5 things

Nov. 21st, 2011 07:39 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
1. My trip to Boston in a nutshell. (In case you can't tell, the chained up books in the MITSFS library are the Gor novels.) There was also a great deal of Giant Ridiculous Dog, of which I totally approve.

2. Despite the fact that I really liked the Star Trek reboot, [livejournal.com profile] kateelliott has come up with something that would have been SO MUCH MORE AWESOME ZOMG THERE ARE NO WORDS.

3. A brief resurgence of Q&A, since somebody had questions:
(a.) Is there any hope of you writing another Labyrinth book?
Another book is unlikely, unless the clouds open up and the angels descend and I am struck by an idea of such IRRESISTABLE GENIUS that there is clearly no other choice. But I do intend to write a novella about Cardenio Richey and Vey Coruscant's copy of the Principia Caeli and a Jack the Ripper analogue called Jean-the-Knife. The title is Yes, No, Always, Never, and it's in the list of things I'm gonna get to Real Soon Now.

(b.) Secondly, I was kind of expecting for Felix and Kay to wind up together. Am I completely off base?
No, you're not. That was what originally happened, in the very bad and embarrassing draft that I wrote when I was paying more attention to the deadline than to what the book (and the characters) needed.

4. [livejournal.com profile] elisem has written a Lovecraftian hymn, for which she blames me.

I'm cool with that.

5. My introvert meter has expired and I'm out of quarters. Good night, internets.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
I'm keeping a mental list of things about this broken ankle that don't match up with broken bones in fiction. I already wrote about the sound of my ankle breaking, but here are a couple others:

1. if your crutches are adjusted properly and you're using them properly, they will not make your armpits hurt. They won't even touch your armpits. On the other hand, they will give you calluses on the heels of your palms.

2. maybe this is because of the surgery, or maybe it's because I'm a wuss, but it's been a month, and I still have no fucking stamina. Taking a bath exhausts me. I can hobble the length of the block, but then I have to lie down and pant. I'm still sleeping ridiculous amounts, and I have neither any ambition, nor the concentration to do anything about it if I did. I actually accomplished some work today (a second draft on an essay owed to a lovely person who knows who s/he is), and I'm hoping to be able to tackle The Tempering of Men (a.k.a. the sequel to A Companion to Wolves) this week, even if I can only manage it two pages at a time.

3. On the other hand, the itching? That part's true.

I am wildly grateful that I started this quilting project just before I broke my ankle, and equally wildly grateful to the kind and awesome ladies at the local quilt shop, who ironed and pin-basted it for me, because quilting around Kliban cats is pretty much the ideal activity for me right now, interspersed with playing Diablo II (again) and rereading Golden Age mysteries. I started with John Dickson Carr and have moved onto Ellery Queen.

(As a side note, I'm currently rereading The Siamese Twin Mystery, which inspired me to find wikipedia's entry on conjoined twins. I was particularly fascinated by Lakshmi Tatma, who was born in 2005 with four arms and four legs--conjoined to a parasitic headless twin (x-ray, if you're having trouble visualizing)--and was worshipped in her native village as an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi. The surgery to separate her from her parasitic twin when she was two was successful and quite complicated (follow the links from the wikipedia article if you're interested), and she survived. I hope she's still doing well.)

And somebody commented with some questions about the Doctrine of Labyrinths, which I am happy to answer:

Q: I'd like to know more about the obligation de sang - is it a baby step toward the obligation d'ame, or something distinct?

A: The obligation de sang is cast on wizards; the obligation d'âme is cast on annemer. They have similar effects, but, no, they're not the same thing.

Q: And I'd like to know more about Cardenio - how he and Mildmay became friends, particularly, and whether my reading of him as (1) clearly in love with Mildmay and (b) asexual is correct.

A: I don't know how Mildmay met Cardenio. The friendship emerged in my head full-grown, as it were, with no backstory.

Cardenio definitely has a crush on Mildmay--"love" is a tricky word, and I hesitate to use it--and I don't know about his sexuality. He is very shy and very reserved, and he hasn't told me.

Q: My sense is that Mildmay mostly disappeared for the bulk of Corambis - that the last book, more than any of the others, was weighted heavily toward Felix, and his growth as a character - specifically, for himself and for his brother. Were you trying to get Felix to the place Mildmay already was (or at least seemed to be), where he could see his brother as a person? Or am I misreading?

A: I wouldn't say that Mildmay disappeared--he is, after all, still a narrator, and his character arc in Corambis is important--but I will say that I conceived of The Mirador as Mildmay's katabasis and Corambis as Felix's. Katabasis is the descent to the underworld and return which Joseph Campbell describes as part of the Hero's Journey--I'm not entirely sold on Campbell, but with the particular psychology of my two particular narrators, they both had to go through their own personal metaphorical hells in order to come to terms with their pasts and their damage and emerge on the other side as functional, compassionate adults. (Which is also not to say that I think either of them is "fixed" or "healed"--they still have to live with their scars, both physical and emotional, and there are going to be bad days and backsliding--but I think by the end of the series they are better, both in the sense of psychologically healthier and in the sense of being able and willing to care about each other (and by extension, other people like Kay and Corbie) than they were at the beginning.)

At least, that's what I was trying for.

So, yes, to use a semi-accurate shorthand, Mildmay "grew up" in The Mirador and therefore there was less that needed to happen to him in Corambis, in terms of his psychomachia, than there was for Felix.


Jul. 7th, 2010 10:06 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Probably the last installment for this go-round.

Q: In these Q&As, what's the question you've always wished someone would ask, but hasn't?

A: I'm always a little sad that nobody asks about the literary jokes. Possibly that's just because I'm such a flaming geek. But, for instance, I keep hoping someone will remark on the presence of "Porphyria's Lover" as a kind of subetxt; there's Porphyria Levant, and then there's the fact that the bog body in Corambis was, in fact, strangled with her own hair. It doesn't mean anything in particular, except that that Browning poem apparently made a huge impact in my psyche.

On a more serious note, I have always wished that someone would ask about the parallels between magic in this world and radioactivity in ours. Because, if you notice, the problems Felix has with Malkar's rubies are not unlike the problems faced by people trying to deal with radioactive waste. You can't keep it near you, you can't throw it away, and there's no such thing as a safe place to put it.

2. There was also a question about Felix's age, based on the civil war in Corambis having taken place forty years before the beginning of the book. Remember that there's no actual connection between Felix's birth and the civil war, also that, in the elaborate myth that is part Malkar's story and part the evil hand of coincidence, Felix's hypothetical mother would have been running from the aftermath of the war, not from the war itself. And then remember that Malkar was banking on nobody in Marathat (a.) having the exact dates of a war in a country so far away they've barely even heard of it, (b.) knowing Felix's exact age, or (c.) bothering to sit down and do the math.

Mélusine and The Virtu together take two years. Then there's a two year gap. The Mirador takes place over a couple of months--and holy cats, it was hard to get all that stuff packed into that narrow a time window--and then there's another gap, probably three or four months, before the start of Corambis

Felix is 26 when Mélusine starts and 30 when The Mirador starts, so he's probably 31 in Corambis.

No, the dates don't match up with Malkar's story, but they're close enough for the work he needed that story to do.

I feel like there was another question someone had asked, but I cannot find it. So if it was yours, please ask again!
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Q: What does Felix see (or what is he able to see) when he looks off the battlements?

A: I'm not quite sure what you're asking: what the view is, or how good his eyesight is. The view from the battlements is of all the rooftops of Mélusine, as the Mirador is both the tallest building in the city and on high ground; Felix tends to gravitate toward the view to the south: the Lower City.

If you're asking about his eyesight, he can certainly see well enough to pick out major landmarks like the cathedrals and the Judiciary. (My shorthand for Felix's eyesight is that he can see about as well as I can without my glasses on--which, as legally blind goes, is actually pretty good.)

