In what could only be described as a Christmas miracle, PALADERO: THE CHAMPIONS OF THE BLADE has arrived early around the country and is available to buy now.
I’ve been working on this series since 2014. I’ve worked on it longer than the time I was at uni, longer than I was at high school. Longer still if you count the fact that it all stems from an idea I first had all the way back in 2007.
A lot has happened in that time, but there are two things in particular that will always stick out in my memory.
The first; our son Max was born when I was working on Book 2 in the series, THE CITY OF NIGHT NEVERENDING. I vividly remember being in the hospital, awake at 2am, writing lines of dialogue inspired by his arrival.
And then, at the start of this year while I was working on THE CHAMPIONS OF THE BLADE, my father passed away. It’s not something I’ve discussed publicly before now; I’ve tried to find ways of addressing it but it all felt too raw. Instead, the words went into the book. The emotion always finds itself in the writing.
And now, here it is. The final chapter. The end of the road.
I hope those who’ve been with the series all along find it a satisfying conclusion. And I want to wish those who are new to it a very warm welcome to Thunder Realm. It’s been a long time coming. Enjoy the ride.
We’re coming up to the third month of release for Paladero: The Edge of the World, the third book in the Paladero series, and without wanting to spoil anything I think it’s safe to say there may be some readers out there who could be feeling a little vexed by the book’s climax and impatiently awaiting the release of Book 4.
The good news is that I’m hard at work writing the fourth book, titled The Champions of the Blade. The bad news is that we’re still some time away from it being published. So in the meantime, for those particularly frustrated readers, I humbly suggest the following:
1 – Plan a Return Trip to Thunder Realm.
If The Edge of the World left you feeling a bit blindsided, you may want to go back to the beginning and read the series through again to see what you might have missed. You could be surprised by some of the clues that were hiding in plain sight.
2 – A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved.
Know somebody who might enjoy reading Paladero? You can lure them into a trap by recommending it to them. Then, when they get to the end of Book 3, bam! Just like that you have someone you can share your frustration with and turn to for mutual support, not to mention discussion about where the story may go from here. Remember: this doesn’t need to be isolated to IRL. You can always take to Goodreads to articulate your thoughts, feelings or howls of consternation. Those who provide a 5-star rating have free rein to express themselves however they see fit (though make sure to use those spoiler tags, of course!)
3 – Read, Watch (or Play) These Other Amazing Stories.
Finally, the best way to wait for a new entry in a series you’re enjoying is by finding other things to enjoy in the meantime. To help with that, may I heartily recommend the following:
Books That Inspired PALADERO –
Emily Rodda’s Rowan of Rin series.
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.
Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle.
Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series.
James Gurney’s Dinotopia.
JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and CS Lewis’s Narnia series.
And (only for older readers) John Marsden’s Tomorrow series and Stephen King’s TheDark Tower.
Books For Those Who Enjoyed PALADERO –
Jeremy Lachlan’s Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds.
Rhiannon Williams’s Ottilie Colter and the Narroway Hunt.
Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone.
Richard Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series.
Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and Magnum Chase series.
Film & TV –
I think Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings more or less goes without saying, but some of the other cinematic influences on Paladero include:
Hayao Miyzaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle.
The Legend of Korra, one of my favourite TV shows (particularly due to the worldbuilding and character development).
Video Games –
Never let anyone tell you that playing video games is a waste of time – they certainly provided me with a lot of inspiration. The Final Fantasy series in particular was a big influence on Paladero, which I think will become apparent with the release of Book 4. Skyrim was likewise fundamental in the development of the series, though again I can only recommend it for older readers. Other games to try would be Shadow of the Colossus and Journey.
And there you have it. Hopefully some of these suggestions will help in the wait for Paladero Book 4. That said, please feel free to get in touch with me either through Twitter or via the Contact page above if you have any questions, comments or theories you’d like to share. Admonishments will also be accepted, though less readily replied to. I have a book to write, after all.
It’s been a long time in the making but it’s finally here!
May I present to you the cover for Paladero Book 3, The Edge of the World …
Thank you once again to the incredible team at Hardie Grant Egmont and to artist extraordinaire Jeremy Love for producing such a stunning cover! I can’t wait to see how it looks sitting alongside the first two Paladero books once it’s released on July 1st.
