About The Guardian Trilogy:
The Guardian Trilogy delves into the harrowing trials of Alexander Croft, a security guard and seemingly average 30-something-year-old man, whose life is forever changed in a violent instant. After being accused of a series of heinous crimes he didn’t commit, Alex is sentenced to life in a hellish prison.
Or so his fate seems.
Because unbeknownst to him, Alex is no ordinary man. He is a Voror, a magically-gifted being commissioned with the protection of the Realms – and nothing can keep him from his true destiny.
In The Guardian Trilogy, follow Alex’s life-changing and life-challenging journey, from his training at the Voror Council in the least-admired Task of all, to a chance at love and romance with a woman whose people have wronged him, to his encounters with an enemy who has stalked him since birth, to his personal mission to clear his family name and protect the Realms from encroaching darkness. As evil rises, Alex must stand to meet it or watch everyone he has grown to love be destroyed.
Books in The Guardian Trilogy:
Book One: The Guardian
Description: Ever since Alex Croft was little, robed beings have shadowed his every move. But after he is wrongfully incarcerated, the robed strangers have apparently abandoned him. Or so it seems. When Alex’s true identity is revealed, he enters a world he has always seen but never really known. A realm where he learns how to protect the innocent from an evil that desires to control everything in its path. Especially Alex. As he trains as an apprentice within the Voror Council, Alex uncovers a sinister secret seeking to destroy him. To save himself and others, he will have to endure the same darkness he sought to escape. In this first installment of The Guardian Trilogy, Alex Croft will not only learn magic-infused Words and make strange, new allies but also discover the truth about himself and his past. A truth that will become either his destiny or his downfall.
Book Two: The Guardian Prophecy
Description: Handler Apprentice Alex Croft is invited by Sunniva, the Council’s Head Healer, to accompany her on a journey across the Realms as she seeks out an exiled Voror. Along the way, Alex encounters old friends, new enemies, and discovers a growing attraction to the hauntingly beautiful Niobe of Ryncheon. Yet the threat of Belial of Rastaban’s forces shadows their every move as they race to uncover a truth that many have desired to conceal – a truth Rastaban has killed for in order to obtain. Past grievances come to seek vengeance as Rastaban’s rebels seek to set up their own regime. And the only way Alex can hope to stop them is to make the ultimate sacrifice. In this second installment of The Guardian Trilogy, Alex Croft learns what it means to fulfill his destiny as a Guardian, which may cost him everything.
Description: After miraculously surviving torture at Rastaban’s hands, Handler Alex of Croft knows the hour grows short as war among the Realms draws closer. Mustering his friends and unexpected allies, Alex assumes the role of the prophesied Halcyon and decides to cut off his enemy at the place where it all began, the infamous prison Erebus and home to the Gates of the Dead. The Guardian Wars concludes Alex of Croft’s journey as a man of divided bloods. But can he be a shining light in a dark place or will the darkness finally consume him?
Background on The Guardian Trilogy
The Guardian Trilogy is project over a decade in the making and started with a rather odd mash-up of ideas. As the author puts it, One summer, I was reading the “Harry Potter” novels and watching reruns of the Fox drama series “Prison Break.” The two stories merged in my mind as I thought, “What if Michael Scofield [chief protagonist on “Prison Break”] was a wizard?” That sparked a mental chain reaction and I had to write it out. Eventually, it evolved into The Guardian Trilogy.
Thus, The Guardian Trilogy is a fantasy series that hopes to pay respects to classic hero quest epics while remaining an entirely original piece, chiefly through the introduction of the Vorors, a magically-gifted race charged with protecting the Realms, and the Sangres, a vampiric people who are siblings to the Vorors. Both worlds collide with Alex Croft caught in the middle.
– The Guardian was the author’s first, full-length fiction work and it was first published in 2014. Its sequel, The Guardian Prophecy, was first published in 2015. While The Guardian took close to six years to write, The Guardian Prophecy took close to three years to complete. Work on The Guardian Wars, the final novel, started in 2015 and will be published in spring 2017.
