How Tristan Began and Behind the Scenes Thoughts Book One
Updated: Jun 9, 2022
I thought I'd come over here and talk a little about this. Tristan began because I love arranged marriage stories. I think because I also like captive/slave stories and they have a similar feel to me? An arranged marriage involves some kind of coercion (even if that "coercion" is a personal value like undying love for your homeland) and I love that feel and watching the characters deal with it. Of course, in my stories, eventually it will turn out well, but the struggle is intriguing.
It's clear from the beginning that Tristan won't choose himself over Markaytia. Markaytia is too important to him. He wants to protect her and the people he loves within in the best way he knows how.
In the sort of "olden day era" Tristan and the gang live in, arranged marriages are normal in some places and going out of style in others. Markaytia is an in between. They are common place in Elven culture. The Elves strike this bargain with the Markaytian king who is also Tristan's uncle. As king, he can't turn something like this down. Even the resident Warlord (Tristan's father) knows how foolish it would be to turn down such an offer when the Elves can offer such protection. Giving Tristan away is not what anyone wants, but being king and Warlord and a Warlord's son, these men understand the greater obligation and Tristan knows it. Lucca doesn't really care and probably has some growing up to do before anyone lets him be king! Ha!
Underlying all of this, we have the topic of sexuality. It doesn't focus so much on "gay" or "straight". Everyone in all my verses are just queer -- they love who they love and they be who they be. My characters are simply attracted to who they are and they exhibit any gender traits that suit them.
But back to sexuality. Tristan explores his multi-faceted sexuality from domestic discipline, to the Master/slave dynamic he ends up in with Alrik and whatever the hell him and Corrik are. I honestly don't even know what to call them. Maybe primal? But that doesn't really fit either. They might just be their own thing. Of course there is the DD element, but even with that, it's riding some edge. I dunno, but I love it and I will continue to scribe whatever they tell me. With Baya, that's what I consider more toward pure domestic discipline, which is why Bay has always been who I've gravitated toward since it's such a large part of my own sexuality. River is yet another faucet of Tristan's sexuality. River himself has intriguing aspects to his sexuality that I will continue to explore as we go.
So yeah, the first book has our pal Tristan going through the wringer over this arranged marriage, which was very hard for him considering it's totally ruined his whole life's plan. It's a shock and I think it's felt viscerally by us all. We're meant to feel it deeply. I felt it so deeply in him when I wrote that first book, I wanted to get that across. I didn't want this book to be a Hallmark style arranged marriage. There needed to be struggle. The sense of loss. Lots of big feels. Grittiness. I like gritty stories. Like, a lot.
SOME THINGS I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO REWRITE:
I can't rewrite the book now that it's published. There are all these dumb rules about that, LOL. I could only republish it and at this time, I'm not prepared to do that. It's a lot of work for one and for two, though it's not a perfect work, I'm partial to it. I'm not sure I want to republish it.
BUT, I was a green writer. Oh so very green. I had not been on my fan fiction journey yet to learn what I know now. I had not been writing 8-10 hours a day yet. I didn't have a wonderful team of betas surrounding me and if you go back a few blogs, you can read about the disastrous editor I had. It was my first crack at a novel. Basically, it was my first born child --- the one I learned on (I can say this, I'm a first born child -- c'mon, we know we were our parents' learning model, lol).
In a perfect world, I would rewrite these things:
The Tristan and Arcade stuff
This was definitely supposed to show as a tumultuous relationship, but I was too subtle on the soft stuff and too aggressive on the conflict stuff. I didn't show enough of Arcade's love of Tristan. When we first encounter him, he was a man in complete turmoil because he was losing his favourite person forever (or so he thought at the time) and he had no idea how to handle it. There was a whole year that built up to what we see at wedding time that happens off screen. Without some of this, the reader is left to take Arcade at face value and he seems way more awful than he was ever meant to. Was it his most shining moment? No. But our parents are human too and he was dealing with the loss of his prized son, horribly. I think it's OK for parents to sometimes deal with things in a messy way. We tend to wish our parent were "XYZ" or always perfect in the ways we need them to be, but parents are just humans and they get to BE human. Arcade was being human in this moment. I feel we get a nice resolution to this, which starts in book 2 and then is solidified in book 3. Arcade is one of my fave characters and I forever feel that I failed him in the first book with how I wrote this. However, I have written a little bit of Young Tristan (excerpt below) that I will include over on my Patreon first and then later in a mini book of outtakes that can hopefully show us more sides of Arcade. Strict father/son relationships are SO MY JAM. I could write them forever. I love writing these two. Arcade is one of my faves in this series.
