Of everything I have ever written, I dare say that Deck of Clover is - and will be - the most challenging story I have ever written. Simply due to the technical skills required to write a full length novel from the perspective of 14 different main characters. Don't get me wrong, it was a very fulfilling experience. And in the beginning, also incredibly humbling.
I had just finished my first trilogy when I started this story, and I'll admit, the high had gone to my head. I had started picking up readership and got a little cocky. When this serial first started, I came in half loaded, thinking I could write off the hip as I did before. But I failed miserably with terrible pacing and inconsistent point of view. 10 chapters in, I called for my first rewrite in 5 years, basically ripping up the story and starting from scratch, but coming in with a plan and learning from my mistakes.
Despite the trials and difficulty of writing this book, I had some moments I am incredibly proud of, many due to the challenge of the technical aspect of their writing. Joachim's second character arc, Silence, was a huge success for me, as I managed to write 2 of his 3 chapters entirely without dialogue, while aiming to convey scenes that were highly emotional. Another high point was Four's character arc, Stagehand. It was heavily inspired by the Japanese light novel, Kino's Journey. I got to explore Tearha in a way the concentrated setting of these stories rarely let me.
I received a few questions as to the names of the main characters. And yes, for anyone who made the guess, they are coined from playing cards. Kingston and Quinton are the king and queen respectively. Shjacky - which is pronounced sh-j-acky - is a jack. Ishumi is Japanese for 10. Enneya is based on the Greek Attic dialect, Ennea, for 9. Shimona (shmona) is biblical Hebrew for 8. Shichi is Japanese for 7. Seks is Old English for 6. Pempe is ancient Celtic for 5. Four-Chan is, well, 4. Trini is 3 in Sanskrit. The Oceanic languages have Lua as 2. Nossaral Unn, when pronounced last name first is uno (1). Then there's Joachim Kerr. The joker.
Lastly, let's not forget Pipquet Chevlier, the ex classmate. Pipquet is a portmanteau of 'pip', the symbols on a card suite you count, and 'Piquet', a card game played with a 32-card deck. Her surname is based on the knight card, common in certain decks. Now, spoilers, if you skipped to this afterword for some reason, a piquet deck consists of the seven to ten cards, face cards, and ace. If you've been following the story, those are the members of Class C who perished, alongside those severely injured. Leaving numbers 2-6, alongside Pip the knight, and Joachim the Joker, 'alive'. Aside from Nos, the game of piquet was how I determined the cut-off point of who lived and died in the story. I needed enough sacrifices to make the stakes real and painful, but still leave enough of a 'deck' to continue the story.
Pip was always intended as a hidden main character, and always acted as a member of Class C. Her symbolic role in the story extended further than her name. Her character chapter, the train battle, was the only chapter in which all members of the class, including her, were present to fight the same enemy, and marked the point of no return for the characters. Her reinforcement in the finale was what saved the lives of Shichi, Enneya, and Shimona.
As for Joachim and Nos? Well, in cards, the Joker is known to be a wild card, and can substitute for any other cards. An 'ace four of a kind' with a joker is famously known as the lowest probability hand in cards, ace five of a kind. It is the only combination with a value higher than a royal flush. During their battle, and up until the final reveal in Lua's chapter, either Joachim or Nos could have gone. It was literally not till the words themselves appeared on the page that I knew which of the two would die.
As with all my other books, I intend to self publish Deck of Clover in the future and it will be - as with all published versions of my stories - be edited and cleaned up, and will include a bonus short story. Unlike my previous book, The Number 139, which I kept largely intact from its serial version, Deck of Clover have plenty of rooms for improvement. I have a few ideas on what to change, and what to keep. For one, Ill loose the 'parts', but keep the story in a relatively continuous flow of character chapters. I also want to do more interludes involving Pip, who became a favourite of mine to write. I also want to rewrite the middle of Silence, and have the entire arc without dialogue. There are other minor scene changes I want to implement, but for now, for the serial version at least, I am very proud of what I've done, and I hope you readers have enjoyed it as much as I have.