WARNING! This section includes spoilers. Read the book first!

Some insights behind “The Hidden Sun.”

The spark that started it all:  I’ve been asked many times what inspired me to write this story. The answer? Well, I had a very vivid dream one night about this man driving a cart into a medieval type town. He notices a beautiful woman with dark hair leave one of the shops, followed soon after by three ruffians. They obviously are following her. She spins and with her hands on her hips stands up to them, but they continue to move in on her. The man in the cart throws something at one of the men and hits him. The ruffians turn their attention to the man and he fights them off using a staff. I woke up right after the dream, and I recalled all the details. My wife was waking up as well, and I told her about the dream. She told me, “You should write that down.” That led me to the questions of, “Who are these people? Where were they? Where did they come from? What happens next?” The end result was the dream became the heart of Chapter 12 in the book. Everything before it and after it stems from that original dream.

Why it is named The Hidden Sun: I actually didn’t come up with a title for the book until after I had finished it. The working title was War and Peace—alright, not really. The working title was Rain and Sunshine, but it just didn’t feel right. After my then seven year old daughter Emily came up with the saying “The sun is playing hide-and-seek”, the title came to me. Although the obvious meaning of the title comes from the phrase that opens the book, The Hidden Sun is also a reference to Rayne, the son of Eliana and Rinan. There are also two other meanings to the title. There is a line in the book that the clouds can only hide the sun for so long. To me, Abrecan’s rule over Bariwon was the clouds that covered the kingdom, but the sun would eventually shine once again on the land. As for a last silly note of the title, my full name is Jason Lloyd Morgan, though the book is listed under J. Lloyd Morgan. What’s missing (or hidden) from my pen name?

The last section written: The last section I wrote for The Hidden Sun was not the Epilogue. After re-reading the book for the umpteenth time, I felt like there needed to be more between Rinan and Eliana to show how their relationship grew. The result starts on page 20 and ends on page 22. It is the section on the princess party. Having four daughters, I have been in my fair share of princess parties, so it seemed as good of a setting as any. Plus, I liked the irony that Princess Eliana had to dress up as a princess for the party.

Fun with Anagrams: When it came time to name places or events or other original things, I wanted to come up with something unique.  But how does one just “make up” words?  I’ll have to admit, I cheated a little bit.  All my made up words are anagrams.  An anagram is a word made up from using the letters from another word.  Example:  an anagram for J Lloyd Morgan could be “Manly Lord Jog”.  (Granted, if you’ve seen me jog, there is nothing particularly “Manly” or “Lordly” about it.)

Shoginoc:  Choosing
Mortentaun:  Tournament
Bariwon:  Rainbow
Erd:  Red
Lewyol:  Yellow
Regne:  Green
Lebu:  Blue
Tevoil:  Violet
Grenoa:  Orange
Donigi:  Indigo
Nislles:  Illness
Plyese:  Sleepy

A Rinan by any other name… : So, how does an author come up with the names for his or her characters?  That’s a darn good question and one that has a different answer from each author you ask.  As for The Hidden Sun, most of the names have some significance to the person or a thematic element in the book.  Below are the names of the characters with an explanation of what their names mean.

