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About Primus Tenebrae
Primus Tenebrae is an Adult High Fantasy/Scifi series written by myself and my best friend, Sara Richardson. It has subplots in romance (with LGBT), but it is not the main focus. In future books, horror and suspense are also subplots. We have written the first draft of six books, with more planned. Exsomnis (roughly 280k words) is the first book of at least ten.
Primus is written solely through active roleplay. Sara and I each have a set of characters, over a dozen main and sub-main each, that we portray. We each take turns writing a few paragraphs, up to 3000+ words, that show what the characters in the scene are doing. More than 90% of the time, we roleplay two scenes at once. We each have a main and secondary-main character, and the sets are not always together. Because of this, most of the time, we roleplay in two different settings to see what both sets are up to at any given time. Often, we add other scenes to our roleplay that focus on secondary characters. While our priority is always our main characters, it’s fun to peek into the lives of characters that are not the focal point of the story. We will write our parts into a word document and then copy and paste it into a messenger program. If you look close enough, you may even see our different writing styles in our books.
Because we write through roleplay, PT is extremely character driven. Everything that happens in the book is left solely up to the characters to react to and fix. If they don’t fix it? Well, it’s their problem, not ours! Sara and I believe deeply that our characters are bits and pieces long lost souls. We think of our characters as people, not tangles of words. To us, they are living breathing creatures that deserve to be in the world.
Sara and I allow our characters to be and become whatever they wish. Their thought processes may be drastically different than our own, but we allow all of our characters the freedom to express themselves openly. We refuse to filter them into cookie-cutter characters. Because of this, the Primus Tenebrae series is intended only for adults. This way, we can allow our characters to be who they want to be and do what they want to do without feeling like we have to hold them back.
While we focus heavily on plot and character development, we do have romantic subplots. We strive to make our romance as realistic as possible, meaning it comes with all the joys and despairs that real relationships do. We never force characters to be in relationships, so if characters become romantic with one another, it is because the characters wish it to be that way. It has even frustrated us on occasion how daft some of our characters can be when it comes to relationships! Sara and I do believe that intimate scenes show beautiful character development. We only leave intimate scenes in the book if we believe it adds value to plot, character or lore. This is another reason why our series is intended for adults.
Many of the main, sub-main, and secondary characters fall into the LGBT spectrum. A handful of main characters are also polyamorous. We do not recommend our series to anyone who is offended by such topics. Unfortunately, we do not have the time or energy to argue to others about these topics, so please, take it or leave it.
Science Fiction Aspects
I’m one of those people who likes strange and fantastical settings. While many of our planets may feel very similar to Earth, others are incredibly different. I love the challenge of making something insane and turning it into something that could actually exist under the perfect circumstances. The stranger the world, the more fun it is to come up with the plausibility. Sara really enjoys creating flora and fauna for planets, but my area of expertise is the science behind why those creatures and plants are there in the first place. This is one reason why I love writing with a partner. She can focus on the fun details of planets, while I focus on making it “real.” Most of our planets are made by both of us, while others are individual creations (though we do help each other with certain aspects, regardless).
I am extremely passionate about science, and I adore learning new things. I have spent hundreds, more likely thousands, of hours researching astrophysics and quantum mechanics; I think the only thing left for me to do is seek out a degree in both! I love attempting to drop something like magic into our universe and attempt to make it as scientifically plausible as I can, and that’s exactly what we did.
No, we don’t have spaceships. That’s usually the first thing people ask me when I mention that PT is Science Fiction as well as Fantasy. We do, however, have over a dozen new planets in the first few books, and we are consistently making more. I do understand that many readers have no care in the world to be told why a planet is the way it is. Even though I adore science and astronomy, I would rather enjoy the story than the science in some cases. In our series, we rarely explain why planets are the way they are, even though hours and hours of thought and research has gone into every single one.
Sara and I both grew up playing DnD, so when we roleplay/write, it’s only natural for us to add in fantasy aspects to our writing. While we write, we often leave things up to chance by rolling dice.
Along with the theme of “fantasy,” we take a lot of inspiration from the medieval era. Though the series is set in the near-future, you will see plenty of knights in shining armor and majestic castles. One of the main characters is even a blacksmith that prefers to work metal by hand.
