Hello, I’m Elizabeth Noble and thank you for joining us today on for joining Genre Talk here on The Novel Approach Reviews. Let’s all give a big, warm howdy to DSP Publications author Amy Rae Durreson who’s here to talk about her epic fantasy release Recovery. First, let’s get a look at what the book’s about.
Resistance, exile, plague. Raif has survived them all, but now he finds himself in search of a new purpose. Traveling north to wake the dragon Arden, he hopes he has finally found a leader worthy of his loyalty, but Arden turns out to be more of a frivolous annoyance than an almighty spirit lord. Now bound to Arden’s side despite his frustration, Raif follows the dragon to the rich and influential lagoon city of Aliann, chasing rumors of the Shadow that once cursed his homeland.
With the election of a new duke at stake, Raif struggles to make sense of the challenges he meets in Aliann: a conspiracy of nixies and pirates, selkie refugees in desperate need of a champion, a monster that devours souls, a flirtatious pirate prince, and a machine that could change the world. For nothing in the city of masks is what it seems, from the new friends Raif makes to the dragon he follows—or even himself.
Elizabeth: Amy, would you tell us about your genre?
Amy: I write epic fantasy, complete with dragons and ancient powers returning to the world. I like my heroes to be brave and determined (if occasionally a little too perfectionist for their own good), my romances sweeping, and my villains powerful enough to destroy the world (or at least the wealthiest city in it, with all the consequences that would result).
Elizabeth: Now, for some details about Recovery.
Amy: Recovery was a chance to do something different in an already established world. I’d already written two books exploring this world and the gods and dragons who populate it, but both Reawakening and Resistance were set in a relatively small area, within two countries which were a long way from the most powerful and influential cities of that world. Recovery let me explore the rest of the world and for the first time I followed a mortal character to see that world and the way it was changing through his eyes (the protagonists of the first two were a dragon and a god respectively). It’s a much bigger, more complicated story than the first two—having the freedom to do that is one of the joys of writing in an established world.
Elizabeth: How would you define “diversity” in your writing, and how you explored it in this book?
Amy: For me, diversity in fantasy is the simple recognition that fantasy settings are never going to be a uniform culture. Wherever you look in history for inspiration, you will find evidence of cultural exchange, of people living far beyond the places where they were born, of a whole range of sexualities and gender identities. Why on earth wouldn’t you put that in a fantasy setting? It seems utterly bizarre to me that some fantasy writers make their worlds less interesting and diverse than reality—how boring! For this book, set in a trade city, multiculturalism was a given—and the relationships between the different ethnic groups in the city plays a role in the plot. Obviously, I have characters with a range of sexualities and gender as well, and it’s not seen as worthy of more than passing comment in the book—characters are free to fall in love and flirt as they like (this occasionally throws my poor protagonist who has come from a much more reserved culture and is a little bit disconcerted that anyone gets to flirt in public).
Elizabeth: Recovery is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for genre novels that don’t necessarily focus on or even contain romance. Tell us about the relationship in Recovery and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Amy: I tend to think of my books as romances, but by the medieval definition of the word, not the modern one. They’re stories of adventure and magic, often testing their characters to their limits. Whilst they do always have strong Romance plotlines, they are just part of the story, not the main impetus for it. Recovery is very much the story of Raif going out into the world and finding out who he is and how to meet or challenge all the expectations that have been placed upon him. Falling in love is an integral part of that story, but he’s got other and often more complicated issues to work through, including a hydra that’s trying to eat him.
Elizabeth: Lightening Round!
Tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of Recovery?
