I recently read Empress of a Thousand Skies and really loved it- it had a really vivid world and the characters were so likeable. I can’t wait to read more from Rhoda Belleza. Today I am honored to have her here to talk about her writing method and writing multiple point of views.
Rhee, also known as Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an, is the sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. She’ll stop at nothing to avenge her family and claim her throne.
Aly has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. But when he’s falsely accused of killing Rhee, he’s forced to prove his innocence to save his reputation – and his life.
With planets on the brink of war, Rhee and Aly are thrown together to confront a ruthless evil that threatens the fate of the entire galaxy.
A saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.
I’m somewhere in between a plotter and a pantser. I wrote the beginning of EMPRESS in a flurry just to get a sense of the character and voice, then I paused to outline the rest of the book. Once I got that in decent shape I dove back into writing, but I’d diverge from the outline and change the story as I went. Having that structure was important, but plenty of times I’d run astray as the characters pulled me in different directions. It was about trusting whether to stay on outline or experiment without that safety net; I wanted the movement and choices to feel organic, but I wanted to keep the plot as tight as possible.
The two POVs are Rhee and Aly, the empress presumed dead and the boy who supposedly killed her. Both are hiding, constantly moving, pursuing different goals that eventually converge. I usually nail down the choreography and plotting before I revise for the emotional components. I’m not just talking about the fight scenes, but the placement of characters in the galaxy and in relation to each other. It’s like I don’t even know how they feel until they have a setting and a context to physically exist in. My friend called it an analog to method acting, which may or may not be true. I’m not sure because I’m not an actor.
Rhee is royalty; she may be hardened by the loss of her family but she’s pampered too, and she has a sense of righteousness that felt so natural to write. I could get in a pretty heady space with her; she’s obsessed with revenge and pleasing her ancestors, and that tension just felt really right. That said, Rhee’s wound pretty tightly, so I was tapping into some stuff that could feel intense at times.
Aly comes from a different planet and an entirely different class. He’s a little bit of a smart ass and he tries to keep everything funny and casual, but underneath he’s struggling to keep it together—as a refugee he’s skating the line and trying to play a bit of identity politics. It doesn’t work out for him, and when he’s on the run he comes to some ugly realizations about the world that he needs to work through. Still, I didn’t want him to lose the optimism and humor that makes him him. His voice felt really natural in a different way from Rhee’s, and the writing of his chapters flowed easier—but going back in revision and digging into the emotion ended up being more challenging for his character.