Q: Did you research Labyrinths for this series or did you make up your own ideas about them and if you did have particular books, can you tell us books you read or books that you recommend.

A: Mostly, I made up my own ideas, as I could not find any books on labyrinths that were not cloyingly New Age (for my tastes). I suspect I was also heavily influenced by Barbara Hambly's Dog Wizard and M. R. James' story, "Mr. Humphries and His Inheritance." And there's a certain amount of the Minotaur and the actual ancient labyrinths on Crete as well. But mostly, sorry, it's just me.

Q: How old are Steven, Victoria, and Shannon at the end of "The Mirador"?

A: Victoria was born in 2242, Stephen in 2244, Shannon in 2257. Mélusine starts in 2279, at which point Shannon is 22, Stephen is 35, and Victoria is 37. The Mirador takes place in 2283, so Shannon is 26, Stephen is 39, and Victoria is 41. Assuming my math is correct, which may or may not be the case.

And, from the Department of "If Locus says it, it must be true," I have sold a short story collection, Somewhere Beneath Those Waves, to Prime Books. I will provide more details when and as I can, but for now, let's go with, this will be a collection of my published non-Booth short stories. Also, I'm very psyched.

Q&A 3

Jul. 1st, 2010 09:00 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
I have sent A Reckoning of Men to [livejournal.com profile] casacorona and [livejournal.com profile] arcaedia on behalf of [livejournal.com profile] matociquala and myself. Deadline met. I definitely need some distance on this one before I look at it again.

Q: When does A Reckoning of Men start, in relation to A Companion to Wolves?

A: The first chapter actually overlaps with the end of ACtW.

Q: Is Stephen sterile? Is that why he never had any children with Emily? Or was it the other way around?

A: They were married for two years or less. I don't think there's any need to assume any medical problems on either side.

Q: Do Felix and Mildmay stay in contact with the Mirador? And do you know anything about what happens to the people still in the Mirador?

A: In order, yes and no.

And, for lagniappe, in answer to a question that [livejournal.com profile] bluestalking asked me at Wiscon: the lighthouse of Grimglass is part of the manor house of the Warden of Grimglass.

Q&A 2

Jun. 30th, 2010 08:27 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Q: How did you come up with Mildmay?

A: I was browsing in the university bookstore one day, back when I was an undergraduate, and came across a fantasy novel with a pink-and-purply sort of cover, the back copy of which told me that the protagonist was an assassin. (I have forgotten all the other details, so there is no use in asking me for author or title or anything else.) And I thought, rather crossly, that assassins should not be pink-and-purply fantasy sorts of people, and then my brain gave me, very clearly, a line of prose: Assassination is a filthy business. (That sentence never quite got into the books, but you can see the traces of it in the conversation on page 188 of Corambis.) Mildmay's character comes from that, and from thinking about all the things about assassins and the business of assassination (and theft and crime in general) that fantasy novels mostly try to ignore.

He became Felix's brother because I needed a way to tie him to the other half of the plot, and then, of course, it led to a great many other things. But his character was established before then.

If you're interested in the evolution of his voice, this post is where I talk about that in detail, with examples.

Q: When did Stephen marry Emily and when did she die?

A: Emily Teveria died in 2272 (or 20.1.4), the year that Mildmay's face was disfigured, about seven years before the start of Mélusine. I didn't make a note of when Stephen and Emily got married, but since it was after Stephen became Lord Protector (in 2270), it was in 2270 or 2271. Probably 2270.

This hasn't actually been asked, but I know a lot of people are wondering what Franco Donatello's new name is going to be.

Last night, my dreams told me that his name is Milo. I tested it today, and yes, it fits.

So my horse is named Milo. You may, if you wish, imagine that he is named for Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth. Or you may imagine that he is named for Milo Bloom in Bloom County. Or both.


Jun. 29th, 2010 08:59 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Q: What epic or long poem do you recommend reading next?

A: Well, it depends on what you've read so far. After The Odyssey and The Iliad and The Argonautica, there's The Aeneid and The Metamorphoses. Then there's The Divine Comedy, Jerusalem Delivered, Orlando Innamorato and Orlando Furioso. Then of course you've got Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Piers Plowman is awesomely weird. The Faerie Queene is magnificent. Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Hero and Leander, The Complaint of Rosamond, Scylla's Metamorphosis, Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, Endymion and Phoebe: Idea's Latmus, The Metamorphosis of Pygmalion's Image. You can always look for The Mirror for Magistrates.

If you're willing to branch out slightly, you might find Renaissance romances worth your attention: Sir Philip Sidney's Old Arcadia and New Arcadia and Lady Mary Wroth's Urania are all very weird, especially from modern standards of storytelling, but I found them immensely rewarding in many of the same ways long narrative poems are.

Q: You keep tripping over books about the Salem Witch trials, along with other Puritan new England topics--has a story idea started kicking around in your head, or is there a chance you'll take a stab at your own history of the trials, to fill in the historyfail that irks you in this area?

A: There is a story that I may eventually write, an insanely ambitious AU novel about an America in which angels and devils are real.

I am unlikely to write a nonfiction book about Salem unless a reputable publisher offers me a contract.

Q: What led you to create Felix and Mildmay?

A: I think I need this one narrowed down slightly.

Q: As evidenced in the Doctrine of Labyrinths series, you seem to have an exceptional grasp on both D/s and SM mentalities. Are you comfortable sharing how you came by your knowledge of said realm?

A: I read a lot and I used my imagination, specifically the quality of empathy. I know that's not a very satisfactory answer, but I don't have a better one.

Q: Will A Reckoning of Men be as sexual as A Companion to Wolves?

A: No.

Q: Having followed your first lines meme for some time now, I am wondering if your new novel, The Goblin Emperor, is the one that was originally entitled The Emperor of the Elflands. If it is, I am curious to know (if you're able to tell me without spoilers) whether the novel was always about goblins, or whether it was originally about elves. If it was originally about elves, I'd be interested in the reason for the change.

A: Yes, it's the same novel, and it's about both goblins and elves. The emperor of the title is the son of the previous emperor of the elves and his fourth wife, the daughter of the goblin king.

Q: How (and when, I guess...) did you come up with Corbie? Was she always going to be a part of Corambis?

A: I knew before I started that I had to confront Felix with an apprentice, but Corbie herself emerged from the process of writing the story. I had to talk myself into making her female, but once I did that, she told me about herself very willingly. (Unlike, for instance, Mehitabel, who persisted in lying to me until the third draft of The Mirador.)

Q: I was wondering (I asked you this in Twitter sometime ago, sorry for the pestering) what you think of the gay fiction shelf in bookstores? Is there a need for them? Are they more a convenient way to find books that interest the gay-fiction-reading public, or a way for bookstores to keep the "normal" shelves clean?

A: The goal of marketing categories is to enable people to find the books they want to read. It sometimes goes badly wrong and I personally disagree with a lot of the philosophy demonstrated, but at the bottom of things, bookstores want people to buy books, and they make the decisions they do because they think it will make that happen.

Q: I just recently got my copy of Corambis, and I'm loving it just as much as I loved the previous installments in the series. However, Corambis feels a bit different. I can't really put my finger on it, but the feel of Corambis certainly is different from Mélusine, Virtu and Mirador, which all share a very similar atmosphere. Any ideas as to why, or is it just that Felix isn't quite as batfuck crazy or verbally abusive anymore? Or rather, is the change of mood, feel, atmosphere, whatever you should call it, intentional?

A: For me, Corambis is the book in which Felix really grows up, and I think that does make a difference in the book's atmosphere. Also, it takes a tremendous weight off all of us (me and Felix and Mildmay) to have gotten away from the Mirador and all its history and madness and mikkary. The Mirador is a very claustrophobic book, and Corambis is what happens when you throw the doors open and run out into the morning. For me, anyway.