Eliana:  It comes from the Late Latin Aeliāna, the feminine form of the Latin family name Aeliānus (of the sun), which is derived from the Greek hēlios (sun). 
Rinan:  It is an Anglo-Saxon name that means “rain”.
Abrecan:  It is an Anglo-Saxon name that means “storm”.
Caldre:  It is an English name that means “cold brook”.
Sherwyn:  It is an Anglo-Saxon name that means “quick as the wind”.
Anemone:  Derived from the Greek word ανεμος (anemos) meaning “wind”.
Daimh:  A Scottish name that means “ox”.  It is pronounced “dime”.
Eadward:  An Anglo-Saxon name that means “guardian”.
Wayte:  An English name that means “guard”.
Bertram:  Derived from the Germanic element beraht meaning “bright”.
Alana:  An Irish name that means “fair”.
Vashti:  One meaning is “thread” in Hebrew.
Dougal:  Anglicized form of the Gaelic name Dubhghall, which meant “dark stranger” from dubh “dark” and gall “stranger”.
Garth:  From a surname meaning “garden” in Old Norse
Iolanthe:  Influenced by the Greek words ιολη (iole) “violet” and ανθος (anthos) “flower”.
Dulcie:  From Latin dulcis meaning “sweet”.
Thomas:  Greek form of the Aramaic name תָּאוֹמָא (Ta’oma’) which meant “twin”.
Chandler:  From an occupational surname which meant “candle seller” in Middle English, ultimately from Old French.
Cameron:  From a Scottish surname meaning “crooked nose” from Gaelic cam “crooked” and sròn “nose”.
Sullivan:  From an Irish surname which was derived from Ó Súilleabháin meaning “little dark eye”.
Ivor:  From the Old Norse name Ívarr, which was derived from the elements yr “yew, bow” and arr “warrior”.
Nicole:  French feminine form of Nicholas, from the Greek name Νικολαος (Nikolaos) which meant “victory of the people” from Greek νικη (nike) “victory” and λαος (laos) “people”.  Fun note:  If I had a “Dime”, I had to have a “Nickle”.  *smiles*
Benjamin:  “Son of my right hand”  On page 94, Anemone notes how violent the sparing contests have become.  As an example, she tells how Guardian Benjamin lost a finger off his right hand.
Oakleaf:  What else would someone like Garth name his son?
Sunshine:  Again, Garth is a bit odd in naming his kids.  Hopefully, this name is obvious.
Snapdragon:  I actually had a little fun with this one.  Since there is no magic or traditional fantasy elements in the book, naming Garth and Iolanthe’s third child “Snapdragon” was a way I could sneak a “dragon” into the book.
Rayne:  Aside from the obvious, it also means in English “strong counselor from the ancient personal name Ragnar”.

To “okay” or not to “okay”: While reading the amazing Work and the Glory series, the author pointed out in one of the books that the word “OK” (or also “okay”) didn’t really come into use in the English language until around 1839. Granted, The Hidden Sun is in a fictitious land during an unspecified time period. However, due to its Medieval elements, logic would say that was before 1839. Granted, I’m sure there are numerous words I use in the book that were not used in Medieval times, but as we edited the book, I kept on getting hung up on using the word “okay.” So, as an act of (perhaps?) defiance, I went through and replaced all the “okays” in the book with either “fine” or “all right.”

Sunshine’s subtle wit: I really enjoyed writing for the character Garth. He would say some of the oddest things. Of course, some of that couldn’t help but rub off on his daughter, Sunshine. There are at least a couple of places where she is fairly witty, in a subtle way. One is her response to Chandler on page 103 when he asks her about the weather. But, my favorite response of hers is on page 122 when Alana (a Noble) expresses her intended action. (Please don’t make me spell it out for you more than I have)

Inside joke to the naysayers: The first part of chapter 11 is my response to certain workaholics (and there were more than one, and there continue to be more) about why I was writing a book.

“The sun’s playing hide-and-seek”: My Grandma Morgan would say “The Devil is beating his wife” whenever it was raining and sunny at the same time. I have no idea what that means or where it came from—but if you do a web search for it, it is a fairly well known saying. Understand that my Grandma Morgan was one of the sweetest (and funniest) people I’ve ever met. In fact, as my siblings and I have grown up, we can trace much of our sense of humor back to her.
On a bit of a different subject, I was in Connecticut and going through a rough time at work. I was looking for something else creative to do, yet at the same time, I had a family to provide for. I had started working on the outline for The Hidden Sun, but wasn’t sure I was going to ever fully start to write it. Then, one day after work, I was walking out to my car. The sky was mostly blue, the sun was shining, but it started to rain. It was the oddest experience—and one that inspired me.
I thought of my Grandma Morgan’s saying, but felt that wasn’t really the tone I wanted to use for starting out the book. So, I tried to make up one of my own. For the longest time, it was “The sun is sleeping on the job.” Pretty lame, eh? I tried out several more, but could never find one that felt right.
So, what was I to do? Then it hit me. At dinner one night, I asked my girls what they would say if the sun was out, but it was raining. They all gave good answers—I think Amy said, “I wanna see a wainbow!” (spelling with a “w” intended). But it was my then seven year old, Emily, that said, “The sun’s playing hide-and-seek.” So that is where the saying came from, and also why Eliana was seven at the start of the book.

