I started Anthalys because my friend, and co-author, Alexis Aubenque pushed me to it. That would be the inciting event that triggered the effort. But if you look closer, you'll find other reasons that lead to the project, and two major influences regarding the shape and structure of the story and its world. One is the online games industry in which I've worked as a world designer and creative director. The other is TV series, on which I've worked as well and kept a lot of the writing techniques and applied them here.
Here is a short summary of what happened between 2005 and now as I'm writing Anthalys.
I was gardening, crawling under the berry bushes on all fours with my friend Alexis on the phone. My ear plugs kept my hands free, and I was pulling the bad weeds while exchanging ideas with him.
“What about Science-Fantasy?” he said.
I swore :
“Damned? I say Science-Fantasy and that’s all you have to say?
“It’s a root”, I said. “I pulled it the wrong way and the darn thing broke off. I have to dig now…”
“Oh… So? How about Science-Fantasy?” he insisted.
“What about it?”
“Well, why don’t you write about it?”
That’s is when Anthalys began. You could call that an inciting event. It’s cool, I like it, but it doesn’t say anything about the true origin of the project ; its roots, the succession of events that lead to this point and the driving forces that shaped it. Read on to know more, but for those who like to keep it short, there you have it : for me, Anthalys began under the bushes of my garden.
2005, I Quit
We’ve all worked very hard for five long years to design, build and launch our massive MMORPG called Saga of Ryzom. And like most of the teams I’m exhausted, and terribly frustrated with it. The game is not finished, it is missing too many things and the code remains heavy, very heavy. But money was pressing and I no longer had the ear of our investors so the game was forced out, and I’m out too. Not an easy decision to make, but I was just too tired and out of options for the game’s future.
It took me some time to recover, more than expected, but I did a few consulting missions here and there, refused several propositions to join larger shops abroad and slowly realised that I didn’t want to work on games anymore.
2006, TV Series
What then? Writing had been a large part of what I was doing as a world and backstory designer on games. Descriptions of entire planets, their geography, fauna, flora along with entire civilisations. Thick documents, very descriptive, not narrative text. That and most of my writing was never read by anyone else but the dev teams themselves and I didn’t want that anymore either. I loved writing though, and the occasion to write for tv series showed-up.
My profile had gotten the attention of a few shops in Paris, and I was asked to write a few concepts. I sold a few, but that wasn’t very satisfying ; the projects were too shallow, and I didn’t get along very well with the local industry.
What was interesting though, were the writing techniques I found in the US industry. I decided to spend a full year learning everything I could. It was intense, great, but in the end I had to decide what to do with it if I wasn’t going to join that industry itself.
2008, What Then?
I had 10 years experience designing, building and launching web portals, 10 years creating, making and releasing the most challenging of all games (MMORPGs) and 2 years writing on tv series. What should I do now? What sense could be given to all that? The one thing I wanted was to have my own. And so I started writing again, but this time it would be books.
2012, Leaving Paris
I’ve thrown away thousands of pages, and I’m thinking about quitting. I’m depressed, but lucky ; my wife agrees to leave Paris, my friend Alexis keeps on pushing me to write some more and Switzerland is gorgeous. We’re surrounded by hills and mountains, vast lakes and great forests. Foxes, lynxes, dears, eagles, squirrels, a few wolves even roam all around and life gets quieter. Too much may be, but things suddenly begin to make more sense and I go back to writing.
I had left Paris with a book. I really liked it, but knew it would have to be re-written and probably cut in half to make two books out of it. A lot of work and my mind wasn’t able to see it clearly anymore. I had spent two years over this one book, and needed a break form it. I started another series but it rapidly felt wrong, and I dropped it.
I wanted something bigger, larger, more exciting!
2014, Phone Conversation and a Few Chapters
That is when our phone conversation happened. Another one about games, movies and books and finally that idea to work on a common project.
A month later Alexis came to visit, and we started sharing ideas. Good times, but I wasn’t completely sold in yet. The real kick came in while my wife and I were away on holidays a few days later. Alexis had drafted a few chapters, giving it a try, and my eyes went wide when I got them in my email. There were our characters. Four points of view, totally different an each owning their own arch along a much larger one. I read them several times over, and started editing while adding a larger world and pushing the characters even further. The level of excitement rose, and that’s probably the real inciting event for me.
Alexis wrote the next four chapters and I went on adding my own layers. He had to step away from the project for a time. One of his publishers was expecting a new thriller, and I took the opportunity to create a first set of documents ; lists of ideas, characters names, social structures, factions, religions, etc. I was back to world designing.
2015 , Roles
Alexis was still busy. I picked up the story telling part, and started building our other set of documents. Along with those of the world design, that makes a lot of documents but they mostly grow over time and remain quite simple in the beginning.
We wanted something epic, weaving story arches, great characters with powerful drives, incredible settings and formidable stakes. That required some serious decision making. We needed to define the project. The genre, the tone, the format, the structure, the style, fundamentals of the project that can not be changed when the text begins to pile up. Luckily we knew what we wanted.
We went on, exchanging over the phone for months, and the text began to grow thicker. But something was wrong with it, and we both knew it. Drafting and writing in turns was great in the beginning to poke at the story and find a proper tone. But our styles didn’t blend very well, and we weren’t telling the story the same way. That and, as a published author, Alexis releases two thrillers a year leaving him little room for anything else. We therefore decided that I would write everything from now on, and he would act as an editor, giving feedback and sharing his ideas for the development of the story.
2016 , Format and Translation
I re-wrote the first dozen chapters we had, they grew larger and I pushed forward, building our documents along the way. Anthalya came-up first for the title of the series, but we soon favoured Anthalys and stuck with it. Compared to Alexis, I’m not a fast writer. But the story was unfolding nicely and I soon reached 75 000 words which we considered an honest book one. An arch had been told, the world and the first key characters had been presented and a larger arch was in motion.
Those 75 000 words were in French though. Alexis was convinced he could find a French publisher, but I was looking the other way. English was much more exciting all together, but we required a translation and I wanted a good one.
It took me eight months to finally find Kim. Everyone translates English to French, but French to English? A book? A Science-Fantasy book? “Sorry Sir, but we don’t understand what you’re referring to” is the answer you get when shopping for a real translator who would do all these things. Let alone do it well.
In the end, I was lucky. I found Kim and, as she was pretty much discovering the genre, she accepted to read a list of books to get familiar with what I like most in the genre. Avid reader, she munched it all in a few months and her first translation took three months. Another three were necessary to fine tune what we wanted, and our first book was now in English.
2017 - Release
This is now the year when Anthalys will begin its journey towards its audience. Episodes 1 and 2 will be released this autumn, and I have almost completed episode 3 as I am writing these lines. We intend to release two episodes each year ; one in spring, and the other in fall. Good translation and great illustrations take time, but we have one year worth of content ahead of us, so we should be able to maintain that pace : Anthalys, 2 episodes a year.
Hope you’ll like it,