Q: I was really intrigued by what you wrote in Storytellers Unplugged about finding the story in the story- I started to think about the interior story of many of my favorite books. What would you say the story-in-the-story is in Doctrine of Labyrinths?

A: The triggering subject of the Doctrine of Labyrinths was Felix's fall from grace--quite literally. The first scene I ever wrote was his argument with Shannon and the ensuing plunge into the Arcane. The real subject, I think, turned out to be whether he could learn to be . . . "a better person" is too facile, but if he could learn not to be so destructive, both of himself and of the people he loved.

Q: Do you go to any cons where cos play/dressing in character wouldn't look kind of crazy? We've been working on being Felix and Mildmay..

A: Um. Wow. I think that's kind of cool, but I have fourth-wall issues, and the idea of coming face to face with people dressed up as Felix and Mildmay seems to trigger them. I don't at all want to stop you doing it if you're having fun; in fact, I think that's awesome. It just feels really weird for me personally.

Q: I am suddenly possessed of the desire to see what you have to say about the ghost story at the beginning of "A Likely Story" (dS season 4)

A: I think it is very very odd. To say anything more useful, I'd need to watch "A Likely Story" again. I am going to do write-ups of Season 4; I will keep your desire in mind when I get there. :)

Q: Have you thought about calling Donatello "Dante?"

A: Yes, actually. (I've also been tempted to call him Virgil.) He's not a Dante.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
I'm off to Fourth Street. In celebration, I'm opening the floor to another Q&A. Comments to this post are screened, so ask your questions, and when I get back--or, hey, possibly even while I'm in Minneapolis, because we live in the future and I can do that sort of thing--I will answer them. To the best of my ability and reserving the right not to answer a question if I find it too intrusive.

All subjects are fair game. You can ask more than one question; you can ask questions more than once. Have fun!
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Another Q&A session.

One of the questions is a spoiler for the end of Corambis, so I'm going to stick it behind a cut-tag.

here )
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Q: What is your next project?

A: Well, I'm (allegedly) working on A Reckoning of Men, which is the sequel to A Companion to Wolves that [livejournal.com profile] matociquala and I are writing. I'm also (allegedly) working on an episode of Shadow Unit. The next novel--assuming somebody ever buys it--on which I continue to be stuck like Pooh in Rabbit's doorway, is The Emperor of the Elflands/The Winter Emperor/The Goblin Emperor (I'm also having trouble with the title), and I need to look very carefully at Cormorant Child and see if perhaps it would be willing to be a YA book. And then there's the usual milling crowd of story ideas.

spoilers for The Mirador )

We seem (after nine pages) to have come to the natural end of this round of Q&A. Thank you very very much to everyone who asked questions. You are all awesome.

Q&A 32

May. 27th, 2009 12:56 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Because people keep asking plaintively, let me make the announcement again:

The Virtu is out of print in both hardback and paperback. My agent has made a formal protest on my behalf with Ace, and we are now waiting to see what Ace decides to do. I am just as frustrated by this state of affairs as you are.

Q: What is the difference between the obligation de sang and the obligation d'ame? i get that the first is the 'binding by blood' and the second is the 'binding by forms.'

Also, the part of me that likes to analyze words and their origins and meanings to death wants to know what 'forms' the latter specifically refers to.

A: You want this Q&A, in which I say, essentially, that you the readers know as much as I the writer do.

And I'm not sure I can explain what "binding-by-forms" refers to. It doesn't seem to be something I can articulate, even though I do know what I mean by it.

spoilers for Corambis )

Q: You said that you created Mildmay to rescue Felix in Hermione. Did Mildmay spring full formed into your brain as Felix did or did you construct him to fulfill Felix's needs?

A: He did not spring full-formed, but evolved to fill the needs of the book and of his own character.

Q: Now that it's been out for a bit, what do you think of Vienna Teng's new album?

A: Although it is not to my credit, I do not listen to Vienna Teng.

Q: Why was Felix the only "hocus" who could see the Mirador's curse on Mildmay? Was it due to his being crazy?

A: Yes.

Q: Was there any specific reason that Felix was so dead set against "doing" women? I know he was molly - but it seems he has a really strong aversion to any thought of females and I was wondering if something in his past led to that?

A: I don't know. He would never explain it.

Q: Why, while the boys were in Troia, was no mention made of the fact that Mildmay was also a child of Methony? Was it because Felix's father was someone from the Gardens? Or because of his power as a wizard and Mildmay's complete lack of magic?

A: The Troians preferred not to consider Mildmay as Methony's child. Their animus against him was specifically because he had been an assassin.

[Ask your question(s) here.]
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
WisCon is a blur of awesomeness. Hello to everybody I never quite managed to catch up with!

Also, Jo Walton ([livejournal.com profile] papersky) reviews Mélusine, The Virtu, The Mirador, and Corambis for Tor.com.

Q:Did the idea of actually letting Felix and Mildmay be a couple go through your mind?

A: Never seriously. Mildmay is straight.

Q: Do you think there's a possibility that someday you'll give us a new story with Felix, Mildmay & co., or that takes place in the same universe?

A: I make no efforts to predict what my brain will want to do in five or ten years. So maybe.

Q: What do you think about fanfiction?

A: Look over here.

Q: I have a problem when writing: my mind is too creative. I start working on an idea, and when I'm in the middle of a story, another idea pops up in my head, and this new idea won't let me rest (I've actually spent long sleepless nights with a new idea rumbling in my head) until I pay atention to it. So it's getting very hard for me to finish anything, and I'm getting more and more frustrated. Has this ever happened to you? And if so, how do you deal with that?

A: Oh yes. It's much easier for me to start stories than to finish them. I wish I had good advice for you, but I don't. I do think it's better to take notes on the new idea than to try to ignore it, but the proliferation of ideas vs. actually finishing stories is a problem I'm still wrestling with. (I made a list the other day: I have nearly forty stories that I could be working on and no idea how to finish any of them.)

Q: A friend is reading DoL (on my advice, since the first duty of a raving fanboy is to get other people to consume the media which is the object of his devotion) and he commented that he cannot find a reason for where one chapter ends and another begins. I never noticed because when I'm serious reading a story, chapters are just places where I need to turn the page sooner.

So, the question, all formal like: How did you decide what chapter ended where?

A: Um. By where felt right? Partly it was length and partly coming to a good stopping point or finding a killer exit line and partly a sort of, "well, this piece of the arc is complete" kind of thing. But there was no coherent and well-articulated set of guidelines.

Q: I've noticed that Felix seems to attract "disabled" characters (Mildmay, Gideon, Kay) like fruit flies to vinegar, and I've been wondering: Did you intend for him to become, as my friends call him, a "crip magnet"?

A: Nope, although I agree that it does seem to happen--possibly, however, we should put this down to my tendency to mutilate my characters more than anything else.

Q: Having just read your short stories, Straw, Queen of Swords, and A Light in Troy, I have to say they were haunting (in a good way). Can I ask you where you got the inspiration for them, or the general ideas surrounding? I'm pretty sure I can at least partially guess where A Light in Troy and Queen of Swords came from, but curiosity abounds.

A: "Straw" came from a dream. "Queen of Swords" I think came from reading Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and also from trying to make up a fairytale. Which is a lot harder than it looks. "A Light in Troy" came from reading The Trojan Women (both Euripides and Seneca) crossed with some internet reading about feral children.

Q: spoilers for The Mirador )

Q: I just finished reading Corambis, and I was just wondering...you describe Melusine as a fairly chromatic setting, where white people like Felix and Mildmay are the exception, rather than the norm, but doing a quick count in my head it seems like a lot of your major characters, even the ones in Melusine, are actually white or else strongly signalled as white (by blonde hair or pale eyes, for instance): Felix and Mildmay, of course, but also Mavortion and Bernard; Shannon; Kolkhis; Vey Coruscant; Simon; Malkar - and also, the two major countries your characters travel to seem to be populated mostly by paler people. Even Mehitabel is described as more "pale gold" than any shade of brown. So I was just wondering, was there any particular reason behind that choice?