Did Dyslexia exist in Medieval times? When trying to figure out a way to have Daimh and Eliana’s wedding be not binding, I was confronted with the challenge, “Wouldn’t someone notice?” So, how to get around that? Well, I did three things. Number one, Eliana had claimed she wasn’t feeling well as to avoid Daimh before the wedding, so when she was sneezing during the ceremony, it didn’t seem out of place. Second, part of Daimh’s character is that he was “never really concerned with details.” (See page 30) So, when Eliana takes him by the left hand, and not the right hand, the reader can buy it because it was introduced before. Third, then came the witness: Magistrate Seanan. During the Shoginoc, Seanan starts to head to the left side of the hall, instead of the right. King Kenrik notes to Eliana, “Poor Magistrate Seanan, he’s always had trouble with the difference between left and right.” (Page 28) So, when Eliana uses her left hand, it is very plausible that Seanan wouldn’t notice. I had a bit of fun with that later on page 193, just to keep it consistent. I got the idea for Seanan because growing up I struggled with left and right—later to find out I’m Dyslexic.

Can you find what is missing? One of the significant plot points revolves around a missing word in The Tome of Laws. This was inspired by my uncanny ability to add extra words or leave out words all together when I’m writing.

Oh! The symbolism! Starting on page 93, there is a scene with Anemone and Sherwyn. Sherwyn had gotten a sliver under a fingernail and came to the nursemaid for help. Her remedy was to have him soak it in warm water and then cold and eventually it would just come out by itself. When writing the book, this actually happened to me, and that was the cure that worked. I included it in the book to catch the reader up on what was going on at the castle, and with Anemone and Sherwyn. At the same time, I used “sliver” (which is an anagram for “silver”—one of Erd’s colors) to represent Abrecan’s reign, and foreshadowed that it would be “water” that would get him removed. What is one way we get water? From “Rayne” of course.

Two witnesses? In the Tome of Laws it states that it takes two witnesses for someone to be convicted of a crime. This is far from an original idea. It’s actually found in The Bible at the following places: Deut 19:15, Matt 18:16, 2 Cor 13:1, 1 Tim 5:19 as well as a few other places.

But what was the joke? On page 140, Governor Nash laughs hard enough to bring tears to his eyes when he hears the punch line “Because the sun only comes out during the day.” So what was the rest of the joke? I have no idea. I couldn’t think of an original joke that fit in with the theme of the book, so I just made up a punch line. So, I guess, in essence, that is the joke—that there isn’t one.

What does PGPE mean? On page 121, it describes how there are the initials PGPE written on Rinan’s sword. Yet, in nowhere else in the book do I explain this. Again, this was something done intentionally. It had to be cryptic enough that Rayne didn’t understand what it meant, but obvious enough for the Hierarchy of Magistrates to know right away. I’ll give you a little hint: What was Rinan’s job before he left the castle? Who was he assigned to originally?

Mortentaun and the 6th grade: To become a guardian in Bariwon, you had to do well in the Mortentaun. This isn’t an original concept—there are stories throughout history of men competing to win the right to do this-or-that. But what events should I include for the Mortentaun? Whenever I get stuck on how to proceed next, I go back to the concept of “write what you know about.” Having never competed in a Medieval tournament, or really seen one, that would be difficult. However, I did experience “field day” in the sixth grade where toward the end of the school year we would have all sorts of different events. I was tall for my age and a very fast runner. My upper body strength was a different story. So the events for the first day of the Mortentaun are roughly based on my experience with field day. I won all the events that dealt with using my legs (aside from the long distance run) but was pretty bad in the events where we saw how far we could throw a ball or do pull ups. And no, we didn’t have a bow and arrow contest in the sixth grade. While school fights broke out time and again during recess, none of them involved weapons of any kind, especially not wooden maces or swords.

Inspiration for Governor Nash: For each character in the book, I tried to have a mental image of them and then relate them to people, or traits of people, I know or know of. Not that they are clones of that person, but I’ll take bits here and there. As for Governor Nash inspiration? I’ll give you some clues: On page 140, it describes him has having a snowy white beard. On page 142, he is described as a “jolly man.” On page 206, he says “Ho ho!!” when he is visited by Alana. I created him as a character when I was off from work during a certain holiday season—some who call it “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Some insights behind “The Waxing Moon.”

Stop! If you haven’t finished reading The Waxing Moon, read no further. This next section is intended for those who have read the book. It gives insight into the theme, symbolism and many other aspects of the book you may not have realized while reading.

Naming of places and things: Just as with The Hidden Sun, I used anagrams to name unique places and things. If you’ve not heard of an anagram, it is a word created using the letters of another word.

