Around 1998/99 I began the journey of these novels, WARCHILD, BURNDIVE and CAGEBIRD. The seed of the idea was inspired by my interest in history and the European colonization of the Americas. I knew I wasn't breaking ground with that idea but this was a story I wanted to tell in my way. A single voice popped up louder than all others and he became my protagonist, Jos. He was going to be a spy aboard a spacecarrier, trained by aliens, divided in loyalties. His story would begin when he was a child, because it soon became clear to me that a child's voice was the voice I wanted to hear in a story about war. It was a pure voice.
At the time there wasn't a lot of press or attention on child soldiers in the general media or the world stage — thankfully that has changed now. As Jos's story formed I became very passionate to learn the experiences of these children all across the world, forced into conflict and to perpetrate terrible acts. This interest segued into my reading about the international exploitation of children, as well, from Asia to Eastern Europe to North America. The thought that as a society we can be judged on how we treat our children — the most defenseless and dependent of all — became a focal point of my desire to tell these stories, in my way, through the lens of a fictional future society. I didn't want to tell the story of generals and presidents. I wanted the biased, broken, and determined voices of youth to be somehow captured in my books. A lot of people have told me that the books are hard-hitting, but nothing I have written is as harrowing as the truth. The best byproduct of having my writing published is receiving positive and encouraging emails from people who have either worked with children in similar situations or who are survivors themselves. I have always wanted to be true to their voices.
I began to envision a mosaic of novels, each told from single points of view, interpreting the effects of war and an arduous peace process. The protagonists would be full of flaws, their personalities would perhaps challenge the reader; they would be as real as I could make them (writing in depth from a single point of view is what I call 'method writing'), each with a unique way of looking at their world, each with the ability to become better people (sometimes despite themselves.) Many different themes manifested through the telling, providing a mostly unconscious cohesion to it all. I don't regard these books as a chronological trilogy, but as a mosaic series: each piece is as individual as the characters who narrate their stories, and put together they form a bigger picture. It begins with Jos, continues with privileged Ryan, and has temporarily concluded with the voice of the 'enemy,' Yuri. I never intended Yuri's to be the final piece in this mosaic, but we'll see what the future brings.
cover art by Matt Stawicki