This interview, slightly revised below, appeared recently on The Wonderings of One Person blog.
Please tell us a little bit about you.
Recently, after 10 science science fiction novels, I developed an interest in historical time-periods and decided to try my hand at historical fantasy. I have been a great admirer of Michael Moorcock’s Glorianna and Naomi Novik’s Tremeraire series as well as the American history fantasy novels of Orson Scott Card (Alvin Maker) and D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker Chronicles. At a time in my career when I was feeling the need to branch out from science fiction, I found myself with several intriguing ideas for quasi-historical settings laced with magic. I’m very energized by this new direction!
My first fantasy novel, A Thousand Perfect Things came out last August. It combines the reason of the Victorian Age with the magic of an alternate India. I’ve had some lovely comments and reviews on this book. Including these:
“A smart, engaging fantasy.” — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 100 best books of 2013
“A heady mix of romance, history, action and adventure–a real mélange of both exotic and domestic flavors, blended like a fine imported tea.” — The Sleeping Hedgehog
“Beautifully written, emotional, full of adventure, scandal and intrigue with a host of seriously cool, original monsters and exciting scientific ideas.” — Adventures in SciFi Publishing
My only series (so far) is the sci-fantasy quartet, The Entire and The Rose. Book One, Bright of the Sky, was one of Publishers Weekly’s top books of 2007. I’ve been a finalist for a number of awards in this genre — and last, but not least, I’m going to the World Science Fiction Convention in London in August!
Why did you choose to pursue the art of writing?
This may be an odd answer, but I think it was the last possible thing left for me. That is, I don’t think there’s anything else I’m very good at. I do love writing stories, fortunately!
What was the inspiration for AThousand Perfect Things?
The British Raj in India. I happened to pick up a book on that subject, and was fascinated with India’s beauty and resiliance. I had already decided that I would write a Victorian-era novel, but it was at that point that it shifted to a Victorian woman in India. What I love about fantasy mixed with history is that I can create unusual worlds that are still recognizable, and even famliar. Using the ground of history anchors the reader to something “real.” We can sink into, say, an 1857 English countryside manor, and feel that we know the place. From those recognizable surroundings we can then enjoy the slow unveiling of indigenous magic and extra-normal events. It’s not all totally new.
What kept you going throughout the writing process?
An outline. That sounds so ordinary, but honestly, on page 220 a writer is thankful for a path through the forest, even if it requires some adjustment as you get familair with the territory.
Is there a singular character that really touched your heart and why?
Tori Harding, my main character. She was the reason I wrote the story. I wanted to explore the ambitions and growth of a young woman of high (but thwarted) ability who found her way out of the maze of Victorian restrictions. Since I was also interested in the question of “having it all” and the way ambition can twist people, I was moved by Tori’s choices and her decisions. What do we do when we are offered ultimate power?
Can we expect to hear more from these characters in the near future?
I have two novels coming up that will not be set in the Victorian age. (One is set in a quasi-rennaissance milieu; another takes place in the 1930s.) So I have no plans for another Tori novel at this time.
How has this story touched your life?
As an author, you have to come to terms with your love of writing, the lottery-like chances of selling well, and your longing to create a great story that might turn out to be just a bit beyond your grasp. It is a crazy-making business if you’ve been around publishing long enough. How much success is enough? Why isn’t each novel as powerful as you first imagined it would be? How do recognize when it’s time to shift paths and take creative risks? These questions haunted me while writing A Thousand Perfect Things. At the end, I felt that I had been on a deep personal journey.