The Next Big Thing

Last week, the gracious and generous Dave-Brendon De Burgh tagged me in the Next Big Thing meme that’s going around. This is a really fun way to discover writers who are new, or at least new to you, and I am most grateful to him for inviting me to play.

Now that I’ve been tagged, I’m supposed to answer the interview questions and tag several more writers. In the spirit of “new, or at least new to you”, I’ve tagged three writers at various stages in their careers:

Leona Wisoker is hardly a new writer, though she may be new to you. Her third and fourth novels, Bells of the Kingdom and Fires of the Desert, will be coming out under the Mercury Retrograde label this spring. She’s got an almost cultish following for her Children of the Desert series. And I appreciate her taking the time to play this game with me.

Rod Belcher is a new writer: his debut novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, will be published by Tor in January, and it’s already lighting up Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Romantic Times, et al. In fact he’s so new that his website and blog won’t be live until the end of the week…so I am just linking to the Facebook page for his novel for now.

Rachael Murasaki Ish is, like so many of the writers participating in this meme, as yet unpubbed–at least as a writer. I happen to know she’s got That Thing We Can’t Teach in Writing Workshops, and I’m looking forward to her getting her fiction to the point of publishability. Having worked with her in other professional contexts, I know she has the tenacity necessary. (And did I mention that she and I have a book together coming out this spring? For that one she’s wearing her Visual Artist hat. But more on that anon.)

I hope you’ll click through on those links and discover some exciting artists. In the meantime, here are my answers to the interview questions:

What is your working title of your book?

The Heart of Darkness

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Short answer: Everything in World Myth, 398.2 in your library. I started hanging out in that section roughly 6 months after I could read things longer than your average Dick & Jane adventure.

Long answer: This book is the second of a series, The Way of the Gods. I started writing this series because I wanted to explore the nature of godhood. (What makes a god a god? Where does the god’s power come from? What does his existence mean?) Along the way, inevitably, the story also explores the nature of power, the definitions of good and evil, the dichotomy between science and religion, and the tension between honor and exploitation. And the nature of addiction.

The first book of the series, The Shadow of the Sun, introduces the reader to Ellion, a defrocked wizard and deposed monarch who wants nothing more than to redeem himself. But when an opportunity to do that arises, he runs as fast and far as he can in the opposite direction, because redemption will come at the price of confronting all the mistakes he made ten years ago. The problem follows him, as problems will; and he takes on the charter of protecting Letitia, rising monarch of the Danaan nation of Fiana, from a renegade wizard who is trying to take over the part of the world Ellion left behind.  Along the way, he will find it necessary to confront the past he’s been avoiding–and find his assumptions about the gods and the world around him up-ended.

The Heart of Darkness picks up where The Shadow of the Sun leaves off. The title refers to a magical operation that’s critical to the unfolding action–and also to the Joseph Conrad novella of the same name. Like Conrad’s hero, Ellion–and other characters as well–find it necessary to travel into the unmapped interior, the wild places where the rules are suspended, and find the deep truths revealed there: truths both about the world and about themselves.

What genre does your book fall under?

You’d find it shelved as Epic Fantasy. But none of the other Epic Fantasy books trust it. They think it’s a party-crasher, and it’s going to start some kind of trouble. They’re right.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I brought my first readers, Mark and Rachael, in to help me brainstorm this one. I’m the only writer I know who doesn’t automatically “cast” all their characters. And I’m pretty sure we can’t afford all this talent for our imaginary movie. But we had a great time!

In the interests of space, I’m just going to list our casting choices here. We went into more detail on Tumblr, here.

Ellion — Matt Bomer

Letitia — Natalie Portman

Iminor — Jared Padelecki

Nechton — Robert Downey, Jr.

Tella — Charlize Theron

Leahy — Matthew McConaughey

Rohini — Olivia Wilde

Amien — Peter O’Toole

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence? The book is going to weigh in at over 200K words! Ahem.

When Ellion becomes a pawn in the tug of war between the old gods and the new, he begins to realize that the truths he has spent his life upholding may not be true at all, and the order he defends may be unjust.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The book will be published by Mercury Retrograde Press.

Full disclosure: I am Mercury Retrograde’s publisher and editor-in-chief. Fortunately I know that the publisher who edits her own work is a fool, and I humbly submit to colleague Anna M. Branscome during this process.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Hmm. The first draft of this novel was one part of the ridiculous 330K-word, 3-month orgy of writing that produced the first draft of the entire series over ten years ago. As a standalone, the first draft took maybe 6 months to develop. (It was considerably shorter; I am a better, deeper writer than I was then.) The current draft has been in the works for about 18 months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

That’s a really rough question: it’s hard to answer without sounding or feeling arrogant, inflated. Within spec fic, one might draw comparisons between my series and Julian May’s The Golden Torc and the other books in that series; I’ve had people compare it to Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber series and The Mists of Avalon. Thematically, I’d shelve it near Dan Simmons’s Hyperion and Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster series. And, maybe, Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Professor Tolkien: I adored his books. Can’t tell you how many times I re-read them. I will say that some of the covers fell off, and those were covers from a nicely-produced boxed set. But for all the beauty and magnificence, there were things I wanted to argue with: among them, the unquestioning acceptance of the feudal ideals that the entire heroic literature tradition brings us. And, while I’m arguing with the master, the easy definition of Good vs. Evil. (This is the part where people will argue with me, and I accept all those arguments as valid. I’ve held them at cons beyond counting. But still I reject the notion that the world, even a fictional world, is divisible into the Good, the Evil, and the Corrupt.)

The Bible: because once you’ve angered all the Tolkien fans out there, the only bigger target is the Bible’s fanbase. No, that’s not the reason why. Because it’s wild and self-contradictory and huge and one-stop shopping for all the ideas a reader needs to unravel the Western canon, as well as an intellectual kleptomaniac’s dream. Because it begs the reader to ask the question Who or What Is God and then argue with herself about the answer.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Magic. There’s a lot of it in this book. Not the hand-wavey fairy-dust kind of magic, but real, there’s-physics-behind-this magic with roots in traditions that go back for centuries and serious implications for the society that has to deal with it.

Gods. Plenty of those, too. They are not nice people. But they are interesting.

*

This was a fun excursion. To my surprise, I especially enjoyed “casting” the novel–figuring out which actors should play the parts. And I had fun putting that Tumblr post together. Thanks for inviting me to play, Dave-Brendon!

Explore posts in the same categories: interviews, SFF, The Heart of Darkness, The Shadow of the Sun

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