In the past few months I’ve reviewed both of Rowena Cory Daniells’ trilogies published by Solaris. The first, King Rolen’s Kin, consisting of The King’s Bastard, The Uncrowned King, and The Usurper, was published in 2010. The second one, called The Outcast Chronicles, comprising Besieged, Exile, and Sanctuary, was published over the summer with the last instalment released in the UK today. I loved both series and since they both left me with some questions on their origins and the process of writing them, I decided to ask whether Rowena would be willing to answer some questions. She was gracious enough to agree and luckily wasn’t stymied by the amount of questions I posed her. I hope you find her answers as fascinating as I did.
|Rowena Cory Daniells|
Your first series, Last T’En, was published in a traditional time frame (roughly one a year), whereas the last two trilogies have been released according to a quick-release schedule (one a month). Why this switch? Do you prefer writing out the entire trilogy before releasing it into the wild?
Absolutely. I like to be able to tweak books one and two, to plant clues for book three. Besides I tend to write what amounts to one really long book, then find places to break it into smaller books to create a trilogy (I think you might have guessed).
As for the books coming out a month apart, that was the publisher’s idea for King Rolen’s Kin because I handed them all in at once, having completed them ahead of schedule. Being a reader I’d much rather have a trilogy come out a month apart, so I was really pleased when Solaris announced they were doing this with KRK. And then when Solaris said they would do the same with The Outcast Chronicles I was delighted.
How did writing the two Solaris series differ? Was it easier to write The Outcast Chronicles, because you were returning to a familiar universe or was there more pressure, since King Rolen’s Kin was so well received?
In both cases I’d been writing the series for several years off and on. With KRK I set out to write the kind of book that got us all hooked on fantasy in the first place – a traditional, rollicking fantasy adventure. But, when it came to the OC, I wanted to challenge the genre.
How would we really react to gifted people living alongside us and how would these gifts impact on the gifted? So I set out to create a world as intricate and detailed as a science fiction writer would create for an alien society. This meant the society of the T’Enatuath is not your standard fantasy fare and I found conveying its structure within the narrative very challenging.
Before moving on to my questions about your new series, The Outcast Chronicles, I just had a few questions on King Rolen’s Kin. What inspired the Abbeys and their link to Affinity in King Rolen’s Kin?
In medieval times Abbeys were the equivalent of corporations. They owned land, farmed, sold produce and often sold indulgences – get out of hell – passes for sinners, providing a conduit to the divine for the ordinary people. It just seemed natural to me, that if there was tangible evidence of the divine, the abbeys would lay claim to it and be in charge of it.
The Affinity (power) that bubbles up from within the earth just came to me, bubbling up from my subconscious. I tell this story on my blog-site:
When I was about 10 my family went to play tennis at a set of courts in the back blocks of the Gold Coast. This was in the days when the holiday strip was not as gaudy and glitzy as it is now. My parents loved to play tennis and they told me to watch my little brothers, 8 and 5 and my sister 3. Behind the courts was a stretch of land backing onto a creek. There were white sand dunes, scrubby trees and it was the perfect place for us to play (in those far off days when kids ran wild most of the time).
As the eldest I was used to organising the games and I always saw myself as a sort of hero character so we’d play these long involved games with my younger siblings as my army, following orders, fighting great battles against enemy foes.
While running down one high white sand hill through the hollow and up the next we left my little sister behind. Halfway up the dune I turned around to find she’d run through the deepest part of the hollow and the sand, which appeared to be solid, had given way. She was knee deep in some sort of sticky sand-clay mix and couldn’t get out. Having seen plenty of Tarzan movies, I immediately thought of quicksand.
A real emergency! I told my brothers to stay back, afraid that they’d get trapped too, and edged forward. The sand’s surface broke up under my feet. It was cold and smooth and wet, and I didn’t know what was under there. My eight year-old brother came and took my arm to pull me out if I got stuck. I managed to grab our little sister’s arm and hauled her out of the sticky sand-clay which did not give her up easily. Meanwhile, my five year-old brother danced on the edge of the danger zone desperate to help and likely to get himself into trouble.
