I recently decided to try something new in running a contest on Wattpad. In this contest, ten stories were submitted by different writers and judged based on my own personal engagement with each. Through the process I came across some amazing stories, featuring everything from belligerent religious towns to post-apocalyptic societies. Each author featured their own innovations in stories that were a joy to read.
In the end though, there could only be one winner. This contest’s winner was epic-fantasy, The Catalyst by C.G. Laflamme. Below you will find the blurb for the story, my take on it, and an interview I conducted with the author. Enjoy and know this story is definitely worth your time! 🙂
When the leader of his black magic cult sends him on a quest, Noah doesn’t ask questions. He owes the man his life, and his magical powers.
A detour on the way has unexpected results, and Noah finds himself teaming up with an illegitimate prince and the leader of the castle guards. Together they set out to complete his quest; finding a powerful magical catalyst. But they’re all in it for their own reasons, each one keeping dangerous secrets from the others.
Much despite himself, Noah gets mixed up in power struggles. One for the throne, and the other at the very heart of the forces that black mages like him control. Until he has no choice but to ask himself a frightening question.
Do they really control anything?
Highest ranking #118 in Fantasy
Consider The Catalyst highly recommended to readers who enjoy Game of Thrones and/or Lord of the Rings in particular. One trademark of Laflamme’s which I particularly enjoyed was her ability to blend comedic aspects with a well-told, dramatic story. This aspect kind of felt like a blend in tone between Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Where those two stories diverge on the seriousness of the narration, this one finds a nice middle ground, creating characters one can easily relate to.
NB: Okay so the story itself will be the focus of the interview questions, but first we need to know a little about the author! So if you could, please tell us a little about yourself.
CG: I spent almost twenty years of my life having no idea that I loved writing. I was a fan of anime for a long time, and when all the anime I watched and all the manga I read still weren’t enough, I discovered fanfiction.net. I read many stories on there, and then I started having ideas and decided to try writing my own.
It was so bad. My stories made no sense, and I could never finish one. But I had a lot of fun and I wanted to get better. I mostly wrote romance and vampire stories–mainly because my readers were really into that.
The shift from fan fiction to fiction happened a few years later. My first fiction stories were urban fantasy, and they were probably terrible.
I’ve always loved fantasy. I was a fan of Lord of the Rings before I even started high school. And I never stopped reading fantasy novels after that. But the idea of writing one was terrifying. Creating a whole other world and having some epic stuff happen in it? I wasn’t sure I could do that. Still, I like a challenge.
Over the years, I’ve found a writing process that works for me. It starts with some vague ideas of what I’d like to do, and I either drop it if I don’t find it interesting enough–and that happens a lot–or I keep it and add new elements to it until it starts resembling a novel project.
I do character sheets, world building, research, more research, until I’m sick of it. Then, I do my outline. It’s usually very detailed, even though I’m fully aware that some stuff might change later. I usually take a little break after that, maybe a week or two. Then I write the first draft. I try not to look back, not to change anything; my goal is to just finish it.
I let the first draft sit for at least a month before I start editing. Seriously. If you’ve never tried that, I strongly recommend it. The distance allows you to be more detached, to put on your editing hat, and to be properly ruthless with the manuscript. At least, it works for me.
NB: Your process definitely makes a lot of sense in terms of the story too, since it is a pretty expansive world. I noticed you mentioned LoTR as an influence overall, moving to the Catalyst specifically though, what inspiration(s) did you have in writing this story?
CG: My biggest inspirations at the time of planning The Catalyst were The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks, and Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan. I’ve been told by one of my beta readers that my character Tessa reminded him a bit of Anthony Ryan’s character Lyrna in Raven’s Shadow. That was a really cool compliment for me.
A few readers mention Game of Thrones sometimes, probably because of the power struggles. GoT is definitely a huge inspiration. Though I will admit that I only watch the TV Series. I don’t read the books. I tried, but I find them too lengthy.
NB: So I definitely felt the GoT influence in some places (though I also never read those other series). I kind of saw some of Cersei’s ruthlessness in Tessa and some of the political struggles are there too.
