James Wylder: Writer, Interview by Alex Rose
We took the time to have some words with many of the personalities shaping 10kd in the present and the future! Learn about the creation of this story, and where we go from here....
James is the author of the serial “10,000 Dawns” story, as well as the Editor of the upcoming “10,000 Dawns Anthology”. He has also written several books including the Unofficial Doctor Who Poetry Book, “An Eloquence of Time and Space”.
What is or what has been your favorite part about writing 10kd?
This is a story I've wanted to write for years now, and so just making it exist, and letting these characters live on the page as I envisioned them is a more wonderful feeling than I can describe.
Out of every chapter you’ve ever written for 10kd, which has been your absolute favorite?
“Chapter 19: A Crystal Road” was a lot of fun to write, and went in some really surprising directions. Not to mention, the reaction from fans from it was awesome. Arch and Graelyn's confrontation, brewing throughout the whole story was one of the most brutal and heartbreaking scenes for me to write, because I hadn't originally intended for it happen. But while I was writing I realized it should happen, and needed to happen. It was what the characters would do, and so I let them do it. On a totally different end of the spectrum, the scene where the Crystal Moon plows through a wall in reality ended up being a real fan favorite, and has to be up there in the most utterly bonkers things I've put into words, yet it works.
How exactly did you get the idea for writing the plot of 10kd? How did you come up with such a story?
10,000 Dawns has been a very long time coming, and answering where the story came from has more than one answer, and I can’t say any particular version of the story is more correct than any other. So many things came together to make this story its hard to mesh them into one narrative, because the strands don’t always knot together neatly.
The different strands come in the form of three RPG campaigns, a Doctor Who Poetry Book, an idea for a piece of fanfiction about fanfiction, some regular fanfiction from whole slew of different things, and like all things, my own life because I’m a terrible narcissist.
So where would I start? The story you’ll hear the most is that 10,000 Dawns started with an RPG campaign of a dead RPG based on a dead card game. It was a weird start, and a memorable one, but its not the whole story. It was the start of it all though, and the friends who I played in that game with are some of the same people helping to build this world in prose now.
This specific story came about because my good friend Dave Koon created a character named Graelyn Scythes, and I was fascinated by her. She was actually a villain for heroes to thwart, but she was such a complex and well thought out villain I couldn't help trying to figure out why she thought what she thought at every turn. Later, I came up with the idea of Archimedes: a cyborg who is so much a cyborg, other people wonder how human he is. Graelyn was notable for being considered so cold or nasty that many people considered her nearly not human, while Arch looked robotic but his actions were so filled with heart and emotion he earned a lot of admiration. Juxtaposing these two characters lept into my head, and the idea of taking both of them out of the kind of story they would live by themselves, and seeing how they would change each other's lives was just too good to pass up. I started developing the story, and even did a trial run of it in the short story in “An Eloquence of Time and Space” (which is still in continuity, mind you, so if you are desperate for more 10kd go pick it up!). I kept trying to convince myself I didn't desperately want to write this story, because it involved using so many characters my friends had made, and making alternate versions of those characters. Eventually though, I realized I needed to make this, and I wouldn't be satisfied till I did. I'm very glad I followed through on it.
What is the future for 10kd? Do you have any major plans for the story itself or the characters? Will there be a sequel?
Oh, the future is bright boys, girls, and people outside of the gender binary! 10,000 Dawns: Anthology is coming out this summer, which will delve into the stories and history of the world 10,000 Dawns is set in. There are all sorts of people, events, places, and groups that show up in 10,000 Dawns in fleeting moments with huge histories behind them. You'll get to learn about the history of Centro Systems, of Mars, of all the different peoples of the rim, and most importantly of all how the 10,000 Dawns formed in the first place! You didn't think 10,000 Universes just linked up on their own did you? Its going to be a lot of fun, and I'm bringing in lots of other creative writers who are all adding their own flair to the affair. I cannot wait for you guys to see it.
Before that though, there are still a few bonus stories left featuring the adventures of Graelyn, Arch, and Dawn and company, including the three stories from the bonus story contest! So the adventures aren't over yet.
Later this year there is a novel set in the 10,000 Dawns Universe I wrote called “Death and Doubling Cubes” being released as well, which will feature Backgammon Jenny and Chess Mistress Hex, so look out for that!
Oh, and there is already a second Anthology in the works. Shhh! I didn't tell you!
As for a full on sequel to 10,000 Dawns... I'll get back to you! Annie and I have only just finished this one, and I think we'd both like to take a nap and finish the slew of other work we have before either of us even thinks about a sequel.
When you started writing 10kd did you ever think that you’d get so attached to the characters or the story itself?
