The premise of The Sound and the Echoes begins with the idea that each time a person is born, an otherworldly twin—an Echo—comes into existence as well. What inspired this idea?
I am a strong believer in free will. We each have a choice about our actions, no matter how limited our options seem. But what would happen, I wondered, if choice was taken away from us in the most fundamental way? What if at any moment life itself could be snatched away from us or the people we love?
This idea floated in my head almost simultaneously with another. I was thinking of Plato’s Realm of the Forms. As an early Greek philosopher, Plato was concerned with where our ideas of concepts originated. After all, we never see a cat in its abstract form, only many different versions of cats. So, the Ancient Greeks wondered, how do we come up with the idea of cat-ness.
Plato concluded that we are born with Innate ideas, a memory of these perfect “Forms”. The Forms exist on a higher plain, and we are merely imperfect reflections of that place.
From this to imagining a reflection world, an Echo to our Sounds, was a short leap of the imagination.
The majority of The Sound and the Echoes takes place in the icy fantasyland the Echoes live in. How did you go about developing the history and magic system of this fanciful universe?
As with human history, the basic customs of the Echoes developed from their ideas. If the Law of Death sentences every Echo to die when his Sound dies, it is logical that Echoes will start to hope fervently for good luck. “Please, please don’t let it be my son the Fortune Tellers come to kill.” Hence, I created a superstitious culture that, over generations, began to worship Fortune.
And what better symbol for Fortune than a crystal ball? Hence crystal balls appear in Echo architecture, Echo sayings, customs and celebrations. And since the moon looks like a crystal ball, supremely superstitious Echoes may even worship the moon.
Other elements in the story were purely inspirational. I had an idea of a frozen lake with gems strawn under the ice. When I had to explain how the gems came to be there, I came up with the hauntingly beautiful Lake of Eternal Ice with the frozen faces trapped inside, peering through the ice as through a window.
Much of the glistening, sparkling atmosphere was inserted after the core of the story was in place. I created a list of adjectives with which I wanted to describe the Echo realm. Then, like a plasterer that comes into a building to cover bare walls, I inserted adjectives in the text—and with them the atmosphere I wanted.
The Crystillery, which I consider to be the pivotal object on which the plot spins, was created by pure imagination for the purpose of moving the story along from the outset. Then due to my technique of always reusing ideas I have come up with (because that lends realism to a world), I kept tasking the Crystillery with more fundamental plot pivots.
Finally, one of the last rewrite of the novel resulted in Abednego’s Eyes, Cyrano de Bergerac, and the Christmas atmosphere at the Orphanage of Castaway children. Only when the world of the Echoes became real to me could I truly add to its complexity in a believable manner. It was really like dressing a doll in many outfits. Before the doll existed, the outfits didn’t match and were missing a sleeve or a button. But once the doll was there, I could see how I should clothe her.
The Echo culture is highly supersticious, so much so that in order to honor Fortune, they execute Echoes whose human counterparts have died. Why did you choose to make the Echo realm, in essence, an extremist theocracy?
Every man has a right to his own life. That is the theme of The Sound and the Echoes. I set about proving why it is important that this percept be maintained by showing what happens to human epistemology when life can be snatched away at random.
When a man can no longer rely on his reason to sustain his life, give him happiness and achieve his values— When his highest value, his life, can be destroyed at a moment’s notice, without reference to himself—that man will start hoping for death to never visit his door. Hope will turn to superstition when the knock will sound on his neighbor’s door instead of his own. And superstition will turn into Fortune worship when buying a crystal ball trinket will grant him peace of mind.
Are there any stories behind the naming of certain characters?
The hero, Will Cleary, was named Will because he expresses a boy with a will of iron. He never flinches from facing facts, no mater how painful they may be. Nor does he flinch from taking action based on these facts, no matter how frightening.
All other names were picked with a reference to their meaning or origin, as revealed in the website Behind the Name. And just a few fun names were picked by my best friend.
What was the very first idea you had for The Sound and the Echoes? How did the book evolve as you wrote it?
There is one visual idea I saw very early on: A small girl riding a giant white bird fearlessly. As a child I read the novel, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, who was turned into a dwarf and traveled on the back of a giant white bird. I must have seen myself as Nils back then, and I wanted to relive the feeling in my story.
As to how the story evolved, I crafted the plot over many months. It was an intellectual (rather than inspirational) exercise. Many a migraine resulted from it. In short, it was mind-bendingly hard.
I used several plot development tools. Like most authors, I asked questions. What if? Which led to more and more what ifs. I kept a story tree (like a family tree) on my office wall for months, tracking the growing world. Later, I created a value chart, in which every character was represented with his main value. Every chapter had to either include a reference to this value or have a good reason for its exclusion. These are some of the techniques I used to weave the plot.
Many writers (myself included) say that the book they ended up with is different from the book they intended to write because the characters took the story in a different direction. Did this happen with The Sound and the Echoes?
My characters took me farther than I thought I had the talent to go—or farther than the talent/knowledge I had at the outset, because I had to discover a whole system of storytelling to write this book. But we were always heading in the same direction.
Do you have a favorite moment or scene from The Sound and the Echoes?
Yes, the end. When Will solves the murder mystery underlying the story. That moment was inspired by renowned mystery writer, Agatha Christie.
What do you think your Echo is up to?
Delightful question. I think she sings to the moon at night. I think there are woman in the Echo realm with the voice of an angel. Passersby pay them to serenade the moon with a plea for long life.
Why did you choose to write as the character Dew Pellucid?
Writing the opening of The Sound and the Echoes was excruciatingly difficult. A novel is only as good as its beginning. After rejections by literary agents started piling up, I decided to plunge the reader into the Echo realm at once.
At first, I wrote a scene in the palace. But that took me outside the third-person-limited perspective. So I opted to write a letter from the author. Because I am a very private person, the idea of having a pen name, a public persona was too wonderful to resist.
Initially I named the author Lucid Pellucid, but when I saw that someone had already registered a website in that name (what a coincidence), I had to think of another watery (Echo) name. My best friend suggested Dew, because Tal means Dew in Hebrew. The act of translating between Hebrew and English relates to one layer of mystery hidden in the novel.
What was it like going the self-publishing route?
I’ve only started, but I can see already how hard it will be. At the Orphanage of Castaway Children there are over a million books. Well, it feels as if just as many are published each year in the Sound realm.
So many books by indie authors aren’t ready to be published. By association, anyone who is an indie author is guilty until proven innocent. But I tried the conventional publishing route and was rejected by over 180 literary agents. So, I had nothing to lose. I wanted to share the Echo realm with readers, and every time a review comes in I delight in knowing that another creative spirit visited my glistening realm and found it, at the very least, to be unique.
I hope you’ll visit DewPellucid.com to discover my different book sites.
The Sound and the Echoes is available at: Amazon US (paperback), Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book), Barnes & Noble (paperback)