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Friday, November 23, 2012

Interview with Rachel Aaron (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Read FBC's review of "The Spirit Thief
Read FBC's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read FBC's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
Read FBC’s review of “The Spirit War” 
Read FBC’s review of “Spirit’s End” 
Read previous FBC Interview with Rachel Aaron
(Photo Credit: Marshal Zeringue)

Rachel Aaron was a debutante author nearly two years ago however with the release of Spirit’s End three days ago, she brings to an end to her wonderful series that has enthralled and gained many readers with each book. The following interview can be considered as a follow-up to the previous interview and has a lot of spoilers in regards to the series’ main plot, world history, her new series and much much more. Please be WARNED that reading the interview before finishing Spirit’s End will most likely ruin the read. For those who have read the entire series, this is the inside-info jackpot, get ready to have your mind blown with all the revelations and tidbits about the world

Q] With the release of Spirit’s End next week, this release heralds the end of your debut series. Nowadays with so many debut authors struggling to cap off their series, What do you think was your secret to finishing yours?

RA: Orbit's commitment to their authors! I actually sold the final two books to the Eli series shortly after turning in the third book, The Spirit Eater. The series hadn't even come out yet, but Orbit is the sort of publisher that's still committed to growing their authors and supporting their list even if the first books aren't best sellers. That's a rare thing and something to be celebrated, I think. I am very very happy they believed in Eli so strongly and extremely thankful that I got to finish his story.

Now, if you're talking about the actual writing part of finishing a series, that actually wasn't so hard. I knew from the very beginning how the series ended, so Spirit's End was mostly a roll down hill for me. I might not have known exactly how I would get there, but I always knew where I was going with Eli, and that let me weave the story much tighter than I could have if I'd played it by ear. It's much easier to look like you know what you're doing when you actually do know what you're doing, more or less.

Q] Many readers feel that your series began on a lighter manner/tone and ended on a much different one. What’s your say on such thoughts?

RA: I can understand their complaints, and I do believe they are legitimate concerns, but if I had it to do again, I'd probably make the first books a little darker rather than make the later books lighter. Since I always knew where the story was going, the darker trend wasn't a surprise for me. Eli's history was in place from book 1, draft 1, and it's a pretty dark story. He's got a lot going on under that charming exterior, and when you start getting into that, naturally, the books are going to get darker.

That said, I think the thing I'm most proud of in the Eli books is how the characters stayed true to themselves even while things were going crazy. As one of my Goodreads reviews said, “the world might be ending, but Eli's still Eli.” In the end, I think this is the core of the series, the fact that even though the world is getting pretty scary, Eli, Josef, Nico, and Miranda are still the same people we fell in love with in The Spirit Thief. In that aspect at least, I don't think the books changed at all. It's the same folks, they just had to put on their serious pants for the grand finale.

Q] In my review of Spirit’s End, I had noted that Benehime’s character felt a bit shortchanged. Obviously you needed an all-powerful villain but from a character’s standpoint do you think her actions were justified?

RA: Oh, Benehime. I felt very, very sorry for her. One of the things I try to do all of my villains is make them understandable. I wanted people to empathize with her, because in a lot of ways, she is a victim. At the same time, a great deal of her suffering is self inflicted. Everything that made her a villain was her own choice, and there are several places in the novel where she's offered a way out... and (not to spoil anything) she doesn't take it.

In a way, her story is very common. She wanted the one thing she couldn't have, and she destroyed herself trying to possess it. Her story was one of obsession and loneliness, and as I said, I pity her very much. But I still think she made the wrong decision at pretty much every turn, and she paid for it. That was what I tried to show, that her decision to be cruel and selfish, to not consider the feelings or wants or well being of others, it was these things that made her a villain. Redemption was always there, but she couldn't bring herself to take it, and that's the true tragedy of Benehime.

So, to answer your question, I don't think she was short changed (because she could have stopped being the villain at any point), but I do feel very sorry for her. She really did love Eli, and she was a very loving and good person at one point. But then, this is why all powerful beings probably shouldn't have feelings: personal problems become worldwide disasters!

Q] I noticed that your next series is under a partial pseudonym, what prompted this change?

RA: Orbit requested it for a few reasons. My new series is a Science Fiction action adventure romance staring an extremely badass female powered armor mercenary. Devi, my main character, is a very in your face kind of lady, and while she is charming in her own rough way, she's definitely not Eli. (Funny story, the Devi and Eli in my head actually dislike each other a lot. I think it's because they both want to be the main character.) Also, the series features a strong romance, sex, lots of firefights, and cursing, which is a decided shift from the much more PG Eli books. It's still not as adult as, say, Joe Abercrombie, but the Devi books are definitely not appropriate for my younger readers.