– The dedication page in each book names “JKR and NS,” which stands for author J. K. Rowling and Nick Santora, writer and producer of the Fox television series “Prison Break.” This is intended to be a nod towards the creators of the two works that directly inspired The Guardian trilogy.
– The Words the Vorors use are either star names or derived from star names, and their purpose or function tie in loosely to the original meaning of the original word. For instance, Yildun, a Word that causes the speaker’s vial to light up with star-like light, is the traditional name for Delta Ursae Minoris and comes from the Turkish word for “star.” Other Words, such as Gomesia and Benetasch, are derived from star names but had their spellings altered for artistic purposes and ease of pronunciation.
– The first draft of The Guardian was composed entirely by hand in a college-lined, 180-page notebook. The finished draft filled up two and a half notebooks. While much of this initial draft was not used or was significantly revised, some of the book’s scenes were lifted directly from the first handwritten draft with minimal changes. These scenes include Alex’s Task selection, Alex’s first encounter with Festus LaCroix, and Alex and Niobe’s meeting in the Council Gardens.
– Alex’s first meeting with Caretaker Sophia was originally intended to be in The Guardian, but after subsequent revisions its existence couldn’t be justified considering other events in the book. So it was saved and used in its entirety in The Guardian Prophecy.
– The character of Jael was originally intended to be introduced (without name) in The Guardian but was later saved and introduced more formally in The Guardian Prophecy.
– The hardest scenes to write from an emotional standpoint were the last two chapters of The Guardian Prophecy though they were the easiest to conceptualize and involved few revisions.
– Most of the lead characters’ names were selected due to a particular meaning regarding their personalities or traits. Alexander, for example, means “defending man” in Greek and ties directly into Alex’s in-born desire to protect others as well as his duties as a Voror. In contrast, Belial of Rastaban’s name combines an archaic term for Satan (Belial), which means “lawlessness,” and Rastaban, which is the traditional name for the star Beta Draconis, which translates from Arabic to mean “head of the serpent,” thus alluding to traditional satanic imagery.
– The cover colors for each of the books are meant to reflect each stage of the alchemical process, which serves as an extended metaphor for spiritual transformation, namely corruption by sin (black), purification (white/silver), and redemption (red/purple). The first novel’s cover is black, indicative of Alex’s initial transformation and encounters with darkness; the second novel’s cover is silver to symbolize Alex’s purification; and the final novel’s cover is red to denote the third stage of redemption.
– The novels themselves follow a loose alchemical pattern using this same logic where The Guardian focuses on dark/death-related images and themes, The Guardian Prophecy contains allusions to purification and white/silver images, and The Guardian Wars possesses themes of redemption as well as red/purple and related symbols of the third and final alchemical stage. (For more information on alchemical literature and symbolism, consult the textual analyses of Dr. John Granger, who has analyzed the Harry Potter and Twilight series; Stanton Linden’s Darke Hierogliphicks: Alchemy in English Literature from Chaucer to the Restoration; and Lyndy Abraham’s Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery.)
– The word Voror was derived from the Old Norse term vǫrðr, which is a “warden spirit, believed to follow from birth to death the soul (hugr) of every person” (Wikipedia). The original Old Norse term means watcher or caretaker. However, Vorors are an entirely invented being and are not intended to be metaphoric of angels or an angelic race.
– The word Sangre is the Spanish word for “blood.” However, Sangres are not synonymous with vampires, which is why the term vampire is never used in the trilogy (except in jest). Instead, Sangres are related to Vorors though they cannot use Words and, thus, aren’t magically-gifted. Though they have an in-born craving for blood and possess elongated canine teeth, Sangres are not undead and are unaffected by sunlight; therefore, the term vampire does not apply to them.
– The decision to use vials as the channels by which Vorors use Words was inspired by the author’s extensive perfume collection. The image of the vial carried by Healers was based loosely on the bottle design for Miami Glow by JLo.
– Alexander Croft’s first name was inspired by Alexander Mahone, a character from “Prison Break,” though neither character is intended to look nor act alike.
– Festus LaCroix’s appearance and dour demeanor was inspired by the character of Anton Ego from the 2007 film Ratatouille.
– The House of Ryncheon had their name inspired by and is a play on the Pyncheons, the infamously cursed family from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables.