Rifna Erd: Infrared
Tular Tevoil: Ultraviolet
Procep: Copper
Pendeltune: Deep Tunnel
Itamunno Kael: Mountain Lake
Mylnohe: Holy Men
Eddinh: Hidden

Return of Abrecan: I had no intention of bringing Abrecan back. However, while writing The Waxing Moon, a ton of people told me how much they despised Abrecan. I had several readers get mad at me, telling me King Rayne was too nice in how he treated Abrecan at the end of The Hidden Sun. So…I brought Abrecan back to face judgment, as it were. In the end, it tied in very well with the rest of the story.

Bearach’s first invention: Starting on page 282, the crafter Bearach demonstrates his ability in mechanics by creating a way for the king to close the doors to the main hall using a lever built into his throne. I needed a way to demonstrate Bearach’s ability early in the book, but wasn’t sure what to do. Then I remembered I had a boss who could close the door to his office by pushing a button on his desk. Though the technology was different, the result was the same.

The meaning of the title The Waxing Moon: Starting on page 312, Savant Waylon explains some superstitions based on the different phases of the moon. The concept isn’t new, but I did add my own twist on them. In the book, a waxing moon is “a sign of change and growth.” Then on page 456, Snapdragon is looking up at a waxing moon. He realizes the choices he makes and the actions he takes define him as a person. He changes and grows with everything he does. So, therefore, the waxing moon is symbolic of Snapdragon’s changes in the book.

The dead turtle story: On page 301, Blythe tells Snapdragon a story about a dead turtle. This was based on a true story that happened to me. When I was working in TV, I came to work one morning and there was a box with a dead turtle on a co-worker’s desk. We didn’t know what it meant or who put it there. We came up with all sorts of assumptions—none of which were right. As it turns out, a week previous there had been a segment shot using animals. The box with the turtle was left in a corner and wasn’t found by the cleaning crew for a week. Sad story, but it was a good object lesson for jumping to conclusions.

People’s names: Again, as with The Hidden Sun, I chose people’s names based on the meaning of their names, with some minor exceptions. For example, Snapdragon was my way of sneaking a “dragon” into the story and it doesn’t seem out of place because his father is a gardener and gave his children odd names like “Sunshine” and “Oakleaf”. I won’t include any characters that were carry-overs from The Hidden Sun. They are explained on the “secrets” page of that book.

Creighton: From a surname which was derived from a place name, originally from Gaelic crioch “border” combined with Old English tun “town”. (He is from the town of Procep on the northern border of the kingdom)
Kerr: From a Scottish surname which was derived from a place name meaning “rough wet ground” in Old Norse. (He’s a miner and it rains a lot in Erd)
Blythe: From a surname which meant “cheerful” in Old English.
Seraphina: Feminine form of the Late Latin name Seraphinus, derived from the biblical word seraphim which was Hebrew in origin and meant “fiery ones”. (She has quite the fiery personality)
Bearach: Derived from Gaelic biorach meaning “sharp”. (“Sharp” is another word for “smart” which describes the creative crafter)
Waylon: Derived from the Germanic elements wela possibly meaning “skill” and land meaning “land”. (Based on his love of roads)
Grant: From an English and Scottish surname which was derived from Norman French grand meaning “great, large”.
Fallon: From an Irish surname which was derived from Ó Fallamhain meaning “descendent of Fallamhan”. The given name Fallamhan meant “leader”.
Sverre: From the Old Norse name Sverrir which meant “wild, swinging, spinning”. (Based on his wild hair and appearance when he is first introduced)
Merton: From a surname which was derived from a place name meaning “town on a lake” in Old English.
Alethea: Derived from Greek αληθεια (aletheia) meaning “truth”. (She knows the “truth” behind how Merton rules)
Darius: Roman form of Δαρειος (Dareios), which was the Greek form of the Persian name Dārayavahush, which was composed of the elements dâraya “to possess” and vahu “good”.

Are the numbers right? On page 323, it states that King Rayne meets up with three hundred men. He gives them their orders where “at least half of the men appeared surprised by what the king had assigned them to do.” When Rayne arrives in Procep, he has only one hundred and fifty men with him. Where did the rest of them go? The answer is on page 495.

Tular Tevoil and Rifna Erd: The seven districts of Bariwon are named after the visible colors of the rainbow. When it came time to give names to people beyond the mountains, or people “out of sight”, I used the colors of the rainbow our eyes can’t see: Infrared and Ultraviolet. I reference this on page 323 when Blythe says, “Not even enough light here to see the mountains—just a big, dark, black void. Like there’s something there, just beyond our ability to see it.”

