A Writer’s Love Letter to Her Protagonist
One of the most common questions authors and artists receive is where we find our inspiration.
Personally, I don’t see inspiration as a single spark but more an ongoing flame that needs continual fuel added to the fire.
In this post, I share some of the inspiration behind Iellieth and the Age of Azuria epic fantasy series. You could say it all started with a typo, though Pinterest had a hand to play as well…
Fanning the Flames
Iellieth was already in my head before I came across Selenada’s painting (below and as header image) on Pinterest. However, picturing every aspect of her, seeing her as a fully realized entity, really took off for me from there.
This portrait sits framed over my writing desk. Every morning when I’m drafting, all I have to do is glance up, and Iellieth is right there, cheering me on.
There are a few differences between the character and the portrait: green eyes, gold and ruby amulet, but beyond that, I think Selenada’s portrait is perfect.)
The world of Azuria came about through my and my husband’s game of Dungeons & Dragons. He had been playing for about a year by that point. I couldn’t understand why he was gone for three hours every Sunday to play this ttRPG with friends.
But now I understand.
At the time, I was teaching literature at a university. Whenever possible, I gave my students creative assignments that, I hoped, were more interesting than standard questions and answers.
In one of these assignments, I received a mock story about a high school student in which people were playing “Duchess and Dragons.” The character was making fun of the “nerds” who were playing, but that didn’t matter so much to me.
It sparked an idea instead.
Duchess & Dragons sounded much more intriguing than Dungeons & Dragons, which I told Jonathan when we were both home later that night.
He was so excited, and I agreed that if he made a special Duchess and Dragons campaign, I would play with him.
And thus, the world of Azuria was born.
We designed my character together, a half-elf who lived in a castle named Io Keep in the kingdom of Linolynn. She had a special amulet that her mother, a duchess, passed on to her from her elven father whom she’d never met.
You can find her parents’ story in Aurora, the prequel novella for the Age of Azuria epic fantasy series. (And yes, that’s Iellieth on the cover, though she doesn’t make her entrance till the very end.)
Iellieth’s name (pronounced ee-elle-ee-ith) started as a combination of Elizabeth, a name I’ve always liked (mine is just Beth, in case you were wondering) and Lilith, a figure whose mythology I find fascinating.
And Amastacia (ah-mah-sta-cee-uh) was inspired by Anastasia and another name that I honestly can’t remember. (If her name sounds different in your head, that’s totally fine.)
A Special Character
There’s always been something really special to me about Iellieth’s character. She’s someone that I treasure and admire. I adore her connection to nature and the magic she has hiding within. I love the thoughtful way she embarks on the destiny that unveils itself before her in Buried Heroes.
It’s fascinating to hear other authors talk about the inspiration for their protagonists and where their characters came from, especially how closely related they are to the author themselves.
Iellieth is a character I turn to when I’m contemplating real-world choices. “Is this brave, strong, and true? What would she pick in this situation?”
In my heart, she often represents who I would like to be. And it is her story I desperately long to tell in the Age of Azuria series. I believe that Iellieth has important things to teach us about our world as well as hers. Those ideas are easier for me to uncover and express through the lens of her story than to just say them outright.
And the beautiful thing about stories, about fiction, is that this way, those messages will be unique to you as well.
I hope, dear reader, that the world of Azuria speaks to you, that it offers solace, or inspiration, or whatever it is you need in a given moment—in short, that special magic we turn to books for.