How does this story fit with your other works?
The story is set in the universe of the Spiritwalker Trilogy (Cold Magic et al, published 2010-2013), aka Afro-Celtic post-Roman Ice Age Regency-style fantasy adventure with Phoenician spies, hungry sharks, revolutionary sentiments, and lawyer dinosaurs. Over the last few years, I’ve been writing standalone short fiction set in this alternate history fantasy world to fill in events and details that fall outside the timeline of the trilogy itself.
Can you tell us what inspired you to write this story in particular?
Some months ago, a call went out for stories “celebrating masculinity” (you may recall the discussion that raced around Twitter and other spots online). As a feminist who has spent all of her career centering women in epic stories of adventure, I wanted to do my part. This story is a departure for me, featuring (as it does) only male characters (women are briefly mentioned but never seen). The main character, Magnus Diarisso, is in my opinion a fine role model for positive masculinity in a patriarchal, class-conscious, hierarchical society.
I really enjoyed the demonstration of contrasting masculine attitudes in this story, the two old men, one flashy and proud, one subtle and proud, the sensitive and vain teen, and the other insensitive and vain teens. And all of them in fear of the wise old women—ha! Did you set out to explore and contrast these kinds of common male attitudes or did that just happen in the course of writing?
The culture and characters already existed, as it were (in previous publications). So although this story takes place before the Spiritwalker Trilogy, I relied on my knowledge of the worldbuilding I had already set up for the larger cultural and familial relationships and attitudes. And while I did not deliberately set out to contrast the varying masculine attitudes, the characters were already there, with all that built-in conflict, which perhaps is why this story called to me.
Architecture and woodworking are both presented with authentic detail. Are you familiar or involved in either of those fields, or did you do research for this story?
Thank you! Alas, I have no carpentry training, although I have used a saw, hatchet, axe, and hammer back in the day. I had already done research on architecture (it’s a thing of mine), and for the second two Spiritwalker books I researched early nineteenth-century woodworking techniques and tools because they were important for the story. So I used that research as well as some very handy YouTube videos to decide on what details I could reasonably highlight. On this subject, however, I want to mention Juliet E. McKenna’s The Green Man’s Heir, a contemporary fantasy whose main character is a young (half dryad) man who works as a carpenter. The carpentry details are just fabulous. She really knows her stuff.
I loved young Andevai’s attitude toward pursuing perfection for its own sake. And while that is an excellent (if rare) quality in any vocation, I definitely sensed a message for the aspiring writers out there. Did you have that in mind? How important is that kind of self-motivation to a writing career?
No, that aspect of message never crossed my mind until this question! I specifically wrote the story to stand alone and be readable by people who have no familiarity with the Spiritwalker Trilogy (and of course by Spiritwalker fans as well). But in all honesty, I wanted to write the story to fill in some backstory of one of the major characters in the trilogy. In other words, I already knew Andevai’s character quite well from the novels, so my goal was simply to show him as he would have been at sixteen. In that sense, his situation is secondary to Magnus’s journey, which is the focus of the tale.
Having said that, I agree wholeheartedly that self-motivation and the willingness to keep working to get better are keys to a writing career, so if that is a message readers take from the story, then I’m good with it.
What recent and forthcoming works of yours can fans look for?
My most recent works are:
The M19 story arc for Magic: The Gathering, an origin story for one of the game’s biggest villains.
The Court of Fives trilogy, a YA fantasy I call “American Ninja Warrior meets Little Women in a setting inspired by Cleopatra’s Egypt.”
Black Wolves, epic fantasy with a bit of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and a bit of Dragon Age, whose main character is a snarky older woman in a position of authority who has had enough of your shit.
From Random House, “Bloom,” a story in Gardner Dozois’s final edited anthology, The Book of Magic. This tale is also set in the Spiritwalker Universe and, oddly enough, also features an older male POV.
From Tor Books, 2019:
Genderbent Alexander the Great as space opera.
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