A: Naive solipsism which I am trying to train myself out of?

Q: You wrote a lot of queer characters into Doctrine of Labyrinths; do you think you'd ever write a character who was trans? (In any universe, I mean, not just DoL.)

A: I have a short story called "Amante Dorée" that has a trans character, and there's a novel I really want to write about a ftm transsexual where I'm really just waiting for the damn plot to show up. So, yes.

Q: Also, in Mélusine, when Felix was having his hallucination-type-things, why was Gideon the only character who didn't appear as some sort of animal? Was there any significance to this?

A: Honestly, I think the reason is that I could never decide what animal Gideon would be.

[Ask 'em if you got 'em.]
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
The dreams about failing high school calculus HAVE GOT TO STOP. Especially like the one I had last night, in which I dreamed I was failing high school calculus and then woke up to discover it was true. ARGH.

Made progress on the new wolf book yesterday. Let's be generous and call it 500 words. Which is 500 more words than I've written in a kind of appallingly long time.

The indefatigable [livejournal.com profile] fidelioscabinet has found an awesome photo-reference for Mehitabel. This is Natalia Alexandrova Pushkina, the younger daughter of Aleksandr Pushkin, and if I could have had her on the cover of The Mirador, I would have been a very happy Mole. (No, it isn't an exact match, but it's really startlingly close.)

I'm not bothering with segues today, but if I were, this would be a good one to my first Q&A question:

Q: I am super interested in what you told the cover artists of ACE. From the previous posts, I am inclined to believe that you had very little input in the whole cover art business, but you did mention that you described the tattoos and they listened. Would you have wanted the cover art done any other way? If you had said you weren't satisfied, what would have happened?

A: My input extended only so far as the artist and the production team decided to listen to me. (I did object to the cover of The Mirador because I found--and, honestly, still find--the size and shape of Mehitabel's head disturbing. It did me no good.) When they asked me questions, I answered them and was delighted when my answers showed up in the cover art: Felix's tattoos, the cityscape behind Mildmay--the cover of The Virtu is probably my favorite for precisely that reason--Mehitabel's dress. In three of four cases, my descriptions of the characters were followed: Kay, for instance, does look like David McCallum on the cover, and that's exactly how I described him for the artist. Mehitabel is the exception there.

Okay, that's an honest answer to your question, but I want to be clear that it isn't a complaint. I think the covers for these books are fantastic. They're compositionally strong--which many fantasy covers aren't--they have coherent color schemes, they give an impression of lush baroquerie which is exactly what's called for. Most importantly from the purely mercenary point of view, they do exactly what they're supposed to do, which is catch people's attention. I've gotten emails from several people who have confessed to picking up Mélusine on the strength of the cover alone. The fact that devoted readers (and the neurotic pink circus poodle of an author) can list everything the covers get wrong is, well, par for the course.

Q: How did you choose the titles of the individual books of DoL? The main reason that I can think of is because most of them are the places all the events which transpire in, but then Virtu throws a wrench right at that reasoning, and it's really gnawing at me like a rat.

A: I did not choose the titles. Ace did. My titles were Strange Labyrinths, The Labyrinth's Heart, Labyrinths Within, and The Labyrinth of Summerdown. (I've mentioned before that I suck at titles, right?) And even after they'd explained their single-word evocative-of-fantasy title theory, I wanted to call the second book Kekropia and the fourth book Summerdown, and got vetoed again.

Q: spoilers for Corambis )

Q: I have been trying to find a paperback copy of The Virtu, and nobody seems to have one. Do you happen to know where I could find one? All the others in the series are available, but that seems to have disappeared...

A: The Virtu is out of print in both hardback and paperback. I am really really sorry. My agent is making a formal protest on my behalf to Ace, and if/when the situation changes, I will definitely make an announcement.

Q: I have a question more about one of your short stories than about your books (which I liked a lot, but I can't think of any question that has not been asked yet): I enjoyed "A night in Electric Squidland" very much and remember faintly that you said you wrote or planned on writing more short stories with Mick and Jamie. If you have written and published them, is there a way for this fan from beyond the sea (Great Britain) to buy or read them?

A: I have not managed to publish any more stories about Mick and Jamie. (I have one written that no one will buy, and something else that seems to be the first chapter of a novella, and then three or four other ideas that are thus far obstinately refusing to be phrased in the form of a story.) Hopefully, this situation will change for the better.

Q: What's your preferred baseball team, if any? I only ask this because of, well, I suppose an auxiliary reference question--the writer Ynge, is it a reference to Brandon Inge?

A: I forget where I got Ynge's name, but no. It wasn't that.

I was raised an Atlanta Braves fan. Now, [livejournal.com profile] mirrorthaw and I follow the Milwaukee Brewers on the radio. But I'm more a baseball fan than I am a fan of any particular team.

[You can still ask your question(s) here.]

ETA: The Sekrit Origin of the Virtu revealed! (Hint: it isn't the toaster.)

Q&A 29

May. 17th, 2009 12:35 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Several people have commented in my question post with praise of Corambis and the Doctrine of Labyrinths. I wanted to say, thank you all very much!

Q: So, then, what advice would you give someone if they wanted to get interested in other points of view?

A: I'm not quite sure what this question is asking, but I'm going to guess that it's a follow up to the last q&a post, where I said I had to teach myself to be interested in Mildmay and Mehitabel.

So. *ahem* My most reliable technique for making a character I'm writing interesting to me is to do one of two things:

1. Start their PoV off with a big gaudy in-your-face trauma. (That would be both Felix and Kay, for those of you playing along at home.) This is a fairly cheap trick, as tricks go, and should not be used every time out of the gate. (In fact, I think I may have used up my quota.) Which leads us to:

2. Give them a secret trauma in their backstory. Sometimes this works too well, as with Mehitabel, who would not confess her secret trauma to me until the third or fourth draft of The Mirador. But something that will make the character's reactions a little off-kilter, a little different than what you would normally expect.

Also, make sure this viewpoint character has a story of his/her own: agendas and concerns that have nothing whatsoever to do with your previously established viewpoint character. Bring them into the story at an oblique angle, rather than directly parallel (ally) or perpendicular (antagonist) to the first.

Basically, the trick to making a character interesting is to make him or her or it complicated.

If that wasn't the question you were trying to ask, please ask again and I will try to be less stupid.

Q: How, exactly, do you define the difference between omnipresent and 'head-switching'?

A: Head-hopping is when the author switches from PoV to PoV at whim, specifically in order to make telling the story easier. It is most obvious and egregious when it happens within a paragraph, so that you start out in Beryl's head and halfway through switch abruptly into Marius':
"If you love Olive," said Beryl, "then go to her." Her heart was breaking. Marius clutched Beryl in his arms, appalled that his kindness to Olive had been so terribly misunderstood.

Omniscient is a narrative technique which controls how the story is told; it does nothing abruptly--unless it seems good to the author to be abrupt--and if it's done well, you don't realize it's happening.
"If you love Olive," said Beryl, "then go to her." Her heart breaking, she turned toward the window, and thus did not see Marius's eyes widen in astonishment.

For a moment, they both stood frozen, and then Marius approached her. "No," he said, "I don't love Olive. I was just . . . I was trying to be kind." He took her in his arms, braced every moment for rejection. But she permitted his embrace, and did not even mock the idea of Marius de Penthièvre trying to be kind.

This is hardly great omniscient (and Marius and Beryl are clearly a pair of Gothick idiots), but hopefully you can see the difference between Exhibit A and Exhibit B.

Watership Down, btw, is a great example of omniscient.