And in the meantime, I’ll be buried deep in line edits. Send as much tea and sympathy as you can muster.
It took me about a week to realise that the subject header of my last blog post was a Perfect Strangers reference. I could have gone with something highbrow and literary. But no. I went with Balki and Coosin Larry.
Reviews are just starting to come through now. Waiting for feedback on a book is always a tricky time for any writer. You don’t dare trust the good reviews, you feel exposed by the bad ones. Either way, you try not to let them sway you too much.
That said, the review that’s probably meant the most to me so far has come from Tina Healy of Gender Diversity Australia (or GenDA for short). Keen-eyed readers will note that Tina is thanked in the book’s acknowledgements after she very generously went to the effort of reviewing the unpublished manuscript to ensure that the depiction of transgender characters was handled sensitively.
In asking her to do this, I provided her with a comprehensive listing of all the relevant sections of the manuscript to use as a shortcut. But she went the extra mile of reading the whole thing to ensure she had a full understanding of the story, and then went the extra extra mile of providing the following review:
For trans people, being trans is a major influence in our lives, but not the whole story. Most of us just want to live our lives in the shade of gender with which we identify. Steven Lochran is a master storyteller. He has written a gripping fantasy story which includes a transgender character, with an amazing insight and feel for the lived experience of trans and gender diverse people. His exploration of the impact families have on the lives of trans people touched so many memories for me. I know they will resonate with others in my community.
It’s great to see stories being written where gender diversity is a part of the context of the story, rather than the focus. Thanks so much for the opportunity to review “Paladero Book 2”. I recommend it.
Now to be perfectly honest, as proud as I am of that review, I was hesitant in posting it. The last thing I want is for anyone to think I’m trying to pat myself on the back. But Tina went to the effort of reading the book and writing this critique, and I thought it was only right that I share it.
Because it was Tina who was one of the main inspirations behind the book and its inclusion of a transgender storyline. She and I met when she was first starting to publicly transition, and I found her openness and courage inspirational. At the same time, I remember reading articles and seeing news reports about transgender kids taking their own first steps in transitioning, and it led me to think about where those kids could find representation in fiction. After all, as fellow Hardie Grant Egmont author Melissa Keil wrote in an article for The Guardian:
Everyone deserves to see themselves as a hero – to see their life, their reality, in all its complexity, reflected in their books. For young people, at a time in their lives that can be isolating, and fraught with questions of body image, sexuality and identity, this representation can be vital.
Thankfully, the issue of representation – while still far from perfect – has seen some improvement over the last few years. Traditionally speaking, however, transgender characters (let alone transgender heroes) have been few and far between.
In 2013, when I was first outlining what would become Paladero, the major examples that immediately sprang to my mind were Viola from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Mulan, both of whom were forced to present as male rather than personally identifying that way. I also thought of Grant Morrison’s version of DC Comic’s Shining Knight character, who was originally conceived in the Mulan mold as a girl masquerading as a boy to fit into a patriarchal society, and only later evolved under writer Paul Cornell into being a true transgender character.
My idea was to have a character who identified as transgender from the start, and that I would use the inspiration I found from talking with Tina as a guide in achieving that. The challenge was to present this character in a pseudo-medieval setting without any of the modern terminology we have to discuss these issues in a sensitive fashion. It was here that I relied on the insights of sensitivity readers, with Sally Goldner of Transgender Victoria very generously helping with The Riders of Thunder Realm. But I was keen to get Tina’s insights, given the role she’d played in setting me on this path.
Unfortunately I had lost touch with Tina in the intervening period. But I didn’t need to worry about that for too long, as she had gone on to become an activecampaigner in the LGBTIQ community, which enabled me to reach out to her. And she was just as kind and generous as I remembered her being, happily agreeing to read the manuscript and offer her insights.
So for all this – from the initial inspiration she provided through to the feedback and encouragement – I wanted to take the opportunity to publicly thank Tina, to highlight the fantastic work she’s been doing, and to let those readers out there struggling with their own issues of identity and acceptance: you are not alone. There are places you can go, people you can talk to, and a thousand unending chances that tomorrow will be better. You can be the hero that you’re looking for.
Now, having gotten quite serious there, I think it’s only fair that I leave you with the thing that’s been whirling around in my head ever since writing the intro to this post…
Because if I have to suffer with this, then so do you.