This volume was written in March and April 2023, with rewrites and beta reading extending until the end of July. Book 1 was started in September 2022. Overall, this is the fastest I have ever finished a writing project. (By comparison, the third Healers book, roughly the same length as this 4-novella series, took 6 years to write.)
The names in LE are either off the top of my head or from a random name generator app. “Kyla” came from a Star Wars name generator page that I googled and didn’t bookmark, sorry about that…
C/Katherine: Obviously Lavender’s Earth name, but also a joke to myself based on Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which I was playing at the time. FE3H Catherine is a total ladybro and not like this at all (I love her, this is not a diss), but the image popped into my head when I needed a name.
Judith, the “scanning” Visitor at the gates of Haven, was a nod to FE3H too. (FE3H Judith is also a badass, and not a narc)
I grabbed “Andreas” from the random name generator app, chosen to further underline the fact that the Haven Visitors use their Earth names.
The trio’s Earth names: I’d already decided on Solan’s Earth first name (similar-ish to his otherworld name) and the fact that Francesca didn’t change hers, and the rest was filled in from the RNG app.
I named Jeff in the last book, but basically I needed a Standard American Dude name that would fit in a couple of decades before Lavender’s time. “Drekar” came from fantasynamegenerators.com, and “Derek” was reverse-engineered from it.
“Samantha” was blatantly stolen from my spouse’s WIP. We both coincidentally used the name “Francesca”, so this is just making it worse.
Running tally of things that were my spouse’s idea: having Francesca go on this trip along with Lavender and Solan; setting Francesca’s hometown as Palermo (I’d only established Italy; Palermo came about once my spouse had nicknamed her “the pansexual polyamorous papist from Palermo”*); and the limitation on Jeff’s powers of not being able to unmake that which is made, only change it (which, in retrospect, fits in with the concept of having to run with established continuity/lore). I’d originally planned to have Jeff retcon the demons back out of existence. I think this worked better.
* I refuse to argue about pansexual vs. bisexual labels. <3 It’s canonically ambiguous whether she is/was dating any of her entourage besides Greta.
Also, yes, she is written as a queer Catholic, though on-page it’s only confirmed that she’s religious in some form. I’m sure she has gone through some soul-searching over time. Maybe we’ll get into that someday in a side story if I really want to make things Complicated(tm). This is, by the way, why she calls out Solan when he swears / takes the Lord’s name in vain in this volume.
Through discussion with my spouse, the plot of book 4 also got altered: at first there was a third town. The order was Haven, Little Earth, and then this third town, where Lavender and co. met a scam artist who was pretending to be a Visitor. The goal was to give each of the members of the party a moment of growth in reflecting off these experiences.
However, that structure crammed a lot into the first half, and of the three, only Little Earth felt like it was developed enough. So the order was reversed, the “one town per hero” structure muddied up (which was kind of already happening by accident), and the third town was cut. The tone of Haven changed a lot in the rewrite, too: less threatening toward the trio, and more like a marketing pitch for a cult.
The vague-ified media references in Little Earth: This was the point where I had to definitively decide whether I was going to vague-reference or make up fictional analogues. I went with the latter, so I’d be able to describe the play. This wasn’t intended to mean that the Earth Lavender and co. come from is a parallel one to ours. Just that I don’t want to get sued. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the “real” versions are; the point is the role they play in the story, and what they mean to the characters.
But the inspirations are pretty obvious; Star Wars for the play (with a side of Rocky Horror in the audience participation) and Lord of the Rings for Solan’s favorite fantasy epic. (This could be a few other fantasy epics, of course, but the comment about the movies and about the wizard’s famous horse kind of tip my hand. So yeah, Solan basically named his horse Shadowfax, because he’s a gigantic nerd.)
Chapter titles: I went slightly off the rails this time. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” was a tourism slogan for (obviously) Las Vegas. (Ironically, it’s used for the chapter where Solan spills his story.) “Princes of the Universe” is a song by Queen, appearing in the movie Highlander. (Do the Haven crew battle lesser Visitors to the death? I don’t know.) “Attack and dethrone God” was a meme stemming from an unhinged chyron on Fox News, and I swear “therapize” is a real word. It’s just not used very often. A demiurge is a god responsible for creating a/the world/universe, vs. other types of gods. And finally, “barn find” can be directly blamed on watching my spouse play Forza; that game has a series of side quests about finding classic cars abandoned in barns. (Which is kind of dehumanizing; sorry, Samantha.)
Rage Karaoke (mentioned in the Haven chapter) is inspired by both Aggretsuko and a pop-up event in my city called Sad Karaoke: a karaoke night for charity where all songs must be sad. I haven’t gone yet. I’m not that brave. Sounds fun, though.
Solan comes into his own in this volume as an asshole who is occasionally right about some things, which is a trope that I find both aggravating and interesting: you can neither fully blow off the message because the messenger is a tool, nor overlook the messenger’s continued toolishness. Black and white thinking breaks down. The challenge lies in not excusing the jerk behavior, and while I’m not sure I succeeded, I tried.
I have to shout out one of my favorite examples of this trope as an influence: Saionji, poster boy of toxic masculinity and also the only one who sees through some of the layers of proscriptive bullshit, from the anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena. In some ways, Saionji was a huge influence on Solan, though he doesn’t have the same edgelord quality early on.
(Also subconsciously picked up from Utena? People who stay at the same age for decades until they can psychologically move on. Hmm.)
My original intention was to make him irrelevant to the story throughout, because he would be the center of almost any other story. He has a larger role in this volume and ended up on the cover, but I hope he remains firmly in the supporting role category overall. (His entire arc revolves around not being the center of the universe. It’s important.)
While I’m on the subject, I accept that Solan’s plotline falls into the extremely tired “homophobe turns out to (maybe) be gay” trope, and that this might be a mistake. I’d intended for the First Visitor to have a gay sibling, causing the world to be so accepting in the first place; the fact that said gay sibling appears in the story was a later idea. (One I marked in my notes as “wouldn’t it be wild if this was Drekar? haha moving on.”)
Basically, there were two separate plotlines that I decided to combine to neaten things up, which means that the new friend Solan makes, and thereby revives his soul as a human being etc., IS the gay sibling of the First Visitor. Now, at this point, the wise decision probably would have been to keep it strictly platonic, because it’s enough for a former phobe to make a new friend and realize he has been an asshole. And there is intentional ambiguity in the story for this to be the case. Francesca and to a lesser extent Lavender are shipping it, but at this point Solan doesn’t know how he feels.
But I also cannot, ever, resist the opportunity to make things as gay as possible, especially in this series. So there’s also room for a romantic outcome. It is a tired trope, and I can live with that. I do hope it doesn’t come off as a “gotcha” as this trope often is, at the very least. It’s meant as a villain reform.
“Lifted Up (1985)” by Passion Pit – Partly my headcanon final season opening theme; partly First Visitor Jeff’s theme. (Which is why I couldn’t help slipping a reference to 1985 in there, although it’s never established when any of the characters got isekai’d.) There’s also a slower, more melancholy version, the Glitter and Strobe Lights in Slo-Mo Version, which I like quite a lot.
“Anti-Hero” by Taylor Swift – I’m generally Swift-neutral, but this song grabbed me. Since this is our Working On Our Issues volume of the story, here’s Francesca’s Going Through Some Stuff song.
“The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie – Also a bit on the nose, but this was my tone-setter for the story of what happened at Drekar Nightshade’s tower. So this would be Solan’s Going Through Some Stuff song.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones – My headcanon final season ending theme. Among other things, this story is about the idea of wish fulfillment.