Q: How often do you write, daily? Weekly? Do you set time aside, or only write when inspired? Do you set goals, or only go as far as you can for a particular scene/story/pov before stopping?

A: I try to write every day. Seeing as how I have no other job, there's no reason not to. Honestly, if I, or any other professional writer, only wrote when inspired ... we wouldn't be professional writers.

I have learned that I don't do well with setting time or word quotas. What works for me is to set myself tasks, e.g., "Today we will get Melchior lost in the hedge-maze," or "today I write the terrible argument between Bathsheba and Cornelius." I try to make them smallish and reasonable tasks, so that they can be completed in one day's work, which means that I then am made happy with myself when I do complete one task. Frequently, if things are going well, I'm happy and energized enough to go onto the next day's task, i.e., sending Silas into the hedge-maze to rescue Melchior. This method works for me because it makes my goal-oriented competitiveness work for me instead of against me. (When I was doing word quotas, I'd get the quota of words, sure enough, but I was so focused on my word count that the words were frequently not so good. Also, I think that's one reason I misled myself with spoilers for Corambis ). Because it was conventional and easy, it made getting quota that much easier.

Writing as a profession involves a lot of hacking the wetware.

Q: How much of your book plots do you plan out in advance, and how much do you make up as you go along? Or do you have a vague idea of where things are going, and build from there? Or, or, or...?

A: In general, I make things up as I go along. If I know the story about ten pages ahead of where I'm actually writing, that's comfortable for me. I do (more frequently now than used to be the case) sometimes know major plot points well ahead of time, which gives me things to write towards. Or sometimes things that aren't major plot points, but that would be really cool to do will occur to me, and I'll point myself toward them.

Q: Do you have a 'soundtrack' for DoL, or any of the characters within it? That is, songs that you associate with the story or things you played to help you write?

A: Unlike many of my friends, I am not a particularly music-oriented writer. I don't do soundtracks, and I don't listen to music when I write. (Except, of course, when I do.) That said, Felix belongs to Depeche Mode, especially Songs of Faith and Devotion (the whole album, although if I needed to pick, it would be "Walking in My Shoes" and "In Your Room") and Exciter ("Dream On," in particular). Also, Damian Rice, "Woman Like A Man," and David Bowie, "Cracked Actor." Mildmay has two songs that I know of: Nickelback, "How You Remind Me," and Jimmy Eat World, "Get It Faster." Also, for both of them at the end of Corambis, "By Way of Sorrow," which is a song by Julie Miller, although I only know it in Cry Cry Cry's version.

And I just realized that one reason I may have been listening to "Cold Missouri Waters" (also a Cry Cry Cry cover, this time of James Keeleghan) obsessively while finishing Corambis is that it is a song for Kay.

Q: What is music like in Meduse? I was a bit surprised by piano lessons in Corambis, since I figured them for earlier keyboards. Then again, they had trains, subways and Corambis spoiler redacted ), so I'm guessing they would be at least somewhere around the late Baroque/ early Classical era in terms of technology.

Stylistically, though, any thoughts or generic guiding principles?

Would it have any theoretical connection to the various magic systems? If they weave technology and magic, would they make instruments to work the same way?

A: Oh dear. I am not a musicologist, nor do I play one on TV.

Corambis is a loose reinterpretation of Victorian/Edwardian England, so they're well up into the Classical era. Mélusine is back with Bach and Scarlettini in the Baroque--very delicate, intricate chamber music, for the most part. Harpsichords all the way. Both cultures have thriving folk-music traditions also, and I have no idea what those songs sound like. (I'd love to know the Corambin version of "The Cat Came Back," but I really just don't.)

Q: Cabaline wizardry. Whenever I read that, I'd misread it as 'caballine wizardry'. Was this intentional?

A: Not consciously, although it would have been really clever of me if it had been.

Q: spoilers for Corambis )

Q: How much time has passed since the first book? I figured that there are 6 or 7 years between Felix and Mildmay age wise. The time flow was a little hard to follow.

A: Felix is 6 years older than Mildmay. And from the start of Mélusine to the end of Corambis is (I think) about 6 years. I admit, I left the timeline vague on purpose so as to reduce my chances of COMPLETELY SCREWING IT UP.

Q: Did you ever hear Gideon's thoughts strong enough to want to write anything from his point of view? Or anyone else for that matter?

A: Not particularly.

Q: We know Felix is quite tall, since they're always saying that but, how tall is he exactly? And what about Mildmay?
Also, we know Mildmay has fox-red hair. What about Felix's hair? I remember it being described as "bright red", but what would if be like? Almost blood-red or more coppery-red?

A: Felix is 6'2". Mildmay is 5'8". Mildmay is on the short side of average for Mélusiniens and on the tall side of average for Corambins.

Felix's hair is a brighter red than Mildmay's russet. Um. Think Satine in Moulin Rouge!. (Really, in a lot of ways, if you can imagine Satine as a man, that's a pretty good approximation of Felix.)

Q: spoilers for Corambis )

[Ask your question(s) here.]

Q&A 28

May. 14th, 2009 03:19 pm
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
The latest crop, starting with one I missed in the last post. Sorry, querent! The slight was unintentional!

spoilers for Corambis )

Q: Do you think there is a chance there will someday be another Bone Key type collection? (I heart Booth!)

A: If I write enough Booth stories and somebody wants to publish the collection. So you know, God willing and the creek don't rise. *g*

Q: Is the Parrington Museum based on any real museums, or is it a sort of jumble warped by the literary influences involved? (Also, might the Parrington have any job openings? Summer internships?)

A: The Parrington is mostly imaginary, but I suspect insofar as it has a real world ancestor, it's the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna (yes, Vienna again). Since I've started writing Booth, I pay a lot more attention to museum architecture, so the Parrington has accreted several other museums to itself, including the Field Museum (which OMG has an exhibit on pirates through October 25) and the very weird Milwaukee Public Museum.

Q: spoilers for The Mirador )

Q: This might get a bit involved, so I apologize in advance, but I've been thinking about this lately:

What do you think determines the genre of a piece of fiction? What makes a book sci fi versus fantasy versus horror, or has genre become more about marketing?

A: First of all, marketing categories and genres are quite different concepts. Genres are inherently fluid, and are really more a tool for saying, "This text (or other kind of art) is like these other texts in these ways." It's more genealogy than taxonomy, and even more about mapping conversations between texts. What makes a book science fiction or fantasy or horror is what other books it's like, and what books it's talking to and what books influenced it.

So my very unhelpful answer to your question is, "It depends on the book." :)

Q: As a follow up, what do you think drives an author to write one genre over another or mess around on the border between them?

A: I think it depends on what gets caught in your filters. I, for example, have never yet had an idea for a story that wasn't genre-affiliated in some way. That's not a decision I made; that's just what shows up. Of course you can train your filters to catch different things, but I think it's something about the way an individual is put together, what catches their attention and what doesn't.

Which is waffly and about as unhelpful as my previous answer.

Q: I have a question about your writing process: specifically, how you deal with the huge amount of detail and world building in your stories. In Doctrine of the Labyrinths you've created complexity in both world and plot, and in A Companion to Wolves you have the world, the plot and a co-writer to wrangle. I'm curious as to how you keep it all straight - do you have a really good memory, diagrams, copious notes or one of those story-writing computer programs?

A: Copious notes and a weirdly good memory for text. I remember things I've read in stories much longer and much more clearly than I do things that actually happened to me or things I've done, and that seems to hold true for stories I've written as well as stories I've read. But I also keep files of notes.

(Also, in ACtW, I think it's more fair to say that Bear had me and the plot to wrangle and we both wrangled the world.)

Q: What happens to the annemer half of the obligation d'ame if the wizard dies? You provided a graphic description of what would happen to Mildmay if Felix were burned to death but what would happen if he drowned? Dropped dead of a heart attack? Wasted away with consumption?

