The Story of My Book: Garth Nix on A Confusion of Princes

Ever-popular YA and kids author Garth Nix guest blogs for us about A Confusion of Princes, and its unlikely beginnings in the world of gaming.


It is always difficult to remember the genesis of a story, that first spark of an idea that will set off more sparks and eventually fire up an entire narrative. For A Confusion of Princes, as usual I don’t know what triggered that first small glow. But early on I wrote a few pages set in a far-future galactic empire, outlining how young babies were being taken from their parents to be made into princes – augmented and enhanced individuals who (if they survived the process) would be rulers of that empire.

That potential prologue sat for a year or so, while I thought about it, while I kept on writing the current book that in its turn I had thought about for a year or two. But unusually, when it came time to write A Confusion of Princes, I didn’t start into it straight away, because in the meantime I had become involved in the development of a massively multiplayer game called Imperial Galaxy and in the process of designing that with my old friend and programmer extraordinaire, Phil Wallach, we’d decided to adapt the background I was going to use for the novel to also be the background of the game.

Usually, I discover a great deal of the world and the back stories of my characters and so on as I’m actually writing. I don’t work out all that much beforehand. But in this case, because I was developing a great many details for the game, I came to the story from a different perspective. Unfortunately it also meant it took a lot longer to write, because much of the time I would have devoted to the novel got invested in the game instead. Ultimately, Imperial Galaxy didn’t really work out, though the beta version of a subset of the game is still available to play, and we hope we can re-launch an improved version at some stage.

One interesting facet of having spent so much time developing the game and then going back to the book is that early on in the game development I wrote a potential prologue for A Confusion of Princes, just to help set the scene for Phil and also for our graphic designer/illustrator Les Petersen and illustrator Brendan Williams. But when I went back to it two years later, I decided that it wasn’t quite right, so it isn’t in the book and in a way shows a kind of parallel universe with a somewhat different setting and main character, Prince Khemri. You can still read that alternative segment over here (PDF) .

A Confusion of Princes is out now in paperback ($22.99) and ebook ($9.99).

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