Often in interviews I’m asked about the theme of Dauntless. Interviewers probably don’t realize that this is a slightly odd question for a novelist to answer. Novelists should think about plots and characters. We’re not supposed to focus on themes or messages when writing books. They should arise subtly and organically. It is better to focus on questions than on answers. I admit…for some of my books I did have a theme, or at least a question, in mind from the beginning.
But for Dauntless, it really did arise naturally from the plot and characters as I wrote the story. Dauntless came to me as the very first prologue scene playing in my mind like a movie. A female Robin Hood type character using her acrobatic, cat-burglar type abilities to rob a passing wagon. And so the story began to unfold. The backdrop, King John’s England in 1216. A sort of historical dystopia with an evil ruler, a corrupt government, and a civil war. Why did Merry become a thief? I decided her father tried to assassinate the king, and so the king tried to decimate everyone in the castle and the surrounding villages, but the children alone escaped, and Merry became their leader.
This book opens against a tragic backdrop. But each of the four main characters face that tragedy in a different way. Merry hardens her heart and does everything in her own strength. Timothy turns to ambition and the letter of the law. Allen presses into God. And our bad guy, well, he lets hatred completely eat away at him. They are all surrounded by the ashes of life. Yet God can turn our ashes into beauty if only we will let him. He can take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it for good. And rest assured, there is plenty of beauty, light, hope, and even laughter in this book.
And so the theme verse became Isaiah 61:3.
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
Will Merry learn to soften her heart and allow God and others back in? Will Timothy learn what is truly important in life? Will God alone be enough for Allen? What havoc will our bad guy wreak? Check out Dauntless to find out.
Have you ever faced tragic circumstances in your life? How did you respond? In what ways did God turn your ashes into beauty?