A common question I am asked is about what the Walking Shadows book titles mean. So for this week’s BTS post I’ve decided to explain them! If you enjoy reading little behind-the-scenes glimpses of my writing process then I hope you proceed with this post and enjoy! If you really don’t care about such things then by all means wander freely and await my next post. I happen to be a huge BTS fanatic hence why I love writing these posts for any others who might love these little info nuggets. For those of you who’ve decided to stick around, onwards!
Initially while brainstorming book titles I came up with “Ballad of Casualties” for the first book but as you’ll read in a moment that completely changed. I then thought I liked it for the series name, and I do still love it, but ultimately I went with another option which was and remains to be “Walking Shadows”. This I felt fit a bit better and I tucked away “Ballad of Casualties” for another day because I will indeed use it one day somehow for this series.
Regardless of what I chose I wanted the series’ name to reflect the characters which would be featured in each book. In the context of a book sure it seems as if they’re larger than life heroes, antiheroes, villains, or what have you, but in the grand scheme of things, if you take but a moment to step back, tilt your head, and ponder, then you’ll see that they are really none of those things. Although they are the center of a story they are really no more than walking shadows as they are cast, grown, and stretched until inevitably they disappear. They are souls that will be quickly forgotten like footprints in the sand, but even so they have a story to tell and it is my job to share it. I liked the name “Ballad of Casualties” because that is also what these characters are, they are casualties of life and war and this series is a collection of their songs carried on the wind.
I didn’t want to write books with a “Chosen One” trope, even if at times it feels as though I have, not because I don’t love that trope on occasion but because that isn’t what this series is about. No one is saving the world even if it badly needs saving. I just wanted to write about people, nobodies until someone says their somebodies even if only to that one someone. I wanted to show how even if you’re another wisp of a shadow in time that you can be the star of your own story. Maybe some are a touch extraordinary, like Bones and his powers, but even he doesn’t fix all that is broken nor does he strive to. There is something special about just living life rather than trying to conquer it that appeals to me and I wanted my characters to feel that too (although they all pursue such a thing with varying degrees of success because sometimes we can’t help but want more).
Originally, as I’ve mentioned in a BTS post for Alarum, this book was supposed to be a trilogy but ultimately ended up as a standalone novel that kickstarts a series. For once in my life I knew what I wanted my books titled but the moment this change occurred I had to go back to the drawing board. I ended up using the original trilogy titles as the titles for Part I, II, and III within the book and brainstormed up a new title for the book itself. (In case you forgot what those are…I: Blind Deliverance, II: Guns of Adamant, III: Redemption’s Price)
“Alarum” is a word I originally stumbled upon while desperately trying to brainstorm a title idea. I hate coming up with titles because I’m simply the worst at it haha! It takes me ages to figure out what to name my book and I always cringe away from the process. But at the same time I love titling my books because once it has a name it really helps everything else fall into place. So while I’d prefer having a title up front, it’s usually not until I’m in the middle of writing or even done with that first draft that I’ll finally settle on a title. But back to “alarum”…
As my brain desperately flung out ideas along many a different path one such line of thinking was to choose a stage term. I have a degree in theatre, I love the theatre, and although this series has nothing to do with theatre I was desperate and figured it couldn’t hurt to research some terminology. As I reached back into Shakespearean times I found this gem: Alarum. I don’t know why but it stuck out to me, it stayed with me, and it eventually won the title contest amongst my lengthy list of possibilities.
In stage terminology “alarum” refers to a call to arms, a preparation or call for a brawl, or sometimes just a loud disturbance. This felt fitting for Fury’s tale as the world she was born into was torn from under her and she lands in a life where you either fight or die. The world crumbled, it shattered, it screamed, and you either braced yourself to fight back or you fell. I plugged it into Google Translate for fun as well and apparently in Latin it means “wings” and coincidentally that also felt fitting for Fury. After all she’s not only named after the emotion but after the mythological Furies and they had wings.
I just love when things fit! I’m the type of person who cannot walk away until a puzzle is completed and the moment that last piece snaps into place I’m overcome with a pleased smirk and a sigh of satisfaction haha.
As I mentioned before I’m terrible at coming up with titles, it’s such an arduous process, so the moment Alarum became not a standalone but the start of a series I hunkered down and brainstormed up the rest of the titles for the series. One less thing to stress about later! I wanted to try a keep to my archaic stage terms theme and managed to do so for this one.
In stage terminology “solus” is used to indicate that a character is alone on stage. It’s also a Latin word meaning “alone” or “by oneself”. All of this felt both fitting and oxymoronic for Bones’ story. On one hand he is alone. He is a unique individual, crafted in a laboratory, and is utterly alone with no parents, no family, and no friends. However Bones has never been satisfied with this reality and does his best to surround himself with people and forge them into a sort of family so that he doesn’t feel quite so alone. He’s got a humor and a charm that draws people in (he also has power but that tends to attract the wrong sort of people…).
And this is where the stage term theme comes to an end haha. I tried but I just couldn’t find anything that felt fitting. Nothing clicked for me. So seeing as the first two titles also happened to be words in Latin I grasped onto that as the new theme.
“Vicinus” is Latin for, quite simply, “neighbor”. The main character of this book, Maddy, is an immigrant having traveled from coast to coast to reach the Rochester Alliance, a place of prosperity and peace, but despite being from a neighboring country she’ll discover just how different the two lands are and just how little her new surroundings understand or care about their struggling neighbors.
So I actually wrote this book second after Alarum (although don’t get too excited, I haven’t looked at it since and likely needs heavy edits since I did a lot more overall world-building and series plot brainstorming after I wrote it) and it remained untitled until I finally succumbed and gave up on the stage term title theme. After that this title came to me easily because it so simply wraps up the book.
In Latin “ultio” translates to “revenge” and if that doesn’t sum up Ares, the main character, then I don’t know what does haha. But not only her, the rebels, Thaniel, the common citizens too (I know you don’t know who or what I’m talking about yet but just wait…hehe). The Pacific Confederation is an oppressive utilitarian society and Ares has suffered greatly and after years in the shadows is at last ready to rise and force change whether the content are willing or not.
The final book! “Initus” can mean a few similar things. In Latin it means “recissory” which essentially means to revoke an agreement or repeal a law. Synonyms can also be “to end” or “to abandon”. When I put it into Google Translate similar words that came up included “beginning” and “commencement”. An online Latin dictionary told me it meant “start” or “entry”. So while it was a bit difficult to pin down an exact meaning I felt I had the gist and it fit.
This book will be told in alternating timelines. One from before everything fell apart (as witnessed briefly in Alarum and mentioned slightly in both Vicinus and Ultio) and one from long after. The “before” POV is a scientist who ended up in the thick of chaos and the “after” POV is from a prison inmate who gets two offers: help set things right or help break the world further for profit. This book both shows the beginning of the end and the end of the beginning. You see how the chaos started and you’ll see the beginning of yet another era. It’s hard to explain without spoilers but I think once you read the book you’ll understand why Initus fit so well as the title.
So there you have it! Now you know! I didn’t include the novella title(s) in this post but perhaps if you ask nicely I might share that with you too! Or else I just might let you know anyways at some point down the road.
The release of Solus is almost upon us! Stay tuned…