Amy: Goodness, that’s going back a long time. Back in 2012 I wrote the first half of Reawakening as a Nanowrimo novel. I’d introduced Raif as a very minor character and he’d hovered in the background for a few chapters. Then he and Tarn, the hero of that book, had a conversation about religion that made me sit up and think, Oh, maybe this book could be part of a series. I jotted down a few ideas as I wrote but hadn’t really thought about which story to write next until near the end of Reawakening. There’s a conversation there where Tarn discovers that Raif, this polite, serious young man who has been acting as his guide, is actually a wanted resistance fighter. It goes like this:
“The resistance?” Raif asked sharply. “You can reach them? Our letters have gone astray these three months.”
“They have strayed into dangerous hands,” Omay said. “You are as much a wanted man as your father, Suheyla’s son, and not least for the fires you set in Rulat last summer.”
Raif’s grin was pointed. “Poppies make good ashes.”
The exchange came out of nowhere, and I sat back immediately and thought, Oh, yeah. You’re next, kid.
I didn’t have a story for him, though. Then my editor for Reawakening asked me to write a glossary for the book. That got, well, a little out of hand, as those who have read the first two will know. I thought it would be fun to have an actual dragon leaving in-line comments on this pseudo-scholarly work about dragons and their history. That’s where Arden came from. I decided pretty fast that it would be fun to put the jokey dragon and the very serious mortal in the same place. I got a handful of scenes in my head and thought I was good to go.
But it didn’t work. There was too much unfinished business for Raif in his own country, and I ended up writing another story idea first, giving him a much bigger supporting role in Resistance, the second book. I eventually came back to an older, sadder Raif in 2015. It took a while to hammer out a storyline for him. By then I knew what a perfectionist he was, how brave he could be, and how very much he wanted to prove himself. I also knew from the glossary which city he and Arden would end up in after they met. The whole plot was then built around those ingredients—I used a few hundred post it notes, which I stuck all over the doors in my flat, and I then rearranged and added to them until I had an outline I wanted to write. That outline eventually became Recovery, although I discovered some other parts of the story along the way—Neirin, for example, wasn’t in the original outline.
Elizabeth: What do you do for fun? Do you have a pet who supervises your writing?
Amy: I work full-time as well so writing is my fun! I’m also a keen hiker and I squeeze out time to go on at least one longer trip each year, slinging my backpack on and heading out to explore. I’ve had several books come out of those trips, either through direct inspiration or simply because they give me the freedom and relaxation to just think, rather than focus on goals and to-do lists.
Elizabeth: How has your writing changed since you published your first book?
Amy: That’s a hard question. I don’t look back and reflect on my writing often enough—it’s a very useful thing to do, but it never works its way to the top of my to-do list. I’m certainly writing more complex stories now. I don’t think I could have managed the complex interweaving of subplots in Recovery even a few years ago. I’m also much more confident in my ability to structure a story and bring it to a successful close. I’ve been writing for a very long time, for many years before I was published. I’ve always been confident with character building, and world-building and description are two of my favourite things about writing, but it took me a long time to learn how to integrate all the different aspects of a story without losing momentum. It’s nice to realise I can do that easily now. That said, you never stop learning and it will be interesting to look back again in a few years’ time and see what else has changed.
Elizabeth: Do you write in different genres and if so how difficult is it to do?
Amy: I also write contemporary ghost stories. I find the combination really helpful as a writer. I tend to switch back and forth between the two genres which gives me more time to detach from each story. It’s hard to go from fantasy to fantasy, especially when writing in the same world, and still find the unique voice and story for each new set of characters. The change of mood and style in my spooky books serves as a refresher (and vice versa, of course). I’m currently three-quarters of the way through a ghost story set on the Scottish Borders, and I know I’ll be ready to go back to the next Reawakening book once that’s done.
Elizabeth: Amy, thank you for taking time to talk with us today. Many thanks to all the readers who join in Genre Talk on The Novel Approach. After this awesome excerpt there will be buy links and Amy’s social links.
Amy has also offered the chance for two people to win a copy of Reawakening for either following @amy_raenbow on Twitter or leaving a comment on this post. The Rafflecopter will run the contest for a week.
