A locally-made epic trilogy will come to an end this month.
The Brilliant Dark, S. M. Beiko’s final instalment of The Realms of Ancient trilogy, launches Sept. 25.
Beiko is a Winnipeg fantasy author, comic creator, editor, artist, graphic designer and consultant.
The Realms of Ancient trilogy is a young adult (YA) fantasy series set in Winnipeg, described as “American Gods meets Princess Mononoke” by ECW Press.
The opening novel of the trilogy debuted in 2017 and follows Roan Harken who has been marked for death due to her mysterious heritage.
The sequel followed in 2018 with an expanded plot and cast of characters.
There is a self-awareness to the story — when Harken becomes the centre of a magical quest involving tribes of animal spirits and an ancient demon locked within the Assiniboine River, she complains she has school but is largely unsurprised a magic fox arrived with a literal call to action.
The character is aware of the tired tropes that she experiences because the character has read all the same books we have.
“I love YA, but it is really trope-y, and it has a ton of very common threads that are really tired,” said Beiko.
The “chosen one” trope is common in YA fantasy, but the tagline for The Brilliant Dark is “There are no chosen ones, only the choices we make.”
Beiko was protective of her work being set in Winnipeg even though publishers often recommended it be given an American setting.
“Winnipeg is really tied up in this story because the main conflict is that there is this demon that’s been laying in the bed of the Assiniboine River […] and there’s a secret society in the Manitoba legislative building, and there’s just kind of this secret world taking place amongst the ordinary,” she said.
Potential spoiler alert — things go awry.
“I also really wanted to destroy my home town, it’s just very fun,” said Beiko.
How to get a three-book deal
The series was not intended to be a trilogy. In her 2019 PechaKucha talk Liar, Liar, Author on Fire, Beiko describes how sometimes sheer gall can get you a three-book deal.
After submitting Scion of the Fox to her publisher, Beiko was asked if this book was the first of a trilogy.
“‘Sure,’ I lied, and I got a three-book deal out of that,” she said.
Her publisher then asked her for the titles, so she made them up on the spot.
Beiko said the publisher then gave her a 30-day deadline for the second book to keep momentum for the trilogy’s release.
She then wrote the sequel, Children of the Bloodlands, in a month — a task that was only possible through her rigorous outlining and non-linear writing.
Writing the second part in a trilogy is the easiest of the three, according to Beiko.
“You can just go to town on building on the things you set up and introducing crazier action and new characters based on [the world] you’ve already built, but you can finish it and leave a ton of questions still unanswered […] then you get to book three and you’re like, why did I fucking do this?”
A lifetime of words
Like many aspiring fantasy authors, Beiko began by writing enormous epic fantasy tomes that will probably never see the light of day.
“I wrote at a really young age because I was super into anime and fantasy books and movies, and I really wanted to do it myself […] I really went like full bore novel-length at age 15 because I just had really immense delusions of grandeur,” said Beiko.
Beiko managed to shorten her work and published her first novel, The Lake and the Library, which was nominated for the Manitoba Book Award for Best First Book and 2014 Aurora Award.
In addition to her original works, Beiko has also co-edited the Gothic Tales of Haunted Love anthology with Hope Nicholson.
The anthology is one of Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2018.
Recently, Beiko has been working on the sequel anthology with a science-fiction twist.
She also writes and draws a webcomic called Krampus is my Boyfriend, which follows the delightfully zany adventures of a young woman caught up with a preening teenaged version of Krampus.
Beiko is an incredibly busy creator. She will be touring the convention circuit while working on a future YA fantasy series steeped in Slavic mythology.
The Brilliant Dark launches Sept. 25 at McNally Robinson. S. M. Beiko’s other works can be found on Amazon and through her website, smbeiko.com. Issues of Krampus Is My Boyfriend are at krampusismyboyfriend.com.