– Niobe of Ryncheon’s character and physical appearance were inspired by cover art for the January 2005 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.
– Caretaker Sophia’s appearance was inspired by Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Mrs. Coulter in the 2007 film adaptation of The Golden Compass. In particular, Kidman’s gold dress served as the inspiration for Sophia’s principle wardrobe color of choice.
– Sunniva’s name was taken from a character in A Distant Dawn by Jane Peart chiefly due to its meaning (“sun gift”), which fits her cheery disposition.
– Rowan’s hair was inspired by the various shades worn by Paramore’s frontwoman Hayley Williams.
– Eamon of Doria’s appearance, as well as the decision to make him a barber, was inspired by Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the titular character in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Count Olaf in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
– The inspiration for the physical appearance of the Three Brothers – Elam, Oliver, and Joshua – was based on the three lead characters (Everett, Pete, and Delmar) in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou.
– The unique physical appearance of Zoe, Steward of the Menagerie, was inspired by makeup used for the character of Elphaba in the musical Wicked.
– Alex Croft was originally intended to be a police officer, then a bodyguard, and eventually a security guard. His middle name and surname also underwent multiple changes until they were settled upon – Luke and Croft, respectively, with Luke being taken from the Gospel writer and physician of the same name and Croft for its connections to pastoral life, which tied into Alex’s own humble origins.
#1 – What inspired The Guardian?
Inspiration and ideas come from literally everywhere. As far as The Guardian is concerned, it started with a strange idea. One summer, I was reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and re-watching the first season of “Prison Break.” In my head, the two stories merged and I asked myself, “What if Michael Scofield [the protagonist in the show] was a wizard and could break his brother out of prison using magic instead of getting himself incarcerated to get inside?” That brought up a host of questions like does such a character know he has magical abilities prior to being sentenced or does he learn about them later on. The idea’s concept stuck and I had to explore it; thus, The Guardian was born.
#2 – Where did you come up with Alex’s name?
Getting the right name for your characters is an important step in the outlining process for me. I love etymology, so I pick names that fit a character’s personality or have some kind of symbolic significance. There is much more that goes into naming characters than I think most readers realize and a name can make or break a character.
Concerning Alex Croft, I knew I wanted to name him Alexander. It’s a small homage to the “Prison Break” character Alex Mahone but Alex Croft isn’t based on or supposed to look like Mahone. I mainly decided upon Alex as a name because it means “defending man,” which fits. Alex’s middle name, Luke, came easy, too, since there is a symbolic connection between that and a role Alex assumes later on in the trilogy. But I really struggled over Alex’s surname. Finally, I ran across the name Croft and looked it up. It’s an Old English term meaning a small pasture beside a house. I knew that was perfect for Alex since he calls himself a “country boy.”
#3 – What are the Words? Did you make them up or are they a real language?
The Words are actually star names! I went through a night sky field guide and wrote down every star name I thought could refer to something else in its meaning. For instance, Yildun (in the constellation Ursa Minor) means “star,” and it fits because of the star-like light the speaker’s vial produces. Other Words and their star name meanings are a bit harder to connect, but I managed to make them work in my head, so they stayed. I actually have a whole list of the Words, their star name meanings, and their connections, and I refer to them often, especially when I introduce new Words.
#4 – Who was the easiest character to write?
Alex, Sunniva, and Niobe were the first characters whose backstories were fairly solid in my mind before I started writing. Alex is down-to-earth, Sunniva is jovial but has experienced her share of heartbreak, and Niobe is a torn soul. They aren’t based on anyone I know but they embody universal desires – the desire to make your life count for something, to uphold what is right and true, and the desire for love and justice against evil. That’s what makes these characters resonate the most with me and, hence, makes them easy to write for.
#5 – Who was the hardest character to write?
Bigelow Turk, the sadistic chief guard of Erebus Penitentiary. It’s tough to get inside the head of such a twisted character, but I had to do my best so as not to make him a dark comic figure. I won’t reveal spoilers but I will say I had fun plotting out Bigelow’s demise. Rest assured – he will get what’s coming to him!
#6 – Which scene was the most difficult to write?
