Know The Novel: The Changeling and the Wolf

Can you believe that next month is NaNoWriMo? I’ve been doing Inktober all month so I’m not sure my brain is quite ready to kick into gear and think about a completely different challenge just yet.

But, nevertheless, I’m here to introduce (or…uh reintroduce ) my NaNoWriMo novel for 2022. I’m going to be participating in the Know The Novel linkup, which is now five years old. Absolutely wild, I remember doing it for the very first time, so that makes me feel very old now. Anyway, let’s move on!

Introducing…

If you’re a dedicated reader of my blog, you may recognise this novel as my project from NaNoWriMo 2020, known then as “The Darkest Night”. Because yes, for the first time I am actually working on an established novel rather than a brand new first draft!

However, I’ve obviously developed this draft quite a lot since I pantsed it back in 2020, with absolutely no outline or anything. So I’m taking a second crack at this story to work on it some more and hopefully get a complete second draft (that has a more coherent plot line, fingers crossed).

Anyway, if you want to check out my original Know The Novel post for The Darkest Night you can find that here, and if you want to check out Christine Smith, who created this link up, you can do it here.

Let’s get into it!

What first sparked the idea for this novel?

The first inkling (pun intended) of this story came from listening to a YouTuber (I can’t remember who it was, so sorry about that) talk about and read excerpts from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings sequel, which he called “The New Shadow”. Unfortunately, Tolkien found the story bitter and depressing (fair enough) and abandoned it 13 pages in.

The story revolves around the land of Gondor, over a 100 years after the downfall of Sauron. Aragorn is dead, and his son now rules. But men have forgotten the true evil of the time when the Lord of the Rings ruled and have grown complacent, which disturbs the main character, Borlas.

Essentially, Borlas and a much younger man, Saelon, get into an argument about the true nature of evil, and Saelon mentions that a cult dedicated to the worship of orcs (and I suppose Sauron or Morgoth by extension) is now rising. Borlas immediately concludes that Saelon is part of this cult, which offends Saelon. Saelon invites Borlas to come to a clandestine meeting that night. Borlas is one of the very last people left who can remember life before the Great Peace, as it’s known, and he believes he would be able to recognise the scent of evil, so he agrees to come.

When he arrives at his home after his argument with Saelon, Borlas steps into his house and is immediately greeted by a “dead silence”, and he smells the old Evil “and recognised it for what it was”.

And there it ends.

Obviously that was not good enough for me, so I decided to finish it.

Share a blurb (or just an overall summary)!

The young viscount Ilio is a lunatic and he can smell evil in the air.

The Changeling: Sholo is a changeling child. Desperate to escape his abusive mother, he takes a post as the City Ranger. His job is simple, patrol the darkness that borders their idyllic city and if monsters appear…kill them.

The Wolf: Ilio is a wolf boy and a pitied mad man. He and Sholo are blood brothers, but when Ilio is sold to an earl in want of an heir, he grows up in princely luxury while his brother starves on the streets.

When Ilio discovers the stirrings of evil in the forest and everyone dismisses his claims as the ravings of a young lunatic, he turns to his brother for help. But Sholo has seen a cult of darkness rising…and they’re beckoning to him.

A conspiracy of evil is afoot, and if no one will believe Ilio, he will have to deal with it himself…

And face the brutal consequences.

Basically, evil things in forest. Outcast brothers who hate each other must deal with it because no one else will.

Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects of the setting?

I’m slightly uncertain as to the setting, whether it takes place in real life/alternate-version Edinburgh, Scotland (in the early to mid 1880s), or in a fantasy world based off 1800s Scotland. I should probably decide that soon.

Regardless, the setting is a post-Industrial Revolution city. Science is making enormous strides forward, people are flocking to the city from the rural areas, folklore and traditional ways of living are slowly melting away and being lost to time. Belief in magic is dwindling.

Basically, it’s sort of like imagining what Middle Earth would be like a thousand years in the future. The world is industrial and obsessed with science, and ENLIGHTENMENT! Magic still exists, but it’s only used for small or frivolous tasks, there’s doctors (and a lot of quacks) who specialise in healing colds, minor bone breaks and arthritis symptoms with magic. Magic can also be used in a similar way to glasses or hearing aids, it can be used to improve minor hearing or vision loss, but it can’t be used to “fix” anything, if that makes sense. It has no real power to do anything permanent.

Obviously, there used to be fae and lots of monsters everywhere. The fae used to walk among humanity, but they’ve all long since disappeared. There are still monsters, but they are deep in the forest, and if they do dare to venture towards the city, they’re quickly dealt with by the Rangers, who are employed solely for the purpose of killing these creatures.

My favourite aspect is literally just the law and the mythology. I adore Celtic and Anglo-Saxon mythology and I am leaning so heavily into here! Werewolves, fae, the grim, changelings, the Washer Woman, banshees, green fairy dogs, will o’ the wisps, kelpies, everything. I’m really going for it.