Primus Tenebrae comes with realistic “magic.” We wanted our magic system to be plausible. We did not want our magic to be overpowered. Those who are fatally wounded in the series still run the risk of dying, even with the help of magic. We didn’t want there to be a way out for every mess our characters get into. Magic may help them in a lot of cases, but it does not make them gods.
Yes. There are dragons.
Sara and I have always had an interest in history and mythology. My parents lived in the Middle East for several years before I was born, and I just barely missed being born in Jordan. Not surprisingly, as I grew up, my interest in the Middle East and other cultures solidified. Some of my favorite food items are even grape leaves, mansef, and baklava! My dad would go on mini rants about the Jordanian culture, and little did I know at the time, that information would fuel my interest in world building.
On Earth, cultures are wide-spread and fascinating, and that was the inspiration for many of our planets. Earth is filled with beautiful cultures, and we really wanted to display that beauty in our series. Some of our planets have very specific religions and religious practices that are heavily influenced by religions of Earth.
One of my favorite cultures, as I’m sure many can relate, is Egyptian. I think Egyptology creates a whole world in itself, and Sara and I really wanted to take that idea and play around with it. After all, isn’t it a conspiracy theory that the Egyptians came from another planet due to their technology being so advanced? 😉
You can see Egyptian, Celtic, Spanish, Native American, Mexican, Indian, Japanese, and Norse (and much more!!) influences in several of our worlds and characters.
On the flip side, we enjoy making cultures completely from scratch as well. Some of our cultures rely heavily on hyper-advanced technology, while others rely solely on survival of the fittest. Animal life may be important for religious practices, fashion may be important for social status, and food may be important for tradition. So many aspects come into play when creating brand new cultures, and for us, it’s very important to understand the differences between every single one.
Life on Planets
Coming up with animals is by far my favorite part of the world building process. I won’t even lie, I am infinitely jealous of the characters that own some of our made-up creatures as pets. From small ursine animals with hoofed feet and oversized ears to unruly, colorful emu-like birds that you wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alley, it’s safe to say that Primus is completely packed with crazy new animals. Sara and I take joy in coming up with the most flamboyant, vicious and/or ridiculous beasts to add flair to our universe. Most of our animals are spur-of-the-moment creations that we immediately fall in love with. However, you may see some familiar species across the universe like sheep-, goat-, and cow-like creatures.
Plants, on the other hand, tend to be more of a scientific feat. When creating flora, I typically think about what properties it may have that would be beneficial to “human” life. Is it edible? Is it toxic? Is it medicinal? Medicines are extremely fun to play with because they can also cause adverse side effects. Certain plants may be poisonous to one species of humanoid, but a treat to another species. I tend to think about the chemical make-up of plants in order to understand what reactions “humans” might have to eating them.
Speaking of eating plants, life on other planets would be never exist without food. We have a blast figuring out what types of recipes a culture would have. In fact, Sara and I have even made a traditional dish (to the best of our Earthling ability) from one of our favorite planets. It’s similar to banana bread, but with a variety of tropical fruits and nuts. The first attempt did not go very well, but the second attempt was a huge hit! We have officially confirmed it to be a very tasty recipe and we may eventually release the recipe once it’s fully perfected.
With so many planets in the Primus Tenebrae series, it only makes sense for many of those planets to have their own languages. To make it easy on our readers, we have decided that a common language (English to us and our readers, but not English to our characters) was absolutely necessary. However, nearly all of our planets have a local language, and some even have a few dialects. In the first book alone, you will see examples of several different alien languages, which are written phonetically and immediately translated for reader ease. By the end of the book, you’ll even know how to call someone an idiot in an alien language, because let’s face it…characters can be pretty idiotic sometimes. Every language we create is unique. Some are very reliant on grammar, while others are messy with word placement. The first book alone may not be enough to really understand how the introduced languages are spoken, but over the course of the series, you may just become conversational in several! ;D All of our languages are organized by spreadsheets with definitions and grammar rules. We also make sure to add any cultural words to the language to make sure our characters use them consistently in everyday life. Particular cultural words are very important to certain characters, and you’ll end up seeing a whole new realm of slang.