End of story, she was fine and we kept on playing. I don’t think we even told our parents about it, because by the time they finished playing tennis our game had moved on and that was old news. But I will always remember that sense of something under the ground opening up and proving dangerous.
In King Rolen’s Kin power seeps up from the land’s heart, infecting people and animals. Only those trained to contain this power go near Affinity Seeps. Now you see how a childhood adventure can be the inspiration for something in a story many years later.
One of the elements I found hardest in King Rolen’s Kin was reading about Byren and Orrade. They both broke my heart, Orrade because it’s so painful for him and Byren because he genuinely doesn’t seem to know what to do — even if I wanted to shake him and tell him to get over it. The level of homophobia displayed by the people in Rolencia (and Merofynia) was quite discomforting. Was it a conscious decision to write about this issue or was Orrade just born this way?
Byren is the younger twin. Even though he has a natural gift for leading men, he isn’t consumed with ambition. When the first book opens he likes hunting, leading raids and roistering when he comes home. He’s nineteen and nothing really bad has ever happened to him. He hasn’t been tested. Orrade is his test. I like to put my characters in difficult situations to find out what they’re made of.
As for the homophobia, it’s there because the world of KRK holds a mirror to our world. Sometimes what we see when we look in the mirror makes us uncomfortable and it should.
Was King Rolen’s Kin always meant as a quartet, or did you only decide to finish up the story in an additional book/series after finishing the first three?
I always thought there would be more KRK. Byren defeated one of the villains, but he still has to defeat his cousin, Cobalt, who seized the throne. Solaris has contracted me to write KRK 4, King-maker, King-breaker, to resolve this.
Moving on to The Outcast Chronicles, I completely fell in love with the T’Enatuath. What cultures or ideas influenced the creation of the T’En? Why a warrior culture divided in brother and sisterhoods?
I had written hints of a troubled past in the original trilogy and I was intrigued by the idea that what we are taught as history, is only what the victors wish us to know. So I set out to write about the original Imoshen who led her people out of persecution.
As someone who spent five years studying Iaido, the art of the Samurai sword, I became immersed in the way of the warrior. It seemed to me that a people who had to live with an unruly gift would develop a strong set of taboos to keep their powers under control and these powers would manifest differently in men and women. The T’En women fear the males because they believe the gift makes them violent and unpredictable.
I’ll never forget sitting on the floor with the children at a family get-together, when my kids were little. It was Christmas and Santa was about to distribute the presents. Only the person who came down the stairs wasn’t Santa, it was William Wallace of Braveheart. My brother had decided to dress up as him. Now both my brothers are six foot six. When he came down stairs, bare chested, wearing a kilt and long hair my other brother laughed and strode across the floor to challenge him. They locked arms and roared at each other.
The children all reached for me, terrified. I was terrified and I knew my brothers were gentle giants. But in that moment they were every male warrior. They embodied threat.
In The Outcast Chronicles I wanted to play with the gender power balance. In our society women are harassed by men every day. They are more likely to be raped, beaten or murdered by a male in their lives than by a stranger. It is only in the last hundred years that they have had the vote. Do you think women would put up with this if they were more powerful than men? In T’En society the females are not as physically strong as the males, but they are more gifted. I wanted to explore how this would this change the dynamic on an intimate level and on the larger stage of political manoeuvring.
To the T’En the division into brotherhoods and sisterhoods is normal, in fact they find it hard to think beyond this and it is only those reared outside of normal society like Imoshen, and the brother and sister pair, Ronnyn and Aravelle who can see the flaws.
Fantasy gives us an opportunity to hold a distorted mirror to the world and ask what if.
Did the importance of stature come as a logical outflow of a warrior culture?