One of my favorite parts of your writing though is how comical the characters can be, without the story feeling like a comedy. Noah in particular had some great moments in that regard! Is that comedic side part of those stories that influenced you or is that more of your own twist?
CG: Thank you! It’s my own twist, I think. It’s something I’ve always tried to do, in all of my stories. I love making people laugh. What influenced me for this, more than books, is comedy. Stand-up shows, and well-written comedy movies or TV.
NB: Gotchya, well it adds a wrinkle for sure! One other thing I really like in stories of any kind is when an idea can be presented without actually showing the thing occur. In the case of the Catalyst, that came from Jaden and Matt. I found that the hinting of a connection between them, without than actually showing it, made the tension much higher when either was in danger. In a way, it feels like a romance that will not be realized at all unless they make it through, even with the implication that it was probably realized at some point in the past. Was this the intentional purpose or was it more hidden because of the world they are in/ people around them?
CG: I would say a little bit of both. To an extent, it was intentionally subtle, yeah. But I think it was also hidden for so long simply because Jaden isn’t comfortable talking about it. Being in a relationship with another man is generally frowned upon in Fellera, so they kept it to themselves. It was also one of those things I wanted the reader to try to guess at.
NB: I figured it was a combination of those things. In the interest of preventing spoilers I won’t go too much more in depth on the story itself. But while we’re on the topic of world building, are there any other particularly interesting tidbits about Fellera itself that you would want to highlight for a reader? Like anything conceptually you might have developed within the world that got you the most excited about building it?
CG: Fellera is definitely old-school, medieval, Northern Europe-ish with a monarchy and where they ride horses, fight with swords, and are very proud of their ale. I guess what makes it interesting in spite of the clichés, is that they have a progressive queen who is trying to change things; e.g. admitting women in the army, banning old (and harmful) religious traditions.
And this wasn’t really done on purpose, but I realize now that Fellerans aren’t too bad. It’s a medieval setting, sure, but I feel like some modern realities leaked out of my thoughts and onto the page. Fellerans have their gods but they don’t come off as very religious. Almost like they don’t care that much anymore.
And they’re generally nice to outsiders. Noah and Kitera walk around with their darker skin and hair and wherever they go, people are basically all right with that save for a few exceptions. Things like that make me feel like they’re a nation ready for change and evolution, you know?
Anecdotal: I made up a few words of the old language. Old Felleran, as they sometimes refer to it in the story. Fel means Snow, Lera means Land. Land of Snow. Not terribly creative, I know, lol.
NB: To say they are prideful of their beer is an understatement 😉 But okay, last question is a multi parter: So looks like we are at chapter 23 of part 2 now updated in Wattpad. What are your plans of how many parts the series will be overall and what can readers expect in a non-spoilery way from future parts? Also, do you have any plans for stories beyond the Catalyst in the future?
CG: I’ve almost finished it. My chapters are shorter now, and I think there are less than 10 of them left. There’s a battle at the end, which isn’t really a spoiler, considering I went for the epic fantasy genre, lol. An ending without some kind of confrontation between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ would be anticlimactic. That said, I tried hard to have a cast of characters that didn’t necessarily fit in either one of those categories.
I wasn’t planning on writing a sequel. But some of the comments I’ve been getting thanks to Wattpad actually gave me an idea for one. So that’s fun. Can’t really give details yet, as it’s quite vague for now. But it’s been on my mind for a while and I think it would be fun to write at some point.
Right now, I’m working on an entirely new project. As Wattpad genres go, this one will be Adventure rather than Fantasy. It won’t have any magic, per say. So that’s a new challenge for me, one I find a bit scary, but also very rewarding. I also want to stay away from the medieval era this time around. It won’t be modern either, but somewhere in between–maybe with a bit of a steampunk flavor. The timing wasn’t right for NaNoWriMo, but I want to start writing the first draft soon, probably in December.
Again, I highly recommend this read by a talented up-and-coming author to any currently on (and/or not-yet-on) Wattpad! Also, a special thanks and shout out to all other writers who submitted their stories to the contest 🙂