A: I don't know. The question never arose.

Q: Much as I enjoy many of the conventions of the fantasy genre I have particularly enjoyed your subversion of them. Have you had much criticism/resentment from people who felt that you had led them to expect an outcome which you then failed to deliver?

A: Not that I'm aware of, no.

spoilers for Corambis )

Q: Is there a possibility that the seasons of Shadow Unit will be collected, maybe through a POD format since that seems most appropriate for the project, for fans who like to physically hold books in their hands? I would love to death being able to put that on my shelf.

A: Shadow Unit has an agent, who is indeed shopping around a print version of Season 1. So it could happen!

Q: spoilers for The Virtu on out )

Q: I can't decide if this is spoilerish for Corambis or not, so I'm cut-tagging to be safe )

Q: At some point, Mehitabel says: "tall, beautiful Felix, as molly as de Fidelio's dormouse". The only reference I can think about is Beethoven's opera... still, that "as molly as de Fidelio's dormouse" doesn't make a lot of sense to me (which could be only because English is not my native language). Yes, of course, that is "extremely molly", but, what's the reference about?

A: It's a made-up reference. We'd say "as queer as a three-dollar bill" or "as queer as Dick's hatband." But I couldn't use either of those, so I had to make up my own. I don't know who de Fidelio was, or why his dormouse is the standard of being a flaming queer in Meduse. (I did name de Fidelio for [livejournal.com profile] fidelioscabinet, with her permission, but that's external to the text.)

Q: Though sometimes easy to get immersed in the characters, I really appreciated the fact that Mélusine was its own character, sort of lurking in the back of everyone's lives. Considering the city is what and how it is, I'm not the least surprised that Felix nor Mildmay grew up to be the men they did. In all of your questions, you've explained that Felix just sort of "showed up". I was wondering if Mélusine arrived with Felix or did it have a different means of evolving?

A: Some of Mélusine showed up with Felix, specifically the Mirador and the Arcane, but mostly it developed by accretion. I made up bits and pieces of it as I went along and fit them together as I needed to. (That's why my map of Mélusine is incomplete.)

Q: The relation Vey has to blood magic, cemeteries and the commerce of the underculture kept reading as a voodoo queen. I suppose that's just me being raised in close proximity of a supernatural culture and history. Was there any particular character that inspired her, historical or otherwise?

A: Not to the best of my recollection, which may, I freely admit, be flawed. I don't think I'd read anything about Marie Laveau when I came up with Vey, but I could be wrong.

Q: Ah... The convoluted first person POV question. The answer you gave was enlightening and much appreciated, but I blame myself for not articulating the question well. I suppose I should ask how difficult was it for you to stay interested in writing from any one character's perspective? As far as the redundancy - although you "retell" from different perspectives, it's that very multifaceted lens that keeps things interesting. Better put, I think my question should've read "was there any point where you realized a character was repeating him/herself or echoing someone else a little too much?" And how do you determine how much of an event to repeat in the various voices?

A: I had to teach myself to be interested, first in Mildmay, then in Mehitabel. And then I must have caught the knack of it, because I didn't have any trouble being interested in Kay. The rest of it, as I said in answer to an earlier PoV question, I really mostly do by feel. Which is useless as far as giving advice goes.

I guess the question is, what story do you want to tell, particularly in terms of the characters and their arcs and their relationships to each other? When I retell an event from more than one point of view, it's because something in the comparison of those PoVs is important, and something that I can't get at if I only have one narrator's interpretation. That's particularly important when you're talking about discrepancies in the way a character views him/herself and his/her actions and the way s/he is seen by others.

Q: I'm working on a story right now - and maybe it's my lack of experience containing multiple FP-POV in a single work - but I'm making myself crazy trying to figure out how to synthesize the individual POVs into a single story. One POV is utterly complete, having been written in full about 3 years ago. The other just knocked insistently every time I reread the original piece. And, his voice is as strong as the original narrator's. Any suggestions on techniques of synthesis?

A: That's what I had to do with the first seven chapters of Mélusine: find spaces in Felix's narrative to fit Mildmay in--which was also when I had to teach myself to be interested in Mildmay. You'll notice that this also involved inventing a bunch more plot and world-building and all sorts of other things. In my experience, you can't add a narrator to a story and leave the story unchanged--or, if you can, there's no point in adding the narrator. Each narrator/PoV character should bring something to the story that is absolutely essential, that you can't tell the story without having, and thus any pre-existing narrative has to be affected by another perspective being added, up to and including being radically changed.

[Ask your question(s) here.]

Q&A 27

May. 12th, 2009 11:29 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (tr: mole)
Q: What is your opinion on perspective? Some authors swear that a whole story should be seen through the same character's eyes. Some stories are told from the perspective of different characters in separate chapters. Some writers feel no qualms to write omnisciently about the inner thoughts of multiple characters within the same scene. How do you go about it and why?

Well, obviously I am not a member of the single point-of-view only camp. On the other hand, one of the quickest ways to make me put down a book is to have too many viewpoint characters. That's a personal quirk: I find that I can invest in up to three viewpoint characters--if I enjoy (note that "enjoy" is not quite the same as "like" or "sympathize with") all three of them--but more than that just irritates me. (Also, the more viewpoints you add, the more likely it is that one or more of them will annoy at least some of your readers.) That isn't a value judgment about the technique; it's a confession that for me personally it does not work.

In my own case, the two narrators were a necessary part of the structure and story of Mélusine and The Virtu, but it was a real gamble to add a third narrator for The Mirador and again for Corambis. (Originally, my plan had been to have two narrators in each book, but Bear convinced me that I had to give Felix PoV in The Mirador.) It paid off, but it was definitely risky.

Omniscient is a whole different ballgame. Please note that I distinguish between omniscient and "head-hopping." I understand that there are readers who like head-hopping, but for me, it's as jarring as missing the last step on the stairs in the dark. I also think it's lazy writing, whereas omniscient is seriously hard work.

*ahem* Opinionated Mole is opinionated.

Q: spoilers for Melusine & The Virtu )

Q: You mentioned the English civil war as one of your "sources" for the Caloxan insurgency. Did you also nod to some of the Jacobite occurrences?

A: Oh definitely. Gerrard is clearly Bonnie Prince Charlie, only with a sense of responsibility and a spine. (But equally disastrous leadership.)

Q: An indulgent question: Is the resemblance between Hutch and Hotch's names coincidental? Since I know you watch Criminal Minds, I assumed Hutch would be a pseudo-Hotch, but with the rambling at Felix, he doesn't strike me as terribly Hotch-like.

A: O.O

Yes, purely coincidental, I assure you. Hutch is not even remotely like Hotch, nor should you imagine him being played by Thomas Gibson.

I was very pleased to light upon a surname for him that would allow a nickname, as it demonstrates the way Hutch straddles the line between the virtuers and the students.

Q: I usually lose track of time in books at some point and the DoL turned out to be no exception. Could you please give us an approximate timeline of the time that passed from Melusine until Corambis?


Q: I've lost track of dates. How old are Felix and Mildmay in Corambis?

A: Um. Five years, I think? The action of the first two books takes about two years, there's a two year hiatus, and then let's call it a year for the last two books. Felix is 25 at the beginning of Mélusine and I think he's coming up on his 31nd birthday sometime shortly after the end of Corambis, which means Mildmay is 25 or so. (Since neither of them knows their real birthday--although I do*--the ages given in their narrations are always approximations and guesses.)

*Bonus answer: Felix and Mildmay's birthdays:

Felix was born December 29: 29 Petrop 2253/28 Frimaire 19.5.6. Mildmay was born October 9: 9 Eré 2259/7 Vendémiaire 19.6.5. And Mélusine begins on the 9th of February, which is a Monday: Lundy, 9 Bous 2279/Dixième, 10 Pluviôse 20.2.4.

