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By Patrick (2006-06-10)
Q: What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
Jacqueline Carey: Versatility. I love all aspects of the writing process -- character development, plotting, world-building and handling language. I think it allows me to write with the depth and richness I crave as a reader, while still telling a compelling story.
Q: The world of your Kushiel novels is clearly modeled off of our own. What were some of the primary difficulties in building such a setting for your story? What were some of the benefits?
JC: Research, research, research! Writing alternate historical fantasy, Iím not held to a standard of unrelenting accuracy, but there is a high standard of plausibility. I may be picking and choosing among different cultures, nations and histories Ė cafeteria-style world-building, one of my readers dubbed it Ė but I have to weave all of it together into a plausible whole that aficionados of history will enjoy rather than disparage. On the upside, it means thereís a wealth of great material out there for me to draw on to find the perfect details to bring my world to life.
Q: What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write KUSHIEL'S SCION in the first place?
JC: Iíd had the idea since I first conceived the overall arc of the previous book in the series, Kushielís Avatar. Imriel, whoís a boy when it ends, is a character with so much baggage and dramatic potential. I thought it would be fascinating to continue his story, to see how he overcomes the trauma of the past and wrestles with unwanted desires and unfulfilled yearnings.
Q: What are some of the challenges to coming back to a world, and a set of characters, with a new series?
JC: For me, the primary challenge was making the transition to a different protagonistís mind and looking at a very familiar world through a new set of eyes. Itís a big switch, especially since I was going from the POV of an adult woman to an adolescent boy. I very much wanted Imrielís voice to be authentic and his own.
Q: Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters do you find the most unpredictable to write about?
JC: I know thatís true for many writers, but Iím a stern taskmistress. Thereís not a lot of wiggle room in my plots, so I keep my characters on a tight leash. That said, Imrielís villainous mother, Melisande Shahrizai, is always especially fun to write because she unsettles everyone around her without losing her composure.
Q: From when Kushielís Dart was first published until now, have you noticed any change in the popular reception to your books in terms to some of your themes and content?
JC: Not to my books specifically, but in the five years since Dart was released, the subgenre of paranormal romance has grown tremendously and gotten more adventurous. Elements that were unusual and subversive in my work, like the strain of dark eroticism, are a lot more commonplace now.
Q: How do you approach writing about Politics in a fantasy setting? Is there a place for current politics or social issues in your writing?
JC: Oh, absolutely! Everything Iíve written since Avatar has been against the backdrop of war out there in the real world. The Sundering duology came out of my desire to question the implicit acceptance of dualism thatís prevalent in epic fantasy. In my own way, I was writing about the need to "win hearts and minds" before Americaís invasion of Iraq turned it into a media catchphrase. At one point, Kushielís Scion ponders the question of whether itís necessary to destroy a thing in order to save it.I think itís important not to write pedantically, but rather let the issues emerge organically from the story itself. Once an author climbs onto a soapbox, s/he often ceases to entertain. And I donít always have the answers. Sometimes itís enough to ask the questions.
Q: What made you choose to write in the fantasy genre? Were there any perceived conventions you wanted to twist or break?
JC: Iíve loved fantasy since I was little. The first book to really make me think was Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander, from the Prydain Chronicles. The protagonist Taran tries his hand at a multitude of skills Ė shepherd, weaver, smith Ė and finds he has a knack for all of them, except the one craft he falls in love with: pottery. He finds the thing that makes his heart soar, and heís denied it. At ten years old, that was a "Whoa!" moment for me. You donít always get what you want in life, you donít always get your heartís desire. The fact that a childrenís fantasy novel could teach me a profound life lesson got me hooked.
But yeah, I do like to overturn conventions. In The Sundering, I rewrote epic fantasy as high tragedy. In the first Kushiel trilogy, I took all the heroine-as-victim tropes and tried to turn them inside out.