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Your lifestyle, your quirk
Creativity has always fascinated me. I’ve spent hours wandering through author blogs, reading articles and entries about how writers craft their worlds, their characters, and their plots. Part of this is to help me improve my own skills – applying what I learn from my readings to my own craft – but part of it is just plain curiosity. There’s so many incredible stories out there. How do people come up with them?
My managing editor agreed with me, and thus the idea of author interviews came up.
We’re kicking off this exciting and hopefully thought-provoking new series with K.A. Krisko, whose debut fantasy novel Stolen was published earlier this year by Malachite Quills. As a full disclosure, I did not track Krisko down on my own; my managing editor is her editor over at Malachite Quills, and opened up communication between us.
I hesitated. I’m not usually a high fantasy gal, but Suz insisted that this fantasy was “different.” I began reading Stolen and found myself quickly drawn into the world Krisko had created. This definitely isn’t your typical high fantasy; I’m still not sure whether it takes place on our world in the far future, or some other planet, but the where doesn’t really matter. Even if you’re not a fantasy fan, I think you can recognize the depth of her Stolen universe.
The back cover copy will give you a good idea of the plot:
"In this forest, even the leaves have eyes...
As a young girl, Rioletta was kidnapped by a frightening changeling. Now she must seek him out to earn her place in society and save the lives of others. The time is coming for them to meet face to face..."
Rioletta and her compatriots inhabit a world that is very structured and orderly, and thus their thought processes and dialogue are structured and orderly. It’s not a book you can just breeze through; you must pay attention to the nuances to fully appreciate it. I was also excited to see a different take on magic – described as Skills – and the fact that the main characters tend to use brains over brawn in figuring out tough situations.
I don’t really have a word for it – cerebral fantasy, I guess? – but it’s fascinating and indeed very, very different from the typical fantasy fare available. I read the book and had plenty of questions for Krisko, who obliged me with some fantastic answers – so many that we had to split this article in half! The second half will appear next Saturday, but for now, enjoy this interview!
Your book Stolen showcases a society that has turned its back on technology during an event called “the Dispersal.” The world the characters inhabit has something similar to magic (called “Skills”) and sorcerers, but it’s definitely not your typical fantasy novel. Can you tell us a bit about the universe you’ve created, and where the idea came from?
Bits and pieces of this world have been bumping around in my head for ages. Things like the animated Leaves go all the way back to my teenage years. But the idea of a society that had to abandon their technology came about more recently, from wondering about what would happen if the constant communication we engage in today – via cell phones, email, Twitter, etc. – and the idea of "targeted marketing" tracking what we view online – interfaced with a kind of communicative magic to produce a hive-mind. Without too many "spoilers" for the second and third book, what if that hive-mind was something the society had been trying to avoid for years?
I wanted the characters to have to figure things out for themselves, to have to work at solutions, rather than fall back on magic all the time, so I limited the Skills both in natural scope and in their acceptability to society. To remain consistent, I wrote the Charter and the establishing legislation for the town of Andolith – they're both available on my website – and referred to them while I was writing.
How long have you been working on the Stolen stories?
Not that long, really. I first wrote Stolen as a short story – which later became the first chapter. It just came to me one day while I was driving to town – I had to drive back to town the following day, and I told myself the story on the way home with pretty much the same phrasing as you see in it now. I wrote the first chapter that evening in about three hours. After a two-week break, I realized there was a lot more to say and I had an idea of where I was going and what questions needed to be answered. I wrote Stolen during the next month and Crypt of Souls in another month or six weeks. The final book took a lot longer – I took a break in the middle. But I finished it that winter. That was 2010/2011.
Tell us a bit about the Stolen world. Whatever you like – whatever strikes your fancy!
It's mostly rural, but with the Ruined City looming in the background. I imagine the city half-hidden behind overgrown trees, with huge shining glass-walled buildings interspersed with gothic constructions and piles of ruins. There are large mountains to the north, and the northern woods are pines. Near Andolith, there's a tree line where the pines give way to oaks. Further south, the oaks are replaced by scrub brush and finally plains. The villages are small but efficient; they use wind and solar power, batteries, water power, and some other technologies. It's a comfortable life, but with something lurking in the background...
Rioletta is a very thoughtful heroine who uses the tools and abilities at her disposal to get through her problems. Can you tell us about her? How did she come about?
Rioletta is a very deliberately crafted character. She's the hardest for me to write because of that, even though most of the story is told through her eyes. I can't really write spontaneously about her. She's an agent of change, or of chaos, and she's increasingly isolated from a society that didn't believe her when she was a child and wants to conceal what she knows as an adult. I wanted her to be independent but not unfeminine; someone you could respect, but someone who doesn't have everything she needs and has to rely on the skills (and Skills!) of others to get where she's going.
The Lefollah are captivating antagonists (I hesitate to call them villains); while reading it, I wondered if they were based off a myth or legend?
Not to my knowledge – I think they're conglomerations of many stories and ideas. While they seem very bizarre and foreign, they hold the secret to the villagers' past. Perhaps they're not quite so different after all...
Your characters in Stolen have a very distinct way of speaking. How did you develop that?
It's kind of formal. I wanted them to sound not quite like us, since this takes place on a different world somewhere. And I wanted them to sound not quite modern – as if they are living in an era different from the one we live in. Communication for these people is both vital and dangerous – they have to be careful how they go about it. So they've developed a kind of formality to their speech that reflects their care.