Nokhum: Self-Exploration Through A Guy with a Condition Doing Something Amazing – Guest Post by R. Ramey Guerrero

Hello! Ramey Guerrero’s debut novel, Dust of a Moth’s Wing, released yesterday. I had the pleasure of reading Dust of a Moth’s Wing (you can read my review here), and I really loved the way the author wrote a book that’s different from most I’ve seen before, very down-to-earth with a protagonist who feels very genuine and how I fell in love with. So I asked Ramey if ey could write a post about how eir experience writing Nokhum. Here is eir heart-touching response.

Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

The Age of Fire is an epic fantasy series, beginning with Dust of a Moth’s Wing. In this story, I follow a released murderer named Nokhum as he tries to uncover secrets around his life-mate’s death or disappearance. He doesn’t know that he has been chosen to die by his mentors to spark a rebellion to bring back the element of fire’s power to the island.

This series came to me when I was an eleven-year-old after just being taken from a bad home environment and placed in a differently bad one. I hid the abuse all the way through my teens, making me feel like a prisoner. I explored this quality through Nokhum.

My world was restrictive in my teens, but I stole a copy of The Hobbit (sorry Goodwill) and hid it. I was not allowed to read the types of books I wanted to because of my guardians’ strict religion. This is the environment that created the city of Wen. The forbidden magic represents, to me, my imagination that was restricted.

I wanted to imagine diverse worlds filled with creatures that were familiar yet magical. I was inspired by the world around me as a small child, which was wooded. Animals visited my backyard from the forest, and it was my favorite part of living in the north for a time.

Because I was constantly monitored as a teen so I wouldn’t turn out like my mother, I developed the philosophy of “the walls have ears”. Even my journals were not private. I gave this burden to Nokhum. He knew that even his neighbors would turn him into the Protectors if they knew he was doing forbidden magics, so he made up stories to scare his neighbors to move away. But he still was cautious.

While I conformed due to fear of homelessness and being ostracized, Nokhum tried to conform under threat of death. From the beginning of Dust of a Moth’s Wing, we saw Nokhum slinking through the night, avoiding Protectors and their questions. Questions always led to trouble.

I wrote countless versions of this story, originally inspired by The Hobbit. Then I became homeless, and I put my story away. My story was never far from my mind.

When I was in my twenties, I was hospitalized due to psychosis and a suicidal attempt. I was there against my will, but it was the beginning of a downward spiral. This was when I picked back up my mechanical pencil and went back to Wen.

The chapters I wrote in the hospital were the ones where Atnu used the flute to “summon” the creatures of Nod.

I lost my good job as an insurance salesperson when I couldn’t leave my apartment for fear of someone imprisoning me because of my worsening mental illness. When I lost my insurance, I lost my medical coverage and medicine, dropping me further into the psychosis rabbit hole.

Because I was now disabled, I had nothing but time to write during my moments of clarity. By this time, Nokhum had evolved into someone as paranoid as I was. He was a man, recently released from prison for murder, dealing with his trauma and mental illness. His sleeping pattern mimicked my own at the time due to a manic episode, and I was often obsessed like him. Structure helped for a little while, but keeping up with a cycle was draining. This is something that I will explore later in the series.

The only books about disabled people I could find were about the person dealing with the condition, and I wanted to be the protagonist of a different kind of story. I didn’t want Nokhum to be limited and defined by his condition (he’s bipolar with PTSD). Basically, I wanted him to just be a guy with a condition doing something amazing.

Nokhum also was raised by the forest. The forest, for me, represented the community I grew up in. I had a few mentors since as a student I was top of my class. I was very close to many of my teachers in high school. It also represented my wild nature, coming from my neglected background as a child.

I also gave Nokhum my smoking addiction, only there was no marijuana in my world; instead, he smoked burgundy. For a while, living in Missouri, I got interested in foraging. There’s not a lot of foraging opportunities in South Texas, so I gave Nokhum the job in a thriving environment.

Of course, Nokhum wouldn’t be anywhere if it weren’t for Atnu. They came from completely different backgrounds, making their contrast fun to write. Nokhum was my therapy, but Atnu was the balance I needed.

Atnu was an artist at heart, but by trade, he was a diplomat. Nokhum worked as his spy and assassin. Together, they kept peace in the world, by whatever means necessary. Despite better advice, Atnu stuck with Nokhum.

Atnu was my imaginary friend. He was one of the positive voices in my head among so many negative ones. He helped pull me through some really dark times. A golden light in darkness.

Even through his faults, Atnu is one of my most pure characters. His struggle with his faith was something that I struggled with once as well. While attending a religious school, I tried to believe their creed, but through repeated reading of their sacred text, I found myself with more doubts. Because I couldn’t be like all of my peers, I sunk into depression. Atnu, on the other hand, will try to compromise. Let’s see if he can have the best of both worlds.

Their friendship was built through years of working together. Nokhum’s life-mate used to be their captain, until her disappearance or death. After that, Nokhum had difficulty connecting to his friend. Atnu was relentless, believing they needed each other because they were balance.

This series is all about balance. I explore differences in morality, inequality, mental illness, but mostly chaos. What happens when chaos takes over? What does a prominent city’s decline look like? Is it possible to preserve peace at all costs?

Dust of a Moth’s Wing is the first part to a thirteen-book journey to restore balance. Since I’m well into the series already, there’s so much I want to tell. Maybe next time. Until then, I am excited to begin this journey with you.

Author portrait of R. Ramey Guerrero, fantasy novelistTo cope with disabling mental illnesses, R. Ramey Guerrero created a world of their own to explore. Their apartment in San Antonio transformed into forests, cliffs, and sea shores. With pen and paper, they filled their world with creatures and people as diverse as a world should be. Now, R. Ramey Guerrero edits fantastic stories written by amazing authors with a kitty on their lap. They live in the medical center in an apartment by the woods with their pets. Two cats: Enki and Katara. An Australian shepherd: Tlaloc. A box turtle: Gaia. Two red-eared sliders: Atl and Tera. And a ball python: Artemis.

Buy Dust of a Moth’s Wing

R. Ramey Guerrero’s Website

Ramey’s Linktree

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