With so many differences in tone and style plus the switch in genres, Orbit wanted to start me over. The Rachel Bach name was my suggestion since Bach is my husband's last name and he helped me enormously in the creation of Devi's world. That said, if you enjoyed the Eli series (especially the fights) and aren't offended by some cursing and chopping aliens in half, you'd probably like Devi. She and Josef would have a great time together! Also, powered armor is just cool. Not enough books have badass powered armor.

Q] Continuing from the previous question, the blurb for Fortune’s Pawn, the first book of the Deviana Morris series is intriguing to say the least. Can you tell us about the story and more about the world its set in?

RA: Absolutely! Actually, I think the new blurb sums it up nicely:

"All her life, powered armor mercenary Deviana Morris has wanted one thing: to join the Devastators, the most elite armor unit on her home planet of Paradox. But it’s hard to get noticed on a planet of billions. To speed things up, Devi takes a job aboard the Glorious Fool, a trade ship so dangerous that one year of service on its security team counts as five anywhere else."

"The ship’s terrible record doesn't worry Devi at first, but when the captain starts sending her into impossibly dangerous situations no trader should ever get into, she beings to suspect that the Glorious Fool’s problems are more than bad luck. But with her career on the line, Devi’s determined to keep her nose down, despite her growing concern about the captain's strange missions, his creepy silent daughter, and the ship’s insufferably sexy cook, Rupert Charkov, who is definitely more than what he seems. Maybe even more than human."

"With the mysteries piling up and life on the Fool getting more dangerous by the second, Devi’s knows she’s going to have to get some answers fast, before all the secrets send her home in a body bag."

Basically, Devi, our fearless heroine, is determined to jump to the front of the line on her career. To this end, she takes a very dangerous job aboard a trade ship that is, of course, more than what it seems. That said, the Devi books read much more like urban fantasy than hardcore military SciFi. They're still very much science fiction, but more in the Anne McCaffrey / Joss Whedon vein than Heinlein or Herbert. So if you like your space adventures with lots of action, character drama, mystery, and romance, Devi just might be for you. Fortune's Pawn, comes out next May, and I can't wait. It's going to be AWESOME. 

Q] Another funny thing I noticed was that the question regarding Eli’s bounty neatly got sidetracked in the climatic events of the last two books. Do you believe Eli can ever reach that milestone?

RA: He's going to hit a million gold or die trying. He just had to go deal with all that pesky end of the world nonsense, but now he's back on track for what's REALLY important: making his numbers bigger. Eli is a very goal driven individual!

And if he ever does hit a million gold, he'll start going for two million. It's the journey, not the destination.

Q] Let’s talk about some spoilery stuff, what do you think has actually happened in the outside? How did the world come about to be as it is? Who created the powers? 

RA: *SPOILERS* This was the first thing I worked out. Humans are actually a very new addition to this world, it used to be the spirits and the demons who balanced each other in a predator/prey relationship. There was also a Creator who created new spirits as they were eaten, so though the world was constantly being destroyed, it never got any smaller. However, one day, the balance shifted. Demons started eating more, and the Creator couldn't keep up.

I don't actually know what changed, but once it got rolling, the problem grew exponentially. In the end, the Creator realized his entire creation was going to be gobbled up, so he made a life boat, the world as we know it. But it was too small for him to actually fit into. So he made three children out of his own body, the Powers, and put them inside to keep an eye on things while he stayed out to try and put the world back to equilibrium. It's like a father putting his three kids in a life boat and pushing them away from the sinking ship, saying “I'll see you soon,” but then he never comes back. This is the saddest part of the Eli world for me, because it was only supposed to be temporary. It was a life boat, not a home. The idea was that the demons would starve with nothing to eat, which would solve the imbalance and the spirits could come back out. But that never happened, and so the temporary fix became permanent. Benehime and her brothers got stuck doing their jobs forever with no rest, and it made them a little crazy.

The Eli world is only about ten thousand years old, and it really is a bubble floating in the blackness while monsters gnaw on it, trying to get the food inside. Honestly, it's a very scary place, and even now that the power has been divided and spirits are no longer doomed to fall into entropy, the underlying problem hasn't really been solved.

Q] What about sequels, would you ever want to return to this fascinating world, now that no human is spirit-deaf anymore?

RA: Right now I don't have any plans to do more books in the Eli world, but I'm not going to rule them out completely. As I just said above, the real problem of the world hasn't actually been fixed. The Lord of Storms is the Hunter now, and spirits and humans are actually able to work together for the first time, but the demons are still out there and the creator is still lost. So if I ever did do another book, I'd probably deal with this problem. Trouble is, it wouldn't be an Eli book. He's done with all this heroic nonsense. So that kind of dampens my enthusiasm.

Q] In your previous interview, you mentioned that Eli’s world has a Sun and Moon but does not orbit a star. I found that to be a very neat thing, what more can you tell us about this strange world vis-a-vis such quirky facts?