Nie Syll Esse explained: My wife once memorized a passage from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. It was English, sort of. It showed me how language changed over time. I had introduced the nislles in The Hidden Sun, and in The Waxing Moon, I explain it further. The tricky (and fun) part was to combine the two. “Nie Syll Esse” really means “None Shall Pass”, but can be pronounced like “nislles”, if you imagine the language changing over time. And “nislles” is an anagram for “illness” which is the reason the tunnel was closed off.

Pseudo swear word: I try to write compelling fiction that doesn’t rely on sex, bad language or explicit violence (though I will admit my books can be a bit violent). I had one reader complain that The Hidden Sun wasn’t “real” to them because in real life, people swear. My answer? I had Grant say “sheep dip” as a swear word—which really isn’t a swear word, but kind of sounds like it could be.

A peaceful torturer? When it came time to have Snapdragon and the rest be “put to the question,” I decided to have the man in charge be plain and void of emotion. To me, someone like that is much more frightening than the stereotypical big brute.

The magic trick: On page 423, Snapdragon does a magic trick to explain his plan to Merton. I learned this trick when I was in Boy Scouts. It’s actually quite effective if you do it right.

Testing for understanding: At one point, Snapdragon is assigned a protector who he doesn’t want. Snap claims he can’t understand the man and then has the other men in the area repeat the phrase “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. Why that phrase? It’s a sentence that uses all the letters of the alphabet. It’s found on page 439.

How to get out of this mess? On page 410, Seraphina sums up their situation by saying, “We can’t leave here for fear of the Rifna Erd, and we can’t let the Tular Tevoil make it to Bariwon. Also, we are expected to believe these people from Eddinh.” She then asks Snapdragon what they are going to do. He responds, “I honestly have no idea.” When I first wrote that, I didn’t have any idea either—and I am the author!

My favorite character: I often get asked who my favorite character is in these books. It may surprise you that it is a minor character: Garth. He’s Sunshine, Oakleaf and Snapdragon’s father. He’s an odd duck and looks at life differently. He also says things that are clever. For The Waxing Moon, my favorite line of his is found on page 472 when he says, “We’ve had good rain during Rayne’s reign.”

An almost tragic ending: The first draft of The Waxing Moon had Snapdragon dying at the end. It would have happened on what is now page 494. I’ve not had problems killing off characters before, but this didn’t feel right. I can’t really explain it more than I felt like he had more to do. As it turns out, he plays a significant part in the last book of this series, The Zealous Star.

Some insights behind “The Zealous Star.”

Naming of places and things: Just as with The Hidden Sun and The Waxing Moon, I used anagrams to name unique places and things. If you’ve not heard of an anagram, it is a word created using the letters of another word.

Noble Trod: Blood Rent
Viceditad: Addictive

Return of Daimh: When Diantha and Enoch went back to Erd Proper on a scouting mission later in the book, they needed a place to rest. I remembered that in The Hidden Sun I had Daimh exiled to a home near a lake in Erd. I thought it would be interesting to see how his life turned out and give him a chance at redemption.

It’s pronounced Lar-EYE-saw : One of the biggest complaints I received about the first edition of The Hidden Sun was that there were many strange names that people had a hard time pronouncing. When asked, “How is

pronounced?” I would respond, “However you want.” I’d read a lot of Sci-Fi and Fantasy books, so odd names didn’t bother me. But, to help people out, I started including a pronunciation guide in my books. To emphasize this point, and I’ll admit to tease some of the people who complained before, I added the character Larissa who insisted her name be pronounced a certain way.

The meaning of the title The Zealous Star: I didn’t come up with the title for The Hidden Sun until after it was written. When I started writing the second book in the series, I wanted to have a theme, so I elected on The Waxing Moon. For the third book, I used the north star as an inspiration for Enoch’s character. Yet, I discovered that the title The Waxing Moon was quite common, so I wanted something unique for the last book. A zealous person is one who strongly believes in something, which fits Enoch’s personality. As of this moment, I don’t have any intention of writing more books in this series, maybe because I’m out of celestial bodies. I guess I could use the title, The Quirky Quasar. Or not.

The nislles: I wanted each of the books of this series to stand on its own. In general, each book has different main characters, though some of them cross-over, like Snapdragon. At the same time, I wanted to make The Zealous Star bigger, more epic than the first two. And I wanted it to tie back to the other two books while having its own story. I decided that bringing the nislles back, something referenced in the previous books would be a good way to do that.

