Violating Your Expectations

By Peter Orullian

I love this phrase: “violating your expectations.” The fact that I do probably discloses way too much about who I am, but there you go. I first heard “VYE” in a 500 level Shakespeare course I had in college. The bard knew a thing or two about it. You have your mind or heart set on something, and “Ker-pow!” it don’t go the way you hoped or thought it would.

For good or ill, this has carried over into my fiction. As I got rolling on The Vault of Heaven series, I thought a lot about how I would make it different and new. If you get reductive on storylines, there aren’t many out there. That, and I’ve read so many books by authors whose efforts to be different wind up sounding, ironically, very contrived. They just feel like they’re working too hard to be different.

So, one of the things I did was take a close look at the conventions of fantasy fiction: the stuff I liked, the stuff I liked less. And I decided that the best way to evolve some of these tropes into new terrain was to establish them up front in my story. In other words, I decided I wanted to violate your expectations. It’s kind of blasé to say, “things aren’t what they seem,” when talking about one’s book. So, I’ll just caution readers about their expectations of where the story is going, ‘cause you know, you could get hurt.

Beyond all that, some things you might not expect: music in The Vault of Heaven—there’s a music magic system, and it gets kind of dark; and the notion of human trafficking, which, in a somewhat disturbing way, feeds several of the story lines so naturally. And choice. I love exploring the choices my characters make, how they arrive at the decisions, what consequences will result. And more than anything, I love putting them in impossible situations, where there simply is no good or right choice, but they are nonetheless forced to choose. This, as much as anything else, proves to be the leap point for violating your expectations, since what you might expect my characters to decide . . . well, you know.

But then, here’s the deal: most of us love surprises. And at the end of it, having your expectations violated amounts to much the same thing. So with any luck at all, you’re gonna dig The Unremembered, since I’m going to carefully lead you down a path, and early on you may recognize a few of the signposts, but pretty soon—if I’ve done my job—you won’t know where you are, and then, “ker-pow!”

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Read two short stories set in the same universe on Tor.com:

Sacrifice of the First Sheason

By Peter Orullian

Illustration by Kekai Kotaki

Palamon was part of the collective that formed the world, made its mountains, its people, its rules. When the fledgling world is threatened, only he will do whatever it takes to save it. Read the story >>

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The Great Defense of Layosah

By Peter Orullian

Illustration by Kekai Kotaki

Layosah has lost five sons and her husband to her kingdom’s endless wars; all she has left is an infant daughter and a dangerous idea. Read the story >>

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Peter Orullian is the debut epic fantasy author of The Unremembered (0-7653-2571-3 / $$27.99), the first novel in “The Vault of Heaven” out from Tor Books on April 12, 2011. He is also the author of two short stories set in the same universe, “Sacrifice of the First Sheason” and “The Great Defense of Layosah,” freely available on Tor.com. More information including a series of webisodes can be found on his website, Orullian.com.

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