How did “The Crowning of the Lord Tazenket, Vulture God of the Eye” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
Funnily enough this story started out as “Ariadne and Theseus in space”—at some point in the ideation stage it took a sharp left from its origin. I think if you squint you can still see bits of it, but Ihuet has a different fate and Tazenket is as different from Theseus as day is from night. But as my agent says, this is the ideal mechanic of inspiration. I never feel bound to where an idea comes from or what its first form is. I draw a lot of inspiration for the texture of my worlds from ancient civilizations in the Mediterranean. Part of this is that I’m Maghrebi, but most of it is that I love the texture and ritual of ancient civilization and I love its complexity. I find that its great grist for the mill of my imagination.
What is your writing process like? Did this story fit the pattern?
I always start with what I call a “scratch sheet” which is just a list of questions, ideas, and scenes I come to a story with. I usually poke at it for a while until I have a summary and from there I write out an outline, then begin drafting, knowing that significant parts of the outline will change and whole scenes will get moved around, excised, or re-imagined. For short stories once I have an outline I usually write them in a haze—a week to ten days—because I can see the structure so clearly and I want to excise it as quickly as possible. Tazenket was like that—from outline to first draft was about ten days, if not less.
What is your writing space like? What do you like to have around for optimal creativity?
I work from home and my work space is also my writing space. I have a great L-shaped desk, an enormous monitor, and a mechanical keyboard (Gateron brown switches—anything louder drives me nuts), and an enormous window behind me with a ledge for my cat. The number one thing I need when writing is music—its almost always movie soundtracks. Lately, I’ve had Dune ambience music running in the background. For Tazenket it was “Chevaliers de Sangriel” by Hans Zimmer, “The Wave” by Clinton Shorter, and “Cursed by Beauty” by Tyler Bates.
What are you reading lately? What writers inspire you?
Right now I’m reading Brotherhood of Kings by Amanda Podany, which is a history of diplomacy in the ancient Near East as we understand it through the archive of the Amarna letters. It might sound dry, but it’s truly fascinating. I think Tazenket makes it clear I love ritual, and these letters and the attendant archaeological history is chock-full of it!
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
I just wrapped another short story, so be on the lookout for that hopefully sometime in the future. After that, it’s back to revising the novel my agent signed me for!
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