Definitely the ones involving Bigelow’s brutality; I wanted to show how atrocious he was without crossing the lines of good taste. Also, one character’s death was difficult and I almost considered letting the person live. But the death gives another character justification for future actions. It’s never easy to kill off a character but sometimes it has to be done for the sake of the overall story.
#7 – Why does Alex room with apprentices younger than him? Doesn’t that seem weird?
I assure you Alex isn’t a pervert and he’s the furthest thing from it. Still, I did give consideration as to how readers might view this. But to be fair, Alex and the other boys have separate quarters. After The Guardian and into books two and thee, the cozy dorm is long gone. So for now, I wanted to ground Alex as a kind soul, someone Jason and the other boys could look up to as a father/brother-figure they can confide in when they feel they can’t go to anyone else.
#8 – Where is the Voror Council? Are the Realms in an alternative universe or are they an extension of the “real world”?
There are three chief Realms, the Voror Realm, Sangre Realm, and Protected Realm (where “we” live). I like to think of the Realms as existing in our concept of reality though the rules governing them are a little different. Such as Griffons and Phoenixes don’t openly populate our world but they do in the story’s world without question.
#9 – Why is Festus LaCroix fascinated with alchemy? And why does he insist people call him by his full name?
Festus LaCroix is a tinkerer. But instead of tinkering with woodworking or stamp collection, he likes alchemy. Alchemy has an important symbolic function in the novels, too, which is why I wanted an alchemist character. Alchemy is a bit misunderstood, so who better to bring new light to it than a character who, on the surface, is a bit eccentric yet certainly has a pulse on what’s going on around him. As to why Festus LaCroix insists on being called by his full name, that’s his unconventionality coming out. To echo Alex’s words, if I had a name like that, I’d probably insist on people calling me the whole thing, too.
#10 – If The Guardian was made into a movie, who would direct it?
I love and respect Tim Burton’s style and the types of stories he’s drawn to. They’re dark without being horrific, low-key without being depressing, and weird without being warped. I’d love to see how Burton would translate The Guardian’s world, especially the Council. A second choice would be Peter Jackson; his style is organic and more realistic, so that would be an utterly different interpretation from what Burton might do. But I would fully trust both men with my story and characters!
#11 – Why did you opt to self-publish The Guardian as opposed to traditional publishing?
I considered traditional publishing but it’s such a long and drawn out process that ultimately doesn’t leave much control in the author’s hands. First, you have to submit a query letter and wait for a response, and most publishers don’t want simultaneous submissions (i.e. you have to wait to hear from one publisher before you query another). If someone likes your concept, you may be asked to submit further paperwork, usually the first three chapters or so. That means another waiting period, and most publishers respond to queries and the like within six months to a year. Even if a publisher accepts your manuscript, there is no guarantee they will market your book and the shelf life of a print book is rather short. But self-publishing gives you complete control over your book’s release date, marketing, design, price, and other elements. Likewise, the option of print on demand means your work can be in print indefinitely. I went through CreateSpace and I’d definitely publish through them again.
#12 – What advice can you give to aspiring writers?
I can think of three tidbits off the top of my head:
(1). Don’t spend too much time reading books on writing. Reading books on craft and attending writing classes have their place but don’t get bogged down or obsessed with them. Some beginning writers spend more time reading about how to write rather than actually writing! So grasp the basics, learn proper grammar and spelling, know how to revise and proofread, familiarize yourself with the genre you want to write by reading notable works from its canon, and take it from there.
(2). Don’t copy someone else. I don’t mean this in the plagiaristic sense; instead, don’t try to be like another writer. I knew someone who, depending on who he was reading at the moment, would try to emulate that author’s style and voice. It kind of annoys me to hear people say an author is the new Arthur Conan Doyle or Tolkien or someone else. Those writers were their own person and can never be copied, just like no one can copy you. So be yourself – use your voice, develop your style, and don’t let inspiration become an interference.
(3). Do love what you write! Eric Garcia explained it best when he said, “Write the things you want to write. If they’re weird or strange or don’t fit into some mold that the rest of the world seems to conform to, don’t stress over it….I strongly believe that if I’m not absolutely in love with what I’m writing, then all I’m doing is typing.” Ditto.