Tell us about your protagonist(s).

My favourite part! Characters! The novel is told from the point of view of Ilio and his brother Sholo.

Ilio, our beloved main character, is eighteen years old. He is currently attending university and while I don’t know what he’s studying, because it’s completely irrelevant to the plot, it’s probably something boring that his parents made him do. He has Inattentive ADHD and probably autism as well. He was bitten by a werewolf when he was eight and obviously he’s not too happy about that, he has to hide his identity and his only friend is another university student who is a little older than he is (and also a werewolf, hence how they met).

Ilio is shy, anxious, compassionate and very brave. He’s smart and creative and good at solving problems, especially in moments of crisis.

He was adopted soon after his birth by an aristocratic couple with no children, who raised him as their own and love him dearly. His father sits in parliament and Ilio has been offered a low-ranking parliament job to continue his father’s legacy as a politician. Unfortunately, Ilio is too dreamy and creative to ever enjoy a job like this, but he doesn’t want to disappoint his parents by refusing to accept it.

Overly, he’s a cool kid and I love him.

Next up is Sholo. Sholo is one mess of a human, I’ll say that much.

Basically, Sholo is Ilio’s older brother. Unlike Ilio, he was raised by their biological mother, to a certain extent anyway. She was cruel and abusive, and responsible for his father’s death. She also believes that he is a “changeling child”, a fae child swapped for her real human baby. Obviously, none of this contributes to a healthy mother-child attachment, so Sholo grows up in a city gang, as a criminal.

When he’s older, Sholo decides to try and straighten out his life. Upon the death of the City Ranger in rather mysterious circumstances, Sholo applies for the job and gets it. His job is pretty basic, all he does is patrol the dark forest bordering the city and kill any creatures he comes across.

Anyway, Sholo has a brittle, blunt and rather destructive personality, but he’s one of those trash muffins we all love. He is trying very hard to be good, but there’s a lot of people against him. Including some specifically creepy people who want him to join a cult. He says what he thinks, and has a lot of regret for the bad things he’s done, but also believes they were necessary to preserve his life.

Somewhere, deep down, he also loves Ilio. But he would never admit that out loud.

We also have three significant side characters, who we’ll look at now.

Skaati: Skaati is Ilio’s neighbour, a vibrant, excitable woman who is definitely extroverted. Skaati is Deaf and uses sign language as her main form of communication, but she’s also a talented magic user and can use simple magic to act as hearing aids. She’s brave, strong and somewhat impulsive, loves fashion and beautiful things, and is head over heels in love with Ilio.

Zmaj: Zmaj is the most powerful magic user left in the mortal world. His mother was a powerful human sorceress and his father was an elf princeling. They both fought against the Dark Lord during his Millenia Reign all those years ago. Unfortunately, as the world changed, the fae and the elves disappeared beneath the earth, and magic faded, society became less tolerant of powerful men like Zmaj and cast him out. He lives currently in the centre of the forest in a very witchy little hut, until Ilio seeks him out.

Morag: Morag is Ilio’s werewolfy friend. He’s Ilio’s complete opposite, confident, brash, extroverted and impulsive. He’s two or three years older than Ilio and thinks he knows everything about the world. Spoiler alert, there is quite a lot he doesn’t know about. He’s cheeky, a bit of a prankster, but he can be serious and keeps his head in a crisis, and he is quite smart, even if that isn’t always immediately obvious. Basically imagine Pippin and Merry squashed up into one young werewolf.

Who (or what) is the antagonist?

Since this is a mystery/thriller the antagonist is top secret. Let’s just say the dead Dark Lord is probably not as dead as everyone thought.

What excites you the most about this novel?

The fact that I’m rewriting one of my favourite WIPs ever is so exciting to me! I’ve been lacking so much creativity lately and none of my recently started first drafts have been finished because, I don’t know, I have passion for them but I just can’t force myself to sit down and work on them. Writer’s block, I guess. But this is probably the story I’m most proud of and I’ve actually rewritten the first two chapters already and I’m so in love with them. I love the world, I love my characters, I love the story and I’m so glad that I’ll be spending my uni holidays immersing myself back into this tale again.

Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

A standalone. In the whole 2 years since I wrote the first draft, no ideas for a sequel have come to me (a rare thing indeed). I really think this story is done.

Having said that, there were a lot of plot threads that needed to be fleshed out in the original draft and since working on expanding those areas, I’m thinking the book is going to be a lot longer than the first draft. If it gets too out of control, I might split it into a duology, but the story as is is finished.

I also do love this world and I think I’ll definitely be revisiting it again in other books, but with different characters and different plots.

Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

Definitely plotting. I pantsed it last time around (NaNoWriMo 2020), and while it was super fun and freeing to have no idea what was coming next, I ended up with a very messy first draft. This time around I’m taking a lot more care with the character arcs and plot lines in particular so I will definitely be plotting this one out.

Name a few unique elements in this story.

I’ve always loved the fantasy x mystery subgenre and it’s tragic that it isn’t written more often! I want some Harry Potter and friends solving magic mysteries vibes here. I think it’s a pretty under-utilised, though not necessarily hugely unique, genre.

I also haven’t seen many industrial revolution type fantasy worlds (maybe with the exception of some Discworld stories, and sort of Mistborn?). It’s more the realm of steampunk type storytelling. This is definitely not steampunk and is more in the vein of epic fantasy, but it’s not something I’ve read a lot of.

Scottish fantasy also isn’t extremely popular, which is a bit weird, but whatever. I love Scotland, obviously since my family is Scottish, I’ve been a Highland dancer since a wee lassie (that being just turned five years old), and a very dodgy Gaelic speaker, as well as growing up hearing about my family in Scotland and many of the Scottish myths and legends (William Wallace being one of many, and yes, I’m classing him as a legend, be mad if you wish). So yeah, I’m pouring in my extreme love of Scotland in healthy doses.

And finally, disability representation! Because you all know how I feel about that (and if you don’t I have an upcoming post that will inform you!). Basically every character is disabled and/or neurodivergent in this story. Ilio has ADHD (and maybe autism, he strikes me as autistic), Sholo has autism, Skaati is Deaf, Zmaj has a severe limp from an old war wound, everyone has anxiety and PTSD because…well, it’s a fantasy. Basically my dream. Everyone is disabled and they’re either proud of it, or neutral about it. No negativity here thank you, not in this wish fulfilment story of mine.

Share some fun “extras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

As always, I’ll share my Pinterest aesthetic board, and my Spotify playlist!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo next month? If so, what’s your project? And don’t forget to check out Christine Smith’s amazing blog either!

5 thoughts on “Know The Novel: The Changeling and the Wolf

  1. Ahhh this looks amazing!! The inspiration behind it is so COOL and I’m in love with the aesthetic/general vibes of this story. I love this kind of fantasy–the kind where it’s sort of set in a more modern, Enlightenment-esque era? I NEVER GET ENOUGH OF THAT. So this is very promising to me xD

    The characters look awesome too–once again, I love the Tolkien-ish inspiration behind their story–and I can’t wait to learn more!! Hope you have a blast with this project 🙂

    Like

  2. Never do NaNo

    However, at least I have 4 WIPS- two of which are harder to develop and and brainstorm than the others:

    1. Greatest Discovery- I had this idea at least since high school. It used to have more major characters (glad to have narrowed that down from 12- 6). The names of them used to be less fitting- now, there is a lot more meaning. Yes, I have more than six characters (just, those are the major characters). Hard to develop due to the setting, who the characters are, and what the plot is

    2. Ayra’s Story (just a placement title for now)- still zero plot, still no name of the world she lives in, and still no antagonist (but I do know she will be facing a villain, but I know it doesn’t belong to the other three characters I have already thought of).

    Like

  3. Oh myyyyy! This sounds AH-MAY-ZING!!!!!! LIKE. I love everything about this I can’t!

    First of all, I ADORE that you were originally inspired by Tolkien’s idea. That is the best! Secondly, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon mythology are some of my favorite things ever and it makes me ridiculously happy when stories incorporate things from those myths. SO JUST. YES TO ALL OF THIS. And the sorta steampunk grim Scottish vibes are giving me allll the heart-eyes over here. The AESTHETIC of this book. <333333

    The characters sound so dynamic too! Ilio seems like such a sweetie and we do love them trash muffins, YES. XD They all sounds like SUCH an interesting and fun cast. And huzzah for disability rep!

    Oh, and did I mention I adore brother stories???

    Literally everything about this is the coolest thing, from the concept to the characters to the setting to the mix of myths and the entire aesthetic. I AM IN LOVE.

    I do hope the rewrites go absolutely amazing because THIS BOOK NEEDS TO EXIST. Thank you so, so much for joining Know the Novel and sharing! This was a treat to read about!

    Like

  4. Side note: I hope that you don´t actually mean that in your dream world everyone is disabled or neurodivergent. Obviously it’s not ideal to live with such a condition or even a world where such conditions exist. I totally agree that there shouldn’t be any prejudice or negativity towards people with such conditions, but I want to make sure you were really thinking through what you wrote in that section.
    Besides my qualms about that, I love this story more every time you write another post about it, and I hope your work on it this month is rewarding!

    Like

  5. YEAH MAIN CHARACTER WITH AUTISM AND ADHD WHEN CAN I READ IT anyway everything about this sounds so amazing, I love the idea of something with high fantasy vibes set in the 19th century

    Like

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