RA: I envision their world more like a diorama than a real universe. There used to be a sun and a moon and all that normal stuff, but it all got eaten ages ago, so there is literally NOTHING outside. Everything the people see inside the sphere is just a projection to keep up the appearance of normalcy. It really is just a painted sky, which was something I played on during the climactic final battle to drive home just how screwed we were. Lots of fun!

Q] As a writer, you debuted with fantasy. What other genres do you want to write in? Conversely what are the genres that you don’t want to venture in?

RA: Well, Science Fiction, obviously, though I've been told I write SciFi like fantasy, so take that as you will. I'm very interested in YA and middle grade urban fantasy and fantasy, as well as some near future Science Fiction (the Devi books are written a thousand years out, so they might as well be another universe).

I've had some great ideas for non-genre books, but every time I try to write one, I get bored half way through and quit. Genre is what I love and I really don't think I'll ever leave it. I need my magic an my space ships!

Q] I liked reading Spirit’s Oath, which was about how Miranda and Gin’s first met each other. Any chance you will be exploring the other characters via such prequel shorts?

RA: I originally had three planned. Miranda's was the first, then a short for how Eli and Josef met, then a really funny little bit about Giuseppe Monpress and Alber Whitefall having this catty, protracted fight over an opera box when Eli was a teenage apprentice thief (which, admittedly, might have been only funny to me because the older Monpress and Whitefall are two of my favorite characters who didn't get nearly enough page time).

Unfortunately, I'm really really bad at writing short fiction. I've always been a novelist, and whenever I try to go shorter, I'm never happy with it. It always comes out somehow too long but still feeling rushed. I still want to tell these stories, so I'm not going to say these won't get written, just that novels are my first love and priority.

Q] You also recently released a non-fiction book, could you expound how it came together?

RA: Yes! I have an ebook called 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love based off my “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day” blog post that went crazy viral last year and other successful posts. All the posts were cleaned up and expanded for publication, plus I added a few new additions on things like character development and story structure just for the ebook.

I mostly wrote this book because I had a lot people asking me writing questions, and my blog just wasn't doing the job. It was too hard to read posts in order, and organization was just a pain. I really wanted to have something I could just give someone and say “you want to know how I write fast? Here!”, and since books were what I knew, a book was what I wrote.

It was also a great way for me to experiment with self publishing, something I've always been kind of interested in but never had a chance to really try. And I've got to say, Amazon has made it stupidly easy to put out a book. Also, I love being able to track my own sales in real time, something you just can't do in traditional publishing.

The book is $0.99, which I think is a perfect price seeing as it's only 30,000 words long. Also, I feel it's vital to have a low barrier to entry for new writers since so many of us have very little disposable income and writing books can be such a gamble. So far, the response has been absolutely wonderful. I've had tons of writers tell me that my book helped them double their word count, which never fails to make my day. I'm really, really happy I wrote the book and I hope it continues to help writers meet their goals. After all, I'm a huge reader as well as a writer, and more writers writing faster means more books for me!

Q] With the recent flurry of releases in the fantasy genre, readers are always on the lookout for new books and authors. Who would be your favorites amongst your contemporaries and any new authors that you have taken a shine to?

RA: Oh gosh, let's see. Well, I've been nursing a serious girl crush on N.K. Jemisin, who's been cementing her reputation as a non-stop awesome factory lately. Seriously, is this woman capable of writing a story that doesn't make it into my all time favorites folder? Also, I just finished and adored Jim Hines new book, Libriomancer, and while it's not really a new release, I really enjoyed J.M. McDermott's Dogsland books. Especially Never Knew Another, which gets my vote for having one of the best titles in modern fantasy and is a spectacularly creepy read.

Those are just a few, but it's really hard to decide. There's just so so so much good fantasy out right now and so little time to read. Oh, such problems to have!

Q] What’s next for you in terms of new projects? Can you tell us anything about the book, which you are currently writing?

RA: Right now I'm finishing up the third Devi Morris book, Heaven's Queen, which is due in January and, being the end of the series, is one hell of a wild ride. Once that's over, though, I'm actually out of contracted work, so it'll be time to think up something new. I'm toying around with a few YA fantasy ideas, but I don't have anything definitive yet.

Even though I'm using Rachel Bach for my SciFi books, though, I'm keeping my blog as Pretentious Title and my Twitter handle as @Rachel_Aaron because I'm just too dug in to switch. That said, I'll be doing all sorts of new writing stuff, Eli updates, and give aways there for the foreseeable future. So come follow me, you'll be in good company!

Thank you so much for the interview. As always, it was a total blast!


M. R. Mathias said...

Nice Interview!

The Reader said...

Thanks M.R.


Elfy said...

For some reason Spirit War never appeared on booksheleves down here. I waited until Spirit's End came out and ordered both from overseas. I look forward to reading the end of what was a fresh and enjoyable new series.


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