In the past your word was your bond. If you lived in a medieval town, everyone in your local area knew you. If you lost your reputation, you would lose your livelihood. Stature, as the T’En think of it, is a logical extension of this. In the brotherhoods and sisterhoods there is no individual wealth so a person is measured by what they do and what they contribute towards their brotherhood or sisterhood. At the most basic level, we all want to be valued for who we are and what we can do.
How did you conceive of the Malaunje and the fact that two Mieren parents can unexpectedly produce a Malaunje child?
In real life some families have recessive genes which neither parent knows they carry until the evidence arrives in the form a baby. In the OC the race of T’En mystics had to arise somehow. It seemed logical to me that a gifted race would be the product of recessive genes in the general population.
King Charald doesn’t know that he was born with a half-blood twin so when his son, Sorne, is born with the Malaunje traits he is horrified. The king disinherits him and sends him away, meaning to use him as a spy to infiltrate the T’En.
I extrapolated that if True-men drove the Malaunje out of their villages, these Malaunje would band together. Since they carried more recessive genes, some of their children would be born T’En. And, gradually over time, a society would evolve to cope with the pressures of the gifts.
King Charald’s affliction plays a large part in the series, but you describe the symptoms in greater detail in Exile, reminding me of Mad King George’s symptoms. Was it modelled on porphyria or was that just accidental?
Definitely planned. In his younger years, King Charald is suffering from one of the three forms of bi-polar, mania with very little down-time. He is also an explosive sociopath, meaning he has no real empathy for other people and explodes in fits of temper, made worse by his mania. (It is possible to have these two conditions at the same time). Later in life he develops phorphyria which can be mistaken for Parkinsons disease.
Medical conditions have afflicted people in power, Poor King George is one well known example, and can cause those people to make decisions a healthy person might not make.
King Rolen’s Kin wasn’t actually your first fantasy trilogy published. You had a previous trilogy called Last T’En published in the late 90’s early 00’s. This was a trilogy dealing with the T’Enatuath six hundred years on from the time in The Outcast Chronicles. Is there any chance of that being re-released for those who, like me, missed it a decade ago?
Now that I have the rights back to the original trilogy, I’ve given it a name that’s easy for people to pronounce (LOL) — and will be re-releasing the trilogy in both e-book and POD formats.
It starts when most trilogies end, after the great battle and it explores the challenges of controlling a resentful, conquered people. The invader, General Tulkhan, is from a patriarchal warrior society and Imoshen is one of the last T’En throwbacks. Fair Isle is an island kingdom accustomed to obeying an Empress and Imoshen refuses to let women become second-class beings.
The trilogy has a very different tone, in that it is more intimate, concentrating on the conflicts these two characters face as they grow to understand and trust each other. Then there’s the added complication of Reothe, Imoshen’s betrothed, who has one goal, to reclaim both Fair Isle and Imoshen.
While Sanctuary wraps up the story told in The Outcast Chronicles completely, there are some definite hooks for the future. Do these link to the Last T’En or can we expect another return to this world?
I have rough drafts of more books which follow the outcasts, Imoshen, her children, friends and lovers through exile as they search for a place to call home. Originally, I started this new trilogy when they arrived in Fair Isle, then I realised I had to go back and tell the story of how they were banished because it affects their decisions.
Your next book, King-maker, King-breaker, the fourth King Rolen’s Kin book, is due to be published in late 2013. What more can we expect from you in the future?
KRK 4 will be a rollicking adventure fantasy. Piro, Byren and Fyn have lived through events which force them to grow up. Orrade’s devotion to Byren will be tested and someone they believe to be dead will return!
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
LOL, I shelve my books according to size and type. All my big art books are on the lower shelves. My reference books are above them and then there’s another bookshelf devoted to fiction, which is shelved according to genre and author.
I used to have a secondhand bookshop, so I’ve had to be ruthless in recent years and cull my collection. Sad face.
Thank you Rowena! You can find Rowena at her website, on Twitter, and on Goodreads. You can also watch book trailers for King Rolen’s Kin, The Outcast Chronicles, and her paranormal crime novel The Price of Fame on Youtube.