I’ve received lots of positive feedback on this series from the time publishers were first looking at the opening book Destiny of the Light to the point where the Doubleday book club selected them as their ‘Editors Choice’ – comments on the originality of the fantasy world I’d created, the realism of the characters, and the fact that the books weren’t dense with difficult-to-remember words or concepts.
I’d like to explain how this evolved. When it comes to characterisation, ‘real’ people either turn up on the page while I’m writing or they don’t, so I’m thrilled that they turned up on the page for me in this series. That was a gift. The easy-to-read quality was simply my personal preference: I love imaginative books, but as a reader I’ve never liked fantasy novels that require me to work too hard remembering lots of names. So those two elements came alive ‘in the writing’ and had no backstory.
The brown kingdom of Ennae, however, was decades in the making. It’s a sepia world inhabited only by people and plants with no animals and insects, and instead of wizards and goblins etc, magic resides in the blood of Guardians, a protective male line of warriors, champions and battle commanders. Guardians have the power to heal and can open the way between their world and ours. To them, Ennae is the real world and ours, which they called Magoria, is a fantasy, like a dream, ‘a riot of colours in the mind’. I discovered a lot about Ennae in the writing, but I’d actually been thinking about this world for a couple of decades.
As a child I’d been confused about my surname and thought Cusack sounded like Cossack, which meant I could be the missing Russian princess Anastasia, secreted into a Brisbane family to hide me from my enemies. Once I’d convinced myself of this I furtively planned my return to my castle and my royal family (which would thankfully entail an escape from the boy posing as my little brother who kept popping the heads off my Barbies). I knew my kingdom was ‘foreign’, so I became convinced it was brown, and that the colour of my eyes would be the only colour in the world – it alone would designate me as being special and royal and exotic.
As I grew, so did the story, and when I developed teenage crushes, the champion Talis entered my fantasies about Ennae: strong, honourable, deadly in a fight and yet incredibly gentle to the princess with whom he was hopelessly smitten! When you read these books it will be no surprise to you that I’ve been in love with Talis for most of my life. Some characters are so real their integrity inspires you, and I imagined no one could be more deserving of my love. Then while I was writing the series, along came Pagan, young and ridiculously handsome but conceited as hell, thrust into our world to care for a royal child. Through his lessons in humility I came to love him too, but the biggest surprise was Kert whose arrogance and envy of my beloved Talis had caused so much grief. I’d despised Kert from the start, but when this king’s champion had lost all that he loved I saw the vulnerability he’d been hiding and . . . you guessed it, I fell in love!
What can I say, I adore strong, protective warriors. If you do too, I’d love to know who your favourite male characters are, and why.