Ah, the backstory! One of my all-time favorite elements of storytelling is the exploration of what has come before. I know that nothing will ever compare to the original trilogy of “Star Wars” movies (that’s episodes IV, V, and VI for those that don’t know) – my husband has explained this to me many times ><. But, I will admit, I really liked the “prequels” (episodes I, II, and III) because they explained how Darth Vader came into existence. And for me, having that background, that fullness to the story, was what made those movies such classics.
I can think of two great examples of backstories in the literary world. One is T. A. Barron’s Merlin series. These five books trace the origin of the great wizard Merlin – made so famous in the stories of King Arthur – starting from his early life as a young man. For me, it was fascinating to discover a version of Merlin without a long white beard or wizard’s robes. I loved watching the various skills he acquired, his romance with the deer woman Hallia, his relationship with his sister, etc. In fact, just seeing him as a young man, uncertain and still learning (as opposed to the king’s wisest advisor) was entirely refreshing.
Another example is The Magician’s Nephew from the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Most people prefer or are most familiar with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was written first but is chronologically the third book in the series. The Magician’s Nephew is numbered as the first story, because it shows us the origins for several elements that we see later in the series. This is the novel where we discover how the White Witch came to Narnia, why a lamppost exists in a magical world, and of course, the source of the wardrobe itself. And as wonderful as the rest of the series is, it is those simple, humble beginnings, those tiny incidences that send giant ripples into the future, affecting all the stories down the line, that make The Magician’s Nephew my favorite book in that collection.
All this to say, I’m such a fan of backstories that I naturally HAD to write some of my own. Technically, “Love, Blood and Magic” was written prior to The Heart of Everything; but since it was published second, it sheds light on the many things we don’t know from the original story. Here we get the full story of Emer’s strange and mysterious past, without ruining the “surprise” of the first book. Things like the amulet, the otherworldly origins of the priestess, even the tangled love triangle between Jesse, Alex and the priestess are finally explained within the pages of this anthology. And while those explanations aren’t strictly necessary to be able to enjoy The Heart of Everything, like all backstories, they add a richness to the original novel that you wouldn’t have otherwise :-).
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Until the next time, keep reading!
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I have two passions: reading and writing. You can't write good stories without first reading good stories - that's my theory, anyway. So this is where I'll share with you the depth of those passions: background on what and why I write, as well as talking about the books that I read and how they impact my writing.