My career as a writer has been bookended, literally, by the birth of my children. Cassandra was born in 2008, just 2 months before The Warded Man was first published in the UK. I was about halfway done with The Desert Spear at the time, and have pictures of her in her high chair, sitting beside my desk as I work. Not that I got a lot done that year. Desert Spear was the first of many deadlines I missed, due in no small part to splitting my time between work and parenting.
Things got easier as Cassie got older, but I finished The Core, the fifth and final book in the Demon Cycle series on January 25th of this year, literally a day before my second daughter, Sirena, was born. Suddenly all those sleepless nights juggling edits and diapers came flooding back to me. But there were births in The Core, and those scenes were now enhanced by recent firsthand knowledge in more detail than my readers might ever want.
But even as my experiences with children have influenced my writing, so too, has my career and love of fantasy stories enhanced my parenting, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Cassie is nine now, and a big fan of Minecraft. She has guidebooks she stays up late devouring, memorizing code without any idea that she is building computer skills that will serve her well in later life. She spent countless hours this summer with her nose in her iPad building her own little world.
I don’t know much of anything about Minecraft other than ‘it’s like digital LEGO’, so the other day I asked her to show me what she built. Cassie gleefully spent an hour showing me her house filled with chests and potion cauldrons and bookshelves. Her dogs and cats, a pen full of llamas and saddled pigs, her laser fountain and swimming pool complete with diving board. She had a train to ride around her property and a giant elevator to nowhere that she nevertheless loved to ride. It was such a sweet and inviting world.
Then, that night, she came to me in tears.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
“It’s something in Minecraft!” she bawled.
Christ. I barely understood all the menus she was navigating in Minecraft. I sure AF don’t know how to troubleshoot it.
“That whole world I showed you I built in Minecraft? It’s gone and I don’t think I can get it back!”
Crap. Did she accidentally save over the world she’s been building all summer? She doesn’t have an account so it’s only saved locally. If it’s gone, it’s probably gone for good. I needed to start preparing her for the possibility, and grasped for the first thing I could think of.
“Did you know that I wrote four books before The Warded Man?”
She blinked at the subject change. “You did? What happened to them?”
“No one wanted to buy them,” I said. “So I had to take what I learned and write a better one. Now that you’ve had all summer to practice, and read all those Minecraft books, I bet you could build a new world that’s even better than the one you had before.”
She brightened at that, not having considered it. “That’s true.”
I breathed a little easier. “Now why don’t you tell me what happened?”
“I built this portal called the Ender’s Gate and went through it and now I can’t get back to my world!” she blurted in one long breath.
“So… you built a portal to Hell in your back yard?”
“It’s called the End world,” she corrected.
Oh, FFS. “Is that where you were fighting a dragon before?”
“Did you kill it?”
SMH. “You just have to beat the dragon to find the portal home.”
She tilted her head. “How do you know that?”
“That’s how fantasy stories work,” I said. “When you go through a portal, you can’t get back until you solve a problem. Now that you’ve read Harry Potter, you’re ready for a book I loved when I was a kid called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, about kids who go through a portal and can’t get home until they solve a problem.”
She smiled. “You’re right. I can make a better world now that I have practice. But first I ‘m going to kill the dragon and get this one back.”
“That’s my girl. But in the morning. It’s bedtime.” I sent her to her room and went to kiss her goodnight as she reread Harry Potter with her booklight.
The next morning I woke to a text from her: I KILLED THE DRAGON.
It seemed big and scary, but once she realized it was standing between her and the world she built, Cassie put that dragon’s head on a pike.
Dad fu level up!
Finishing the fantasy series I’ve been working on for 18 years seemed like a great accomplishment, and indeed, I am proud to join the exclusive ‘Finisher’s Club’, but more and more I’m finding it’s only a small part of my legacy.
Peter V. Brett is the internationally bestselling author of the Demon Cycle series, which has sold over two million copies in twenty-five languages worldwide. His novels are The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War, The Skull Throne and The Core. He spends too much time on the Internet, but occasionally unplugs to practice kickboxing and dad fu. He lives in Manhattan.