Building the Rubyverse
When we started expanding the basic premise of our female, magical protagonist, we approached it from both a top-down and a bottom-up perspective. We had the idea of magic being known in Ruby’s world—what we call the Rubyverse—and that maybe it could manifest itself in various kinds of magical beings.
As both of us suffer from mild cases of Anglophilia, we rather quickly established Ruby to be a British girl. With my undying love of Liverpool Football Club, I campaigned hard to have her based on Merseyside. But, as L has studied in London, and wanted Ru to be a student, too, she had a strong case for setting the story of Ruby in the nation’s capital. So, we compromised, giving Ruby a Liverpool lad for a father, and having her grow up in Cheshire, south of my football mecca.
We conjured up a White Willow University, and placed Ruby in a flat at Craydon Court, the launchpad for all of Ru’s adventures in the first six books.
As we don’t want this article to be a complete spoiler-fest, we won’t mention too many of the characters, but there are a few we get to know already during the first chapters of book 1, Essence of Magic. Ruby finds close friendships with Charlotte “Charlie” and Jeannine “Jen”, two of her flatmates, as well as the fourth tenant, Duncan.
I’ve always had a dream of writing a story with characters inspired by “Fox Force Five”, the imaginary TV show from Pulp Fiction. So, when we started working on the various aspects of Ruby’s friends, I had the secret agents who never made it past the pilot episode (and now I have to watch the film again—it’s such a masterpiece) in mind. Granted, we don’t have a Japanese martial arts expert nor a black demolition expert, but we do have a French girl.
And we think the three girls supplement each other very well, with the other characters—Duncan, Brendan and Nick in particular—completing our group of protagonists.
And we throw in a few bad guys here and there, of course. We might have let ourselves be influenced by actual people in creating our villains (and our good guys, it must be said), but we think we’ve managed to come up with a few angles of our own, too. One thing we both hate is when the antagonist is evil, and only evil, just for the sake of being evil. We have worked hard to give our baddies (there are quite a few) a little more than just the urge to wreak havoc and mayhem. Hopefully that makes them more interesting to our readers. It certainly makes them more interesting for us to write about.
Magic and Mags
The magic itself resides in the blood (particularly the blue blood cells), and (nerd alert!) I’ve written a Wiki-article about the composition of the Magical’s blood and how it is used to manufacture the MagX and PureX drugs that play a vital part in our books.
So, where did the Magicals—or Mags—originate from? We wanted Ruby to be a Fae, and her bloodline led us backwards to Morgana le Fay of Arthurian legends fame. Thus Avalon became a factor, and that meant some kind of portal to Earth and so on. We won’t go too much into detail here, suffice to say that we made Avalon part of a larger magical realm called Gwyn Fanon, with enemies up north, in the mountain land of Mynydd Dewin. And we took some liberties in our interpretation of the legends of King Arthur, Morgana and Merlin, to name the most important ones.
This created a whole new dimension for us, and we were enchanted by linking modern day London with the legends of Avalon, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The timelines and story arcs interweave throughout the centuries from (at least) 500 a.d. and all the way up to 2020.
Logic, rules and keeping it all plausible, aka. “He didn’t get out of the COCKADOODIE CAR!”
Like Annie Wilkes in Stephen King’s brilliant novel “Misery”, L and I hate logical flaws in books. And as I write it, I realise that I put both our heads on the block, ready for the chop of someone finding such flaws in our books. But pobody’s nerfect, so it might very well happen. If so, we’ll learn from it.
The point I’m trying to make is exactly the one Mr King is talking about. Even if we’re writing about magic, with Fae, Shifters and all sorts of Mags, it still has to make sense to our readers. How does a human react to having MagX injected in his bloodstream? What happens to a Shifter’s clothes when she turns into an Eagle? How powerful is a Pure Time Turner as opposed to one with only 25 % magical blood? And how come a Fae can heal a gunshot wound, but not cancer?
We don’t necessarily have to explain all of these rules of the Rubyverse in detail to our readers, but we have to know the answers to all the questions. That way, we can keep the logic of our world, Ruby’s world, consistent and plausible. OK, so a Fae can throw a force field around a kitten to save it from being hit by a bus, but is there a limit to how big the field can be? And how far she can throw it?
These questions can keep me and L going for hours on end, discussing them in minute detail (usually that’s my part in it) until L is ready to rip her hair out in frustration. But, and this is the important part of this point, we never leave these stones unturned. We never end up with “that’s just the way it is” or “hey, it’s magic!”. Even magic has to make sense.
And, as Chuck Wendig so gracefully put it: The audience is smart! The audience wants to work. Let them figure it out for themselves, like a puzzle.
Yes, we’ll publish a map, too. But not yet. We like to keep some things secret and reveal them bit by bit.
And that’s perhaps one of the most important aspects of our storytelling, to give you—our beloved reader—bits and pieces, hopefully enough to keep you turning the page.