Behind the Screens
Sara and I began our journey with Primus Tenebrae at the beginning of 2016. We started writing it as a random project, no more than a fun pastime. I had recently stepped away from a roleplay server, and the character that I had on the server was begging for me to continue playing him. I rarely move characters from one setting into another, but he wouldn’t let me go. Against my better judgement, I decided to let him find his way out into the world again through this new, silly project that Sara and I were starting.
Up until this point, Sara and I had been writing together for almost a decade. We met online in middle school, both geeks with a love for roleplay and Dungeons and Dragons. We clicked immediately. We spent most of our free time roleplaying over MSN or Skype messenger. We were absolutely terrible (or at least I was!) at writing back then, but little did we know, we were practicing for what would be our literary child in the future.
We wrote though several different settings and plots, and at one point, we even decided that we wanted to write a book series together. Sara would write a series of books, and I would write a series of my own that intertwined with hers. We had most of it mapped out, and Sara wrote six books worth of the series. I, not truly coming to terms with my passion for writing back then, slacked hardcore. I only got 100 pages into my first book before it was destined to collect dust. It was early 2016 that Sara and I realized we hadn’t written together in far too long. We attempted a few new plots and settings, but nothing was clicking for us until we decided to stop planning and just start writing.
We began Primus Tenebrae with no plan at all. We didn’t know which characters would be included in the project, what the plot would be, or what the setting would be. We wrote whatever came to mind simply for the fun of it, and soon enough, we fell into a pattern. Primus quickly took over our lives. By the fall of 2016, Sara and I decided that we wanted to look into converting Primus into something that we could publish. What we had written up until that point was messy and random, but we saw the potential in the project. We had fallen so deeply in love with the characters and plot that we had written every single day for over six months.
I worked hard on copying everything we had written in messenger into a more stable file. It was a daunting task, and I would often paste over 50 pages at a time into a word document. I organized these into “chapters,” for the sake of ease, with most of the chapters equaling out to around 25k words, and about half of them over 50k words, and a few up to 80k. We had written 76 chapters. The chapters were then organized into books, each with a generalized plot and climax. It turned out that we had written 6 books worth of plot content. At this point, Sara messaged me:
“I wonder how many words we’ve written.”
I knew how many words each “chapter” held, and I knew how many “chapters” we had. I had labled them all with a general description of the events that took place in each chapter, and I had given them all a number. But even looking at everything in an organized format, it didn’t occur to me how much we had written. I did the math, and I had to just sit in my chair quietly for a few minutes before I responded to her:
“We’ve written 2 million words.”
I did the math over and over again. I was positive that I had calculated wrong. There was no way that we were able to write 2 million words in just over 6 months. Both of us were baffled. But again and again, the math turned out to be correct. We had gotten so lost in the story and characters that we didn’t even think about how much we were writing. But on that day, Sara and I knew we had to publish.
The first draft of books 1-5 were a complete disaster. When we began writing Primus, we had no idea what was going to happen in the story. There was no plot, and what little plot there was was messy and broken. Not only that, but most of the characters needed a serious facelift. We took a few months to gather our thoughts about what we wanted our published work to be, and we began writing book 7 with the updated version of all of our content.
We fell even deeper in love, if that was at all possible. But, we had changed so much information that we knew we couldn’t continue writing past book 7. We had to go back to the beginning and rewrite everything so the characters, plot, and lore were all consistent throughout the series. Reluctantly, and with heavy hearts, we put book 7 down just as a major event was taking place in the plot. It hurt both of us to just stop our thought process of later books, but we knew that anything we wrote past book 7 would be for absolutely nothing. We knew that in the re-write, characters would make different choices, lore would be different, the plot would be different…. There was no point in continuing.
Turning our rough draft into something worth publishing was not a small feat. We had to completely rethink everything about the series from characters to plot to lore. It took several months for us to feel comfortable enough to start over with what essentially were brand new characters. We completely scrapped our lore and settings. Really, the only thing we left alone was the magic system we had made. Everything else was built from the ground up for draft two. (This is why having a messy rough draft is so important! ;D)
It took us a few months of re-writing and editing before we were ready to send our baby off to our amazing editor, Tea. It’s been a long but wonderful process, and we are so excited to be on the lookout to add a new friend to our team. We know that the rest of this process will be just as exciting as it has been.