The answer here might surprise you: no. I didn't. I went into this story with the full knowledge that the characters were alternate reality versions of existing characters, and I thought they'd be fleeting. I was incredibly, and luckily, wrong.
David Bowie has been one of your personal influences since you were young, did he in any way ever influence your writing?
Oh, did he ever. I listened to the Bowie albums “Hours”, “Black Tie, White Noise”, and “The Next Day Extra” over and over while writing 10,000 Dawns, and as you've read many of the songs seeped into the story itself. “God Bless the Girl” holds a special meaning to myself and Graelyn that cannot be separated from this story now.
But his music has been influencing me long before 10kd: while writing my first full length play “Cryptos”, I listened to Bowie's “The Alabama Song EP” on repeat, with the rerecording he did of “Space Oddity” for it helping to shape the mood for the trek into the underworld in the play's second act. David Bowie is my favorite musical artist, and his notes have sunk into more of my writing than I can keep track of.
What are some struggles you’ve come across when writing 10,000 dawns?
The biggest struggle has been the time crunch of trying to get a chapter written, edited, formatted, proof read, and recorded as an audio podcast every single week. As many of you have noticed, the first thing that went out the window if there wasn't time each week was proofreading. I'm well aware the biggest complaint with the story is the number of typos there are, and I can't wait to have to chance to fix them finally when things finally calm down. I apologize that part of the story wasn't up to the quality it should have been. The weekly time schedule meant that I had to write, and had to post, and it was very unforgiving if I got sick (or if Annie got sick). We had to take two hiatuses in the end, just to keep things on track. That we completed this whole endeavor at all is a real triumph for me.
Chapter 22 really says a lot about Graelyn's childhood, and talks about how she had even tried to commit suicide. This really adds to Graelyn's character. In future chapters will we hear anymore about Graelyns past/childhood? Maybe more background about her parents?
Well, now that everyone has had the chance to read the end of the story I think its pretty clear the answer is a resounding “yes”. Graelyn's childhood was difficult to write about, and I know it rings true for many readers... One thing about the 10kd fandom I've noticed is they're very private. I get more private messages and emails than I get comments, and that's okay. When I get a message asking a question about the text, or something as simple as “You know, Graelyn's mom is like my parent was.” it reminds me how important creating fiction is, and what a duty I have as a writer to try to get this stuff right. I know 10kd isn't perfect, but I know its helped a few people, and I'm grateful it could.
As someone who has tried to commit suicide, who has friends who have tried, and friends who have succeeded... It was important for me to show Graelyn's suicide attempt, pull the cover off of it so to speak. I hope in reading Graelyn's story some people come away with what I've learned myself: life can be hell, but it can get better, and you have to be alive to see that better day. So hold in there. Dawn will rise, and the night will end.
10,000 Dawns is definitely not the only thing you’ve ever written, you've written multiple poetry books and plays, as well as released a short story book. What is your greatest accomplishment when it comes to your own writing?
I think the general consensus is that “An Eloquence of Time and Space” is my greatest achievement, and it definitely is in terms of popularity and sales. Its a really good book, and I'm very proud of it, however I think artistically the best thing I've written is my play “Paper Gods”, which is a strange fever dream of theatre that deals with characters holding a revolution against the author of the play (me). Its printed in my book “Cascade” if anyone is curious to read it.
David Bowie has come up a few times throughout the story, the first noticeable time is when Graelyn had a dance off. Due to his passing, do you plan on putting any form of tribute in any of the upcoming chapters?
There was a tribute we already put out called “And a Star Spun Dark” that wasn't planned to be a tribute, it was actually a discarded bonus story for a canceled listening party for the release of “Blackstar” where the 10kd crew was going to post in-character as different people from 10kd as if they were listening to the album together. It would have been fun... But we didn't have time. I thought “I can just reuse the idea for his next album.” Surprise, in the worst way.
We will be having a full scale tribute though, in the form of a real bonus story with art by “Eloquence” artist Olivia Hinkel, so watch for that!
All of the characters that are in this story (10,000 Dawns) have depth and most, you can really connect to. What character are you most proud of?
I know its the answer you'd expect, but its true: Graelyn. She's a very complex, real, person who I feel like I managed to delve deeper into the psyche of than any character I've written before. I felt like writing her was a danger, because in all honesty she is such an easy person to hate. She does lots of selfish and petty things, but in the end she is trying desperately to be a good person, and I believe she is one. I wasn't sure readers would feel the same. That they did makes me very happy, because it means the readers of Graelyn's story have shown her the love and understanding that her family never did. I think she'd be happy about that.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
No, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to ask these questions. And thank you to the readers, you've really made this experience wonderful.