By Keith Errington
This is a follow up to my previous post Why I ended up trapped in Hopeless, Maine which covers how a came to write a story for the world of Hopeless, Maine and explaining (justifying?) some of the decisions I made when writing it. Just like the initial story, The Prospect of Joy, my blog post demanded a follow up (well, in my head anyway).
The second of the four stories that go to make up the Oddatsea I titled The Journey of Faith – because the quest that Jason sets himself on is very much an act of faith and I wanted something in keeping with the title of the first story. Both were intended to sound like Victorian morality tales.
It is curious that I chose Jason as the name of Alison’s nephew – at this point I was still just writing stories for the Vendetta – the title of The Oddatsea for all four tales was only decided on once they had all been written, but there was a definite classical Greek vibe in Jason’s full name; Jason Hercules Pettigrew Johnson. Jason from the legendary ancient classical tale of Jason and his crew of Argonauts and their heroic quest for the Golden Fleece, and Hercules from the TV series starring Kevin Sorbo.
Anyway, that’s enough of names.
The story once again features a journey to the Island in a submersible – but this time it ventured much closer to the Island which allowed me to go to town on the terrors inhabiting Hopeless’s coastal waters.
I had a certain word length in mind when writing the story, so I knew fairly early on this was definitely going to end in a cliff-hanger. Thus, I followed the noble literary traditions of Charles Dickens and Flash Gordon. Jason was in a right fix – a proper cliff hanger – at the end of the story.
The brave and noble Jason needed a miracle to get out his predicament alive. So being the helpful writer that I am – I provided one, with hints at the end of that story and the resolution provided at the start of the third story, The Fate of Rapture. In this case, my Deus ex machina was delivered by a group of three wonderful characters known as The Aunties – which I nicked – with permission – from the equally wonderful Meredith Debonnaire.
By this point in my writing, I had read as much as I could about Hopeless, Maine – from the graphic novels and from the Vendetta – so I had a much clearer picture of the main characters, and the plots of Tom and Nimue’s stories. I consciously set out to avoid making any major changes to the Island, its characters or its history. In order to make this foolproof (hah!) I set this part of the story in a time we already knew about – starting at the end of the first volume, The Gathering and before the second volume Sinners.
Of course, I still managed to mess things up a bit! Originally the link between Hopeless and a particular historical era was never intended to be established – but I seem to have placed the events of those two first novels firmly in Victorian times.
Or did I? You see, I believe that Hopeless, Maine still sits outside of time – perhaps when you travel to the island time changes and becomes irrelevant? Perhaps Hopeless looks the same no matter when you get trapped there? Is it the other side of some trans-dimensional portal? A warp in the space time continuum? A very black hole? Who knows? (Which only goes to show, you can probably convince people of anything if you have a good enough story. I hope we do.)
I wanted Jason to be slightly ridiculous compared to the island’s inhabitants – hence the armour he carries and his weaponry. As far as I can tell, nobody (? – tell me if I am wrong Nimue) seems to carry any sort of gun on the island – so I reasoned that maybe something there renders them ineffective. Then again, without something special our blundering hero would end up dead pretty quickly. And without guidance, he would get lost.
Enter my favourite Hopeless, Maine character, Annamarie Nightshade. (It seems I was oblivious to so many things when I started writing these stories, including the fact that Nimue was working on a story of Annamarie’s childhood – which was to become the other book in the Kickstarter – New England Gothic.) Even though there wasn’t a lot to Annamarie in the first graphic novels, for some reason I immediately fell for her. I wanted her in my story too!
Now whilst I didn’t want to ride roughshod over the stories and background Tom and Nimue had already established – I was a fan, and so I wanted to write something that other fans would enjoy – little snippets of extra information about the characters they’d come to know. So there a few references to events, characters and even creatures that you would know from the books as well as new characters of my own.
Bearing all these things in mind, I wrote with particular care about Jason’s encounter with Annamarie. Mind you, I still couldn’t resist dropping a subtle hint and a hopeful nudge about Annamarie’s fate. (I was later rewarded by a beautiful piece written by Meredith Debonnaire for the Vendetta). There’s also a hint of Reverend Davies and vampires – or at least, something akin to the vampires in the graphic novels. Oh and Glass herons – let’s not forget those beautiful but vicious creatures.
For the last of the four stories – The Triumph of Hope, I returned to Victorian England. Well, I didn’t – the story did. It had a life of its own by now and was pretty much dictating where it went!
The one deliberate decision I made was to change voices and perspective throughout the four tales. Partly to keep them varied, but partly as a challenge. The first story consists of two first-person narratives, the second and third are third-person tales, and the last returns to first-person again and the strong female protagonist. (Two if you count Homily – and you really should – you underestimate Homily at your peril!)
I should say there is one scene it seemed like I waited ages to write – it’s a simple thing that happens between Jason and Homily, but it made me emotional as I had come to love the characters so much by then. (I had also been working late and drinking a lot of coffee – so that could have been a factor…).
The last story also features, albeit briefly, a main character from the main graphic novels – Owen Davies, his appearance hinting at his travels away from the island and also explaining why he is seen carrying a bonsai when he arrives back at the very beginning of Sinners.
Finally, the four-story tale comes to an end. Or does it? For goodness sake, the end of the story still hints at more to come. Anyone would think I did it on purpose!
It’s a great deal of fun living in Hopeless, Maine – as a writer that is, definitely NOT as a character! In many ways though, whether you are a character or a writer, you end up just the same – trapped on Hopeless, Maine.
My sincere thanks to Tom and Nimue for letting me play in their weird and wonderful world, getting me totally hooked – and for their collaboration on the successful Kickstarter. Thanks also to all the other wonderful contributors to this fantastical project who have inspired the rest of us. I’m very excited for the many mysterious, not-yet-to-be-talked-about ‘things’still to come, for all the crazy ideas in my head and for all the incredible stories still be told about Hopeless, Maine.
Keith Errington, December 2020.