(No, I have no idea where all those 9s came from. To the best of my recollection, they have no deeper meaning.)

Q: If I remember correctly (and I may not), Mildmay kills for the first time when he's 14, Gideon is tithed to the bastion when he's 14, and Kay joins the war effort when he's 14. I think significant life-changey things happen to Mehitabel and Felix when they're 14, too, but I can't completely recall and don't have my books with me. Suffice to say, is there any particular singular significance to the age of fourteen, or was it just a random thing, in giving these characters dark pasts?

A: Um. You're absolutely right--Felix was sold to Malkar when he was fourteen, and I think Mehitabel was fourteen when she ran away from home--but that isn't anything I did on purpose. Or anything I even noticed. (If I'd noticed, I would have made somebody's horrible climacteric happen when they were fifteen or thirteen, precisely in order to avoid this excessive piece of patterning.)

Q: Does Kay's name come from any place in particular? I remember thinking 'Oh! King Arthur name!' when I first heard about him, but considering how common the name 'Kay' is outside of the myth, I'm not entirely sure that's accurate.

A: Bizarrely, I cannot remember how I came up with Kay's name. The character was originally named Francis Posthumus Ingraham and nicknamed Kit. Then for a while his name was Julian. I think it may briefly have been something else. (I have a weird relationship with names. If the name isn't right, I cannot write the character.) I know that when I came up with Kay, it was immediately and obviously the right name, but I don't know why I came up with Kay in the first place.

I certainly got the name from the Arthurian legends, though.

Q: Now that there aren't any more trolls in the Iskerye, what will the wolfcarls and the trellwolves do? (You don't have to answer if this is spoilerly for the sequel.)

A: You are correct. This is spoilery for the sequel.

Q: I think this is going to get spoilery )

Q: When does Felix's relationship with Iosephinus Pompey begin? I assume that when he first came to the Mirador with Malkar, Malkar wouldn't have been too keen on letting Felix have another wizard as a mentor, but when we meet Felix it seems as though Iosephinus has been dead for quite some time.

A: Felix became Iosephinus's protege after he got out from under Malkar (we will now pause while everyone gets their mind out of the gutter), which was when he was 19. Iosephinus died when Felix was 22.

Q: Do you have books you would call "guilty pleasure" reads? Thanks.

A: Not so much anymore, between my ridiculously high standards for prose and the problems I'm having reading fiction at all, but for a long time Weis & Hickman were a guilty pleasure. There were a couple Patricia Matthews bodice-rippers that I found as a teenager which definitely counted. A great deal of the fanfiction I've read also falls into that category. Basically, if I'm reading something in order to wallow in the angst or sex (bonus points for both), it feels like a guilty pleasure.

... which I suppose means that one reason I don't need as much guilty pleasure reading as I used to is that I'm writing it. I'm not sure whether to be delighted or appalled.

Q: After reading Corambis I wanted to ask if you had read Georgette Heyer, as that is the only place I ( as a person not well read in eme) had come across language use similiar to Kay's. So I was very excited to know that your Heyer covers are wearing off! Would you cite her novels as an active influence?

A: Yes. Particularly Venetia, which is my favorite of her books, but which also showed me what geekery could look like in a pre-modern setting. Felix has a lot of Damerel and Aubrey in him.

Q: How exactly does the ritual of pentinence look like? what are the differences between the Caloxian and Corambian ritual, if there are any?

A: What I know about it is what's in the book.

Q: spoilerish for Corambis )

Q: If that has been asked/answered before I'm very sorry, but here goes: Are Eadian and Caddovian also minorities in Corambis like the Caloxians? Are they just names for the population in different parts (like Alaskians, Texans etc.) If they are minorities taken over by Corambis when did that happen?

Also you allude to the fact that Eadians are better versed in the holy scriptures/Corallines. Why is that?

A: Eadian and Caddovian are the analogues of High Church and Low Church Episcopalians. Most Caloxans are Eadian (High Church), while most Corambins are Caddovian (Low Church). Somewhere back in the religious history of Corambis and Caloxa, there must be prelates named Eades and Caddow (like Archbishop Laud in our world) who headed these rival factions and thus gave their names to them.

Q: What exactly does Challoner say about Caballine wizards?

A: I don't know exactly--which would be why I avoided having any direct quotes from Challoner.

Q: In that hatching-egg calming exercise, what exactly do the three animals represent?

A: Courage, cunning, and ruthlessness.

Q: Felix showed interest in the healing magic of the Corambian society. Would he have an aptitude for it considering he is an noirant magician?

A: You're applying the metaphor of noirant/clairant too literally. Yes, Felix could certainly learn healing magic if he wanted to.

Q: I know you said you don't know the further story of the people at the Mirador after the end of the third book, but do you think Stephen would inquire if Felix ever made it to Esmer?

A: Yes. Stephen is far too conscientious not to. Also, several people near to him would want to know.

spoilers for Corambis )

Q: Dark Sister and House... just sound absolutely riveting. (Though I am STILL reeling from that poor straight boy having to channel an alpha female wolf in heat...who knows what you'll do to this seventh son? : - ) I predict male pattern baldness.) Weretigers - really? And Elf baseball? When might these lovelies be buyable? Or is that a silly question?

A: No, it's not a silly question, but you do have to understand that all of these stories are still vaporware. So I have to write them first, and then sell them (or sell them and then write them, as is also a possibility), and then they have to go through the production process, etc. etc. So, for the stories that are currently utterly unwritten (which would be all of the ones you mention in your question) and assuming, as I have learned to assume, that I need at least 18 months to write a book, and two years would be better, the earliest you could POSSIBLY see one of them in print--and that's if I got struck by inspirational lightning or a contract today--would be 2012. But since both the inspirational lightning and the contract are highly unlikely, I'm afraid my best advice to you is not to wait underwater.

And okay. That's all the questions that have come in as of May 12, 1:13 P.M. CDT. You may continue to ask questions; if you do, I'll certainly continue to answer them. Thank you!

[Ask your question(s) here.]

Q&A 26

May. 11th, 2009 10:59 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Q: I'd always been skeptical of dual-author novels, but I loved A Companion to Wolves. What are the logistics of writing a novel with another author? Do you each write different sections? It all flows together so smoothly, I'm wondering how it was assembled.

A: The way collaborating with [livejournal.com profile] matociquala works (and we've now written three short stories, one YA novel, and one adult novel together and are working on another novel) is that one of us starts, writes until she gets bored and/or stuck, and emails it to the other. Who then reads what's there, tweaking and fiddling as she goes, and then writes new material until she gets bored and/or stuck, and then emails it back. Lather, rinse, repeat. It looks seamless because our process is sort of like a rock-polishing tumbler; it polishes off all the quirks and rough edges and idiosyncracies.

(The exception to this rule is "The Ile of Dogges," in which Bear wrote the story and I wrote the Jonson pastiche.)

Other collaborative teams work differently. Certainly, our method works in large part because we can--and do--email each other back and forth several times a day.

Q: You've mentioned that you have a number of (writing) projects going at any given time, and you've also mentioned that this isn't always a good thing. How many projects do you generally have going at once? Also, if you could limit how many projects you work on, would you? Or do you think that that would interfere with your creativity?

cut for a long list )

And that's probably about normal. I'm never actively working on more than two or three things at once--and that's on a good day--but I always have this overwhelming myriad of things I want to write.

Q: You've discussed your stance on fan fiction, but what about on fan art? Would you want to be alerted to fan art of your characters?

A: I have no objections to fan art; I'm flattered, if slightly puzzled, by it. If you want to show your fan art to me, you're welcome to do so, but there's no obligation there, either.

Q: Any chance you'd ever write a snippet of one of romance novels about Mélusine? Would it be as hilarious?

