of the triple moons. If Karan and Llian are to save their daughter and their world, they must find a way to stop the greatest warrior in the void.



Ian Irvine, an Australian marine scientist, has also written 32 novels and an anthology of shorter stories. His novels include the Three Worlds fantasy sequence (The View from the Mirror, The Well of Echoes and Song of the Tears), which has been published in many countries and translations and has sold over sold over a million copies, a trilogy of eco-thrillers in a world of catastrophic climate change, Human Rites, now in its third edition, and 13 novels for younger readers. His latest book is The Summon Stone, Book 1 of The Gates of Good and Evil, published in the US, UK and Australia by Orbit Books in May 2016.

For more on Ian’s writing and novels, be sure to check out his website, and follow him on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.


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