People’s names: Again, as with The Hidden Sun and The Waxing Moon, I chose people’s names based on the meaning of their names, with some minor exceptions. For example, Snapdragon was my way of sneaking a “dragon” into the story and it doesn’t seem out of place because his father is a gardener and gave his children odd names like “Sunshine” and “Oakleaf.” I won’t include any characters that were carry-overs from previous books. They are explained on the “secrets” pages of those books.

Diantha: From dianthus, the name of a type of flower (ultimately from Greek meaning “heavenly flower”). 
Enoch: From the Hebrew name חֲנוֹך (Chanokh) meaning “dedicated.”
Serkan: Means “leader, chief” from Turkish ser “head, top” and kan “blood”.
Larissa: Possibly derived from the name of the ancient city of Larisa in Thessaly, which meant “citadel.” (Meaning she was part of the “establishment.”)
Hollis: From an English surname which was derived from Middle English holis “holly trees.” (Viceditad looks a bit like holly, which Hollis helped smuggle into Bariwon.)
Elisedd: Derived from Welsh elus meaning “kind.” This was the name of two kings of Powys in Wales.
Mason: From an English surname meaning “stoneworker,” from an Old French word of Germanic origin (akin to Old English macian “to make”). In a deleted scene, Mason was originally one of the men who helped build the northern wall before he joined the militia.

“Groan worthy” names: In a review of The Hidden Sun, one person called the names Rayne and Sunshine “groan worthy.” I had another person tell me, “I like your plots, but can’t stand your names.” When I wrote The Hidden Sun, I did so primarily for my daughters. I’m a big fan of The Princess Bride, and figured if they could have a princess named Buttercup, I could have characters names Sunshine, Rayne, Snapdragon and Rainbow.

The ‘ah ha!’ moments. I’m the type of writer who has a general idea what the story is about, but makes up most of it while he writes. I’ve discovered that many, if not most, of my best ideas come to me while I’m in the process of writing. For The Zealous Star, the two biggest ‘ah ha’ moments that came to me were the following: First when Diantha destroys the shipments of viceditad and thereby sets into motion the deaths. I liked the irony, and it reflected on her earlier behavior of taking on the persona of the Noble Trod where her good intentions had negative consequences. Second, I wanted there to be a reason for her actions as the Noble Trod to tie into something at the end of the book. The skills she learned from roaming Erd Proper early in the book makes her actions at the end believable.

Why won’t viceditad grow in Bariwon?: When we moved to North Carolina, our front lawn was in pretty bad shape. I tore it up, planted grass seed (as I had done at other houses we’d owned) and watched in dismay as the grass refused to grow. I tried everything I could and couldn’t get it to work. We eventually tore up the yard again and replaced all the soil to get a lawn to grow, but the experience inspired me to believe certain plants wouldn’t grow in certain areas.

Diantha’s inspiration: When I was younger, I had bright red hair. I remembered someone telling me that redheads have a temper and are sensitive. I wasn’t sure I believed them until I had a red haired daughter of my own. Many of Diantha’s characteristics are based on my daughter, Amy.

Is it still raining outside? In chapter 67, Diantha stops into a store to see if there is still a bounty on Enoch’s head. The store sells candles. The store owner, Chandler (which means “candle seller”) asks Diantha if it is still raining outside. She says, “Hard to say since I’m inside now.” Chandler says that was familiar but couldn’t recall why; it’s because Sunshine says the same thing to him in chapter 12 of The Hidden Sun.

The Noble Trod: In the other two books, there are references to how the kingdom came to its current state. Part of this backstory is how there was a civil war once the royalty died from the first case of the nislles. I extended the backstory to include the Noble Trod, a relative of the royalty, therefore a noble who would walk around (trod) around after battles and would hang ripped and bloody cloth as a symbol of how the bloody war was tearing apart the land. Diantha drew on this, “using old superstition and tales to assume control.” (That’s a reference to the song, The Mirror of the Soul. I wrote a book based on it.)

Rankings: We currently live in a world where many things are compared to each other and given rankings. I worked for a company that was “rank crazy” in my opinion—meaning the sum total of your worth to the company was based on your rankings. Often things you were ranked on were items and events that were out of your control, and I found the whole concept ridiculous—especially because some of my co-workers would do less than ethical behaviors to get better rankings. Part of the joys of writing is therapy. I used Larissa’s claim of “I’ve been number one for five years!” as a way to show how silly of a notion that is when used to defend your actions. (Read here: might doesn’t make right.)