2. The Entrance of Bayaden
In my inexperienced wisdom, I thought it would be so awesome to introduce this as a shock. And it's a shock all right, but it's where most of the people who have stopped reading, stop reading. Whoops! It also gives the wrong impression that Tristan was *forced* into sex with Bayaden, which I 100% admit, was on purpose too. I won't apologize for liking that kind of thing in fiction. It's the only safe place I can get the true feel of that and I enjoy it. I wanted to give the illusion for half a second until we realize that it's not the case at all.
HOWEVER, I always want to do right by the characters first (above and beyond my own desires) and I wish I'd first shown the scene where Tristan finally gives in (which is in the second book) and WHY he does -- he thinks he's there forever. He does process guilt as though he might be cheating on Corrik, but ultimately, it was supposed to read that he isn't because he's moving on ... not having a romp behind his husband's back. He genuinely believes he's never leaving and is giving up Corrik forever. The "giving up" is part of his love journey too. And so, given the circumstances, I don't personally view his actions as cheating. Tristan is only unsure because of his Markaytian upbringing.
AND, he's been abducted, he's not over the whole "This sexy blond elf guy stole my life" thing and he's going through personal crisis realizing he's never really chosen what he wants. He's always chosen for Markaytia.
Plus, this kind of thing is OK with Elves. Tristan as a Markaytian was learning this. It was his foray into poly, which is yet another aspect of his sexuality.
Ultimately, Tristan was taken and yet again his world is in complete shambles.
So yeah. I'd have inserted a certain scene there and fleshed that part out more. Baya would have gotten a slightly softer intro, however, I would have left the conflict because that's vital to Tristan's story. I love the bit of enemies to lovers him and Bay go through and the attraction that's so out of this world they can't deny it. It's also the point that Tristan FINALLY says "fuck it" and takes something for himself, which he hasn't before having given his all to Markaytia. He needs this for his growth. I would have just written it all way better!
3. The Elven Sex Culture
I had wanted this to be an openly sexual culture rather than "BDSM". This is one of the reasons I wrote it without the contemporary ideas of rules and etiquette commonly seen in clubs and in the literature. I don't think I hit the mark on this one in the first book. Thus, I even feel obligated to tag for BDSM in the introduction, which really doesn't help my case. LOL Though I stopped tagging for it by book three because I think it's a least a little clearer by then? Hopefully?
The idea was that this was a culture 100% open with its sexuality, "sex creatures" if you will, LOL, which means it's not "play" to them. They might take on roles (Master/slave, Top/brat, etc...) but it's still just part of who they are. How they are wired. They don't need the usual safety nets we use in real life because they are connected to this thread of the world and can better sense "too much" and "not enough" for their partners. They take time to learn about their partner in a special Elven way, and because they are Elves, they have magic so that if by some wild chance "too far" happened, it could be easily "corrected" with magic. Basically, still a safety net, just a different one than safewording. A safeword is one kind of safety net for sure, but there are others. Plus, a safeword is only as good as the people who are using it. There are so many other fun ways to explore boundary-keeping.
AND, I love exploring little to no boundaries. I will fully admit that negotiations and safewords in fictional kink stories are NOT my jam. I skim these parts in books, "GREEN" squicks the hell out of me and when there is too much, I close the book and stop reading. Give me all the non-con and dub-con and WOW, I'm not sure about that one con. Ha! I LOVE that sense of vulnerability and "can't stop this from happening" that can only happen safely in fiction (safely because I am not there to actually be hurt). In real life I want safe, in fiction, I don't want safety nets. I wanted to create a world in which we could experience some danger, throw away conventional standards and rules and then close the book and return to the real world once we've ridden that electric thrill ride!
When I wrote the first book, I was young in my own explorations of these things and I didn't portray this as well as I would have liked to because I didn't have enough vernacular. I would rewrite ALL of this and make it so much better so that what I was trying to do was clearer. I leaned on too many terms that made it "BDSM-like" and so yeah, people view it as BDSM and I can understand why. As I've carried through the series, I think I've done a better job of pulling away from that. Could I go back in time, I would completely rewrite this thread from the start.
And so, in future, I want to attempt this again. It will feature new characters, but it will be clearer that I'm writing about an open sexuality culture vs. "BDSM" and one where we can throw away contemporary safety nets, get on a thrill ride but still feel all the love between the romances.
WHAT I LOVED
1. Unfettered Writing + Corrik
When I wrote Tristan, I was unfettered. I hadn't heard all the criticism that plagues me now. Criticism is such a double-edged sword. The right critiques can improve the hell out of a writer, the wrong kind can send them hurtling to the ground and hold them back, sometimes forever.