Long before dusk, the mists began to rise from the lagoon again, wreathing Aliann in tatters of gray and silver. By the time they left the embassy, well after dark, the lantern Oskan was carrying to light them to the boat only stained the fog around them yellow. The city seemed very quiet, even the lap of the tide against the wall oddly soft, and the air smelled foul, like dead fish and old shit.
“Low tide,” Oskan said, pulling his cloak around his shoulders more tightly. His mask was relatively simple, a scowling ceramic face, half-black, half-white, but he had changed into velvet robes, long-sleeved in a faintly Tiallatai style. “Careful on the steps. They get slippery in this weather. In truth, any weather that isn’t high summer.”
At the bottom of the steps, the boatman Oskan had hired for the evening was waiting. He too was masked, two red circles of cloth around his eyes.
Raif had seen foreigners react to the veiled faces of Tiallatai women with distaste and disgust, and had merely thought them arrogant and ignorant. Now, for the first time, he understood that there could be something more visceral in that reaction. It was hard to read men’s eyes when they were hidden behind masks.
They were different, he told himself uneasily. Veils protected private, secret things from all eyes save God’s. Masks were false faces presented to the world, a lie imposed upon his face by an arbitrary custom.
Of course he’d never had to wear a veil himself.
“Raif,” Arden said softly, holding out his hand to help Raif into the boat, “is all well?” With a golden sun mask covering his face, it was hard to tell how serious he was.
“Just thinking,” Raif said, taking his hand to step aboard. Arden’s fingers were warm and dry despite the fog, and Raif shook off his mood to sit on the cushioned bench beside him. Oskan settled opposite them and the boatman pushed off, sending them sliding slowly into the fog.
Within moments they had lost sight of the embassy lights. Voices drifted across the water, sourceless and strangely intimate even when distant, the speakers seemingly uncaring of any hidden listeners in the mist.
Sometimes a sudden glimmer of light warned them of another boat approaching. Both boatmen would burst into a sudden, raucous chant, half song, half swearing, as they slowed their rowing even further so they could slide past each other so gracefully that Raif didn’t think they feared collision as much as they enjoyed the excitement.
Other, more solid shapes coalesced out of the mist—short piers and mooring poles, balconies hanging above them, seemingly stranded in midair, vast stone lions, each with its jaws clamped around a fanged two-headed serpent.
The lions were familiar enough to Raif. Similar busts had once stood atop the gateposts in Taila, Tiallat’s capital, and were scattered at the edges of oases in the Alagard, remnants of the Zoraian Empire that had once dominated the lands around the Ala Sea.
He had never seen serpents associated with them before, though, and at the next one he asked Oskan, “What are those?”
“Don’t know the founding myth of Aliann?”
“No,” Raif said, biting back further comment. Would he have asked if he did?
“That’s the hydra,” Oskan said. Arden stiffened beside Raif. “The sea serpent that preyed upon the first settlers in the lagoon, oh, seven hundred years ago.”
Without a hint of laughter in his voice, Arden said, “No. The hydra died before the Fall of Eyr. I—” He shut his mouth on the word, and Raif wondered what he had intended to say.
I witnessed it?
I killed it?
About the Author
Amy has a terrible weakness for sarcastic dragons, shy boys with sweet smiles, and good pots of tea. She is yet to write a shy, tea-loving dragon, but she’s determined to get there one day (so far, all of her dragons are arrogant gits who prefer red wine). Amy is a quiet Brit with a degree in early English literature, which she blames for her somewhat medieval approach to spelling, and at various times has been fluent in Latin, Old English, Ancient Greek, and Old Icelandic, though these days she mostly uses this knowledge to bore her students. Amy started her first novel twenty-one years ago and has been scribbling away ever since. Despite these long years of experience, she has yet to master the arcane art of the semicolon.
Elizabeth: Our next guest comes to us on May 30, 2017. Bradly Lloyd is bringing us some scifi goodness!
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