A: It would be very different. I don't think I could do it properly.

Q: Is there anything that we could do as fans to help you get "The Virtu" back in print?

A: Honestly, I don't know. I don't know what input Ace pays attention to.

Q: Assuming your readers had a great deal of time and money to spare, where in the world would you send them to get a better idea of the various types of architecture we've seen in your DoL series?

A: 1. Vienna. It and Athens are the only two major cities I've spent much time in (3 weeks in each case), and Vienna's architecture and ambiance made a much deeper impression on me than that of Athens. Also Vienna's subway system, the U-Bahn.

2. However, comma, the excavations in Athens, and particularly the work of the forensic paleoanthropologists, are what gave me the idea for the Mammothium.

3. Paris. Sort of around the edges of Vienna.

4. Daphni, Mystras, and Methoni (which, yes, is also where I got Methony's name).

5. Mont St. Michel.

6. Any time there's an archaelogical site, I'm probably thinking of the sites on Crete.

That'll do for a start. *g*

The next querent has asked me to explain the climax of Corambis. So really. Seriously. Spoilers ahead.


Q: What is Phoenix? I thought it was an opiate for a while, but now I'm not sure. And along those lines, how addictive is it? I'm guessing not very, because Malkar giving Felix some of it in the beginning of Mélusine didn't cause a relapse (though I can understand if his madness counteracted this in some way?), and he can still drink alcohol, later in the story.

A: It's a MacGuffin, for shooting tigers in Scotland.

It's like an opiate, yes. And it's actually quite addictive; part of the reason Felix is so exceedingly fucked up after Malkar betrays him back to the Mirador is that he's going through withdrawal. But he's in no condition to recognize it at the time, nor in any condition to describe accurately what he's going through.

[Ask your question(s) here.]

Q&A 25

May. 10th, 2009 10:31 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Q: What is the strangest thing a fan has ever said/done/requested to/of you?

A: The person (who knows who she is) who said she'd want Booth as a boyfriend. I still just find that kind of mind-boggling.

Q: What's your stance on fanfiction in general, and in regards to the Doctrine of Labyrinths in particular?

A: Long answer here.

Short answer: I don't mind if you write fanfiction of my work, but please don't tell me about it.

Q: I'm rereading The Bone Key now, and I've been noticing bits of worldbuilding... the Twenty, etc. How close is Booth's world to ours? (take it however you want, I'm not sure what the question is) And do you plan to deal more with his family history?

A: Booth's world is our world, except for the part where I'm making up all the details instead of trying to fit him into an existing city's existing history. (Well, and except for the ghouls and revenants and working necromancy and ... ) The last time I did Q&A, someone offered the really neat suggestion that Booth's world in the world created by the literature of the 1920s and 1930s, particularly mystery and horror, and I like that idea a lot.

Q: I'm curious about the Titan Clocks. Do you know anything else about them? Are they innately awful? Why they were built? What they do (other than tell time...they do tell time, right?)? Do you know more about Nemesis' haunting? Does the Bastion live tolerably well with Juggernaut?

A: They're made out of human bone, among other materials, and so, yes, their tendency to collect mikkary and noirance and ghosts and madness is innate.

I don't know exactly why they were built. I assume there was an Ur-Clock in Cymellune, and if I knew more about that, I might be able to tell you.

They only sort of tell time. (spoilers for Corambis ))

I really did put everything I knew about Nemesis into the books.

The Juggernaut Clock isn't driving anyone in the Bastion mad, but I do think it's one reason the Bastion is so notably dystopian.

Q: Is it by accident that Felix and Mehitabel both have names of cats?

A: Certainly I know both those names because of cats, but that isn't why I gave them to my characters. Felix was named in spite of Felix the Cat. Mehitabel's name was originally Hephzibah, but I just couldn't work with it. Mehitabel is almost equally cumbersome, but subjectively, I find it prettier.

[Ask your question(s) here.]

Q&A 24

May. 9th, 2009 09:54 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
Q: Who is that guy on the cover of Corambis? I'm guessing it is supposed to be Kay, but I don't remember him chained up like that. Nice pants, though.
(I know you don't get a lot of say about the covers.)

A: "Not a lot" would be "none," actually. And, yes, that's Kay.

Q: I know you've answered several questions on the origins of Mildmay's voice, as well as where his dialect came from, but if you've answered your inspiration for the character, I've sadly missed it, and I apologize. That said, did you have any specific inspirations for the character of Mildmay, or was he as an "entirely original creation" as any of us can manage, realistically?

A: Like most things in fiction that really work, Mildmay is the confluence of several sources. (Fiction as river delta. Discuss.) One is Joan Vinge's character Cat, who was the first antihero I ever encountered (I was twelve or so when I read Psion. Top of my head came off.) And, being as indoctrinated into the conventions of the genre as anyone, I'd made several efforts to write a story about an urban thief. The immediate inspiration for Mildmay, though, goes something like this: I was browsing in the small sff section of the university bookstore and read the back copy of a pink-and-purple fantasy.* I don't remember what the book was, but the protagonist was an assassin. And I stood there for a moment thinking that assassins really shouldn't be protagonists in pink-and-purple fantasy, and I got a line of prose in my head, the way I sometimes do: Assassination is a filthy business. Which is more Philip Marlowe than Mildmay, but I did manage to work it around into this exchange in Corambis:

"Prostitution is a filthy business."
"So's murder for hire," I said.
(p. 188)

And that's Mildmay's origin: I wanted to write a fantasy assassin/thief who was fully aware that his job was ugly and wrong.

*When I've told this story before, people have asked what I mean by pink-and-purple fantasy; it's a subgenre, really of fantasy cover art, which uses that particular palette: Jim C. Hines' The Stepsister Scheme has an excellent example of a pink-and-purple cover. And the color scheme tends to reflect something about the novels, although of course that's as unreliable as any other correlation between cover art and book. But seriously. Can you imagine my books with pink-and-purple covers? (N.b., do I need to say that this isn't a value judgment? I write dark angstful psychosexual drama. Jim doesn't. When I point out that a duck isn't a ferret, or a catfish isn't a wallaby, I'm not saying anything bad about either party.)

Q: is it a coincidence that Methony sold Felix around the time Mildmay was born (I seem to recall Felix is 6 years older than Mildmay)or was there a particular reason, like she was in a position to take care of one child, but not two. Which leads me on to my next question - was there another sibling?

A: Felix (who is, yes, six years older than Mildmay) was sold when he was four, not when he was six. And, no, there is no other sibling.

Q: What is the difference between the obligation-de-sang and the obligation-d'ame?


Q: You mentioned that one difference between the obligation de sang and the obligation d'ame is that the one is wizard-wizard and the latter is wizard-annemer. Are there any other major differences? How did Felix break the obligation de sang when he left Malkar?

A: Well, the major difference would be that I never worked out exactly what the obligation de sang was. :) If you've read the books, you know as much about it as I do--aside from the things I can tell you flatly, like the part where it's not the same as the obligation d'âme. (The way my creativity works is, there are things that I know, and then there are things that I have to work out. Because my time and energy are not infinite, I tend not to work things out unless I have to.) The obligation de sang is a little like brainwashing and a little like the hazing rituals where gang members make a new member commit a crime so that the new member will be bound to the gang by his/her guilt, and the consent issues are clearly pretty murky; I think Felix consented to it in the beginning, but he didn't know what he was consenting to.

Q: What is the relationship between Tibernia, Vusantine and the Courterre (some or all of which I may have horrifically misspelled)? Sometimes I'm a little confused about which places are countries and which are places IN countries.

A: Tibernia is the country, Vusantine is its capital city, and the Coeurterre is the governing body of Tibernian wizards. It's associated with a particular campus of buildings in Vusantine, but the buildings aren't the Coeurterre, just its home.

[Ask your question(s) here.]


truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)

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