Writing a trilogy certainly taught me a few things and it was a fun challenge! So what were some of the take-away lessons I gleaned from this experience?
1. Take planning seriously (but not too seriously).
I can see why, when asked about advice for writers, J.K. Rowling said she made a plan, ensuring she had a clear map of where she was going when it came to characters and plotting. And she’s right. One of the most important tasks a writer can do is generate a good, solid outline for the story’s plot as well as a finalized character list. Doing so means you don’t have to get stuck making up details on the fly or forgetting where you’re going with your story. Planning is true for any mode of writing, especially for projects such as a trilogy as it’s not just one book that has a beginning-middle-end structure but a series that has to have beginning, middle, and end points – and you have to keep everything straight in each book and between books. Thus, seeing where you want to go is critical so you get to where you ultimately want to be.
But there’s is a flip side in that it’s possible to over-plan or, at the very least, stay rigidly close to an initial outline. While penning The Guardian, I had an outline I referred to while working on my handwritten draft and I followed it fairly closely. However, upon transferring the draft to the computer, I discovered that the draft was far too long and there were segments, sometimes entire chapters, that needed to be omitted indefinitely or even moved into another book. Even though I’m an organization stickler, it was fun to let the story have free reign at times. I still knew where I ultimately wanted Alex’s journey to go, so it was okay if the final product deviated from the original outline. So while I do take my story planning phase seriously, I don’t take it so seriously that I don’t allow the story to evolve beyond where I initially thought I might want it to go.
2. Writing is Re-Writing.
The rumors are true! Writers actually spend little time (relatively speaking) penning new, original content and spend more time reworking said original content, which includes revising, reorganizing, editing, and even omitting material. My own writing process goes a little something like this: outline/plan, compose a rough draft, read through the rough draft, make massive changes to the draft (rewriting or omitting portions as needed), then reading and revising, reading and revising until I’m happy with the final product. While writing an initial draft, I never make changes in terms of plot or story. I just follow my outline and allow the story to take a natural direction, even if that’s off the outline’s path.
Then, once I have a complete draft – one that goes from the first chapter to the last – I read through and make notes, chapter by chapter. These notes include questions to myself, continuity errors to check into and correct, sections that need clarification or clean up, and what seems to be working or not working and how to fix it. I repeat this process at least three times while also giving myself time to step away from the project so I’m not constantly reading the same material over and over. It’s like working a tricky crossword puzzle: sometimes you have to sit it aside for a while and pick it up later. Many times, the things that had been stumping you before come into clearer focus now.
3. Know How to Juggle.
Lastly, writing a trilogy has made me better appreciate the process of juggling multiple story threads and characters. It is a tricky feat with plenty of room for error if you’re not careful. Unlike writing a standalone novel where you have to make sure to keep track of your plot, pacing, characters, story world elements, and continuity for just one book, a trilogy requires you to do that for all three books individually as well as the trilogy as a whole.
For instance, when writing each book in The Guardian trilogy, I not only had to keep track of what was going on in terms of one book but also how it fit in with the other books. This included keeping characters’ biographical info straight from book to book, remembering spellings for terms or persons, and consistent world-building information. For example, I remember while initially writing The Guardian Prophecy, the Council’s Head Healer, Sunniva, says she’s going on a journey to visit an exiled prophet. At first, I wanted to make it sound like she had visited him once before, yet as the story went on, I wrote it as if she hadn’t seen him since he left the Council. I caught the continuity error and knew I had to decide on only one approach, which meant rewriting sections or scenes depending on the choice I made. In the end, I made a decision that wasn’t what my initial outline had spelled out but it made better sense in the context of the story. So, bottom line – would I attempt a trilogy again? Maybe, but I’d love to see what I can come up with for a standalone story!
Once again, I’m so happy to share my novels with my fellow readers, and I hope you have as much fun traveling with Alex Croft on his journey as I did writing it. While I am sad to close out this trilogy, which has been a staple of my daily writing workload for over a decade, I’m overjoyed to see it finally come to fruition and share it with fantasy lovers around the world!