The Wall of Fire Trilogy is a unique, futurist, post-pandemic world with a varied cast of characters. But where did it all come from? I’m going to let you in on some of the origins of the story, and how it progressed from idea to published books.
For many years, it’s been my dream to create my very own dystopian series like the ones I love to read. But I also wanted my stories to be a really unique world. I mulled it over for years, but it wasn’t until August of 2018 that the seed of the idea that would eventually become Wall of Fire was finally planted and started to grow.
My husband and I had some friends over for board games, and we were listening to music while we played. I don’t remember what game we were playing, but I do remember when the song Hey Soul Sister by Train came on. Suddenly the line, “a game show love connection you can’t deny,” struck me like a ton of bricks. Even though nothing about that song seems to have anything to do with a dystopian society, that one line sparked an idea that started to rattle around in my head and wouldn’t leave me alone:
What about a society where your whole life is determined by a game— your job, who you marry, maybe even whether you live or die.
The idea was intriguing. Though variations of this idea have certainly been done before, I could see unique aspects of it that could make a truly captivating dystopian society.
I let the idea simmer and wrote copious notes and ideas over the next months trying to work it out. I had to answer questions like:
- Why would a society adopt this system?
- What does the world outside the society look like?
- What do contestants risk to join, and what can they gain?
- Is everyone on equal footing?
- Who’s really making the decisions, and why?
Over time, the game transformed into what is now the Burning in Wall of Fire and the Safe Dome with its stratified society (Flame, Smoke, and Ash) were born.
Next, I needed characters and a plot.
I knew that Emery wouldn’t actually want to join the Burning. She doesn’t really care about the enticements. So what would lead to her entry, and how would she survive it? What challenges would she face along the way? And what does the Burning actually entail?
These are the questions I wrestled with and mulled over for the next 2 years. I actually wrote several partial and full drafts of the entire book. I estimate that by the time the 60,000 word novel was complete, I had actually written over 250,000 words in the process of trying to work out the story. In this post, I shared some of the ideas I considered, but ultimately scrapped, if you’re interested to see.
In September of 2019, my youngest daughter had started Kindergarten, and I decided I finally had the time and focus to get serious about writing. So on October 1, 2019, I started with a blank page and wrote the entire manuscript of Wall of Fire in 29 days.
In November of 2019, I edited the book and wrote Sanctuary (a companion story to the series). Preparing to publish involved professional editing, cover design, getting the book in the hands of advance readers, and setting up social media, Amazon, and Goodreads accounts, among other things.
On February 4, 2020, Wall of Fire was released on Amazon, quickly becoming a #1 New Release and bringing in many raving five-star reviews.
The Series Continues
But I couldn’t just sit back and enjoy the success. During December and early January, I wrote Scattered Ash, which was published on March 4, 2020.
Then I went straight into working on Ruins of Ember, the final book of the trilogy. Writing Ruins of Ember may have been my biggest challenge of all. Even though it took me less than two months to write (from mid-January to mid-March), it was a mental and emotional challenge I’d never experienced before.
I wasn’t going to write one of those series that opened a lot of questions and never delivered answers. All through the series, I tried to never introduce a question I didn’t have an answer to. But this was my last chance to share those answers in a way that made sense to the reader and revealed everything in a natural and logical way that was just as gripping and surprising as the first two novels. As I saw it, the third book would either make the entire series mean something, or make it all pointless. That put a lot of self-imposed pressure on me to make it good.
In early March, I was coming up on a deadline to get the book to my editor. I worked all day, every day for nearly two weeks to finish it and do my edits. With great relief, I handed the book off to my husband for beta reading and a week later to my editor.
Just as the book was going to my editor, the COVID-19 pandemic had spread to the U.S. and the lockdowns were put into place. I stood back and looked at the world in a little bit of shock. I never dreamed that as I released the final book of the Wall of Fire series—the book that explains how a pandemic completely transformed Emery’s world in terrifying ways—we would be in the midst of our own pandemic.
I’ve had readers ask me if I’ll be writing any more stories set in this world. At this point, I’m not sure. To me, Emery’s story is now complete. But I may, at some point, write the backstory of the Architect or more stories like Sanctuary, expounding on life in the varied Safe Domes. Right now, however, I make no promises.
I just hope readers will love Emery and Eason and the rest of their world as much as I do, or at least find some entertainment and enjoyment in these stories.