Stop! If you haven’t finished reading The Zealous Star, 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 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.
Rifna Erd: Infrared
Tular Tevoil: Ultraviolet
Pendeltune: Deep Tunnel
Noble Trod: Blood Rent
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.
Prelude AND Prologue: The vast majority of The Zealous Star takes place about twenty years after The Waxing Moon. However there were two significant events that I wanted to include to transition between books. I wanted to show what happened to Waylon and Merton, as well as establish the Rifna Erd were something to fear. I also wanted to establish Snapdragon and the events right after The Waxing Moon. Because these were separate events, it didn’t feel right to include them in the same prologue, so I borrowed an idea I’d seen in other books and included a “prelude.”
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 12, 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 11 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.)