To celebrate the release of The Empress, author S. J. Kincaid discusses expanding the galaxy of the first book in her YA space adventure series, The Diabolic.
Broadening the scope of The Diabolic series as I moved into a sequel did not prove difficult at all. The setting was always meant to be Imperial Rome in space and in my mind, it was always much greater in scope with a much longer backstory than I would ever put on page. A critical element of world building is crafting a world that feels realistic to you, and then deciding which elements of that world should make it on a page. Itʼs really easy to get carried away with this part and start dumping all these cool clever ideas you have for this universe on the page, but thatʼs not how you write a good story. To pull off world building, you always have to have much more in your head than readers ever see on the page.
Going into the sequel gave me an opportunity to put on page more of this galaxy as Iʼd already conceived of it. Thereʼs a bit more of the history of this Empire mostly because it actually plays a part in the story, but it was something I decided to remove from the first book because it didnʼt serve the process of telling the story. I hear many questions regarding this technologically advanced civilization that shuns learning the sciences— itʼs a contradiction, and sometimes thereʼs just this intense urge to explain why itʼs not a contradiction and the whole history and reasoning behind it, but itʼs something I donʼt put on the page unless it is actually called for in the story. It actually was this time.
Another aspect of expanding this galaxy involved the Domitrian royal family. One figure that really fed my inspiration for Tyrus Domitrian was Elizabeth I of England. They are both central and pivotal figures in this massive clash of ideologies. In Elizabeth’s case, she was born of questionable legitimacy and of an unfavored sex, but she was also born at a time when the other heirs who might rival her were sickly, short-lived or also of the same sex as she was, or of the Catholic rather than Protestant faith. There were plots to kill her yet only a small and limited field of contenders to replace her.
Tyrus has been born into a murderous royal family when their numbers have been drastically reduced due to the mother of the last Emperor having set out to wipe away those whoʼd contest her sonʼs claim to the throne. However, this isnʼt Renaissance Europe. There is no divine right of kings. When considering Tyrusʼs situation, I had to answer a question: okay, there arenʼt many other Domitrians who can take Tyrusʼs place as Emperor, so his enemies canʼt simply kill him. Why not replace him with a random person? In Tudor England, they believed in the great chain of being, a divine right of kings to rule over the commoners. What is the science fiction equivalent of that?Turns out, the solution was something Iʼd already envisioned as a pretty integral part of this Empireʼs history, something that was always in my head as the explanation for the contradiction between super-advanced technology and the belief scientific study was blasphemy.
Since the entire series is set in space, with a civilization that had been in space for thousands of years, I began The Diabolic always with this new Helionic religion in mind where stars were an expression of the divine, and the Cosmos itself was viewed as a conscious, deliberate being creating conscious beings to better understand itself. In The Empress, to tie all these elements together – the history, the Domitrians, the great conflict Tyrus and Nemesis must navigate between clashing ideologies – I really had to give some thought to religions as they manifest and come about in the real world and how this faith of the stars might exist in the galaxy, and what figures of that might be influences in Tyrus and Nemesisʼs story.
In the end, expanding the galaxy just meant adding a little depth and texture to what had just been glanced upon in the first book.
The Empress is published by Simon & Schuster on 2 November 2017