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Inventing a religion

When you invent a kingdom for the purposes of fiction, you soon discover that you have to invent a wide range of other things too. That was certainly my experience with the Bremmand Chronicles. Not only did I have to think about the looks and occupations of Bremmand’s people, I had to consider their spirituality too. That means inventing a religion.

By the time I realised that this was going to be necessary, I’d already written a fair bit of my first book (which, incidentally, wasn’t the first book I published, and which is still awaiting completion) and, in my mind, I’d already made certain assumptions about faith.

I was raised in a predominantly Christian culture. Most of my schools were Church of England aided which meant I was taught Christianity and, from the age of nine I became a chorister at the local cathedral which meant I attended five or six Christina services a week. As a result, when it came to my first book, I rather assumed Christianity as the local religion.

It was only later, as I began to prepare to publish Line of Duty that I realised that my fictional kingdom couldn’t simply borrow from an existing and real faith. This was partly because I would then have to place Bremmand somewhere within the real Earth, which would be awkward, but also because I needed to be able to use faith as a plot device.

Instead, I invented one and, to do so,  I borrowed heavily from the faith I best know and from its history. So there is a single God. There are monks in abbeys and people give confession and seek forgiveness. There is a strong connection between the church and the secular King. And the church holds a lot of power – it is seen as remote from the people and keeps itself separate.

Then I added stories around that framework – in particular the existence of Holy Brem, founder of the kingdom and prophet of God. I’ve written him a complete story which I draw on from time to time and which is included in Line of Duty. The current King is a direct descendant of Brem, which was a necessary plot device to explain why, in the middle of an invasion, members of the royal family would remain in Bremmand instead of being hastened away to a place of safety in foreign parts. It explains the significance of water and the trees for the local people. And it colours their language to make them more distinct from people and customs in the real world.

What was more, as the details emerged, I realised that a kingdom like Bremmand – made up of several peoples – would have more than one religion within it. So the indigenous race – those who were there before Brem – also observe some more pagan rituals and talk about the gods of the forest. Some of these rituals have been adopted by the Bremmandish faith – something that often happens when different cultures merge. Christmas falls where it does, for example, because it coincides with the pagan winter solstice.

It proved to be interesting to do – crafting all of this detail and backstory, much of which gets scant reference in the main narrative of the books. Knowing it, however, means that I am writings from a clear vision of a complete kingdom, where there is a logic and method to what goes on. As a result, it becomes more believable for the reader.

And it was fun – I got to invent a whole new range of swear words too!

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