The world behind The Grigori legacy unfolded slowly for me…and, I must admit, rather painfully. The first several versions of Sins of the Angels contained mention of Heaven, but no solid description of the place. I had created wonderfully tormented characters and an edge-of-your-seat plotline, but setting? At the time, that wasn’t really my forte. Without having identified myself as such, I was definitely of the character- and plot-driven author variety. Then I signed with an agent who sent me six pages (six!!) of revision notes, many of which centered around the world-building—or lack thereof. While she had seen potential in my writing, she had also identified deep flaws, and before we could move forward to the submission stage, I was going to have to face my story’s weaknesses…and my own.
My urban setting was great, my agent said, but what, she wanted to know, did Heaven look like? What could the angels do? What could they not do? What were the rules of the world I had created?
To be honest, my first instinct was to throw my hands up in despair and walk away from the whole idea of publication. Writing the damn book had been hard enough (it took me ten years) and now I had to create a world, too? I was not a happy camper. But I’d cleared too many hurdles on my path to give up, and so after a couple of months of mulling things over (a.k.a. sulking ;)), off to the world-building board I went.
Heaven, it seemed to me, would be an ageless, timeless place. It would have been there forever: solid and providing an anchor for the entire universe. It would also be a place of beauty and growth, and one (given the all-seeingness we perceive God to possess) of knowledge that would span its own history as well as ours.
The perception of beauty and growth led me to a limitless Garden-of-Eden idea; knowledge spoke to me of libraries and archives; and the solidness brought to mind soaring stone buildings with massive oak doors. Slowly I teased out the details: a great central library with a sweeping staircase leading up to quiet study rooms and offices; smaller libraries scattered throughout the angels’ residences; winding paths leading to fountains, rose gardens, arboretums; an enormous archive where a record of every event since the moment of creation was carefully documented and stored. But that was only the first step; I still had to figure out the inner workings of Heaven’s inhabitants.
I had already identified the choirs of angels and Aramael’s purpose as a Power, so now I returned to my research to determine tasks and purposes for each of the other choirs. The more I read and played with ideas, the clearer became a vision of a distinct hierarchy—and, since the universe seemed a rather massive place to have to manage, a kind of bureaucracy. Office blocks took shape in my Heaven. Dominions took on the role of managing the Powers; Principalities became the scribes; Virtues became administrative support, and so on. Rules followed: the Powers would be able to draw on the energy of Heaven itself in order to subdue the Fallen Ones they hunted; angel immortality would make them impervious to human attack of any kind. A pact between Heaven and Hell also took shape and was followed by an 11th-hour agreement…and so a full rewrite of Sins of the Angels began.
As I wrote the new version of my story, I realized that my agent had been right on every front. Building a solid, detailed world for my angels re-shaped them into stronger, more vivid characters and opened up a whole world (no pun intended!) of possibilities. The clearer I became on roles and rules, the more plot twists presented themselves. What I had originally pitched as two books became three, then four—and I no longer had a story with a sequel, I had an entire Grigori Legacy. And I’d learned one more invaluable lesson in the craft of writing.
If you’d like to read more about the Grigori Legacy world, check out the “Extras” on the menu above!
Photo credit goes to my daughter, Mikhaila Poitevin. Click on the photo to see her Facebook page. 🙂