One of this summer’s titles from Angry Robot is Carrie Patel’s debut The Buried Life. Though the synopsis read more like a steampunkish crime novel, Angry Robot dubbed it science fantasy and it intrigued me enough to really want to dig into the story. I also wanted to ask Carrie some questions, to which she gracefully agreed. You can find her answers below. If you’d like to see more of Carrie talking about her book and and writing itself, check out this third Angry Robot Live vidcast with Carrie, Chuck Wendig, Anne Lyle, and Adam Christopher, moderated by Mike R. Underwood. But first, Carrie’s answers to my questions!
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Carrie Patel?
I started reading early and never figured out how to stop. Now, I’m a writer and narrative designer, and I blame it all on the books.
The Buried Life is your debut novel. How would you introduce readers to the world of Recoletta?
It’s an underground city built on lies and deceit. It’s a nest of warrens and tunnels covered by facades of pristine, chiselled marble. The people who live there aren’t much different—their sophistication and refinement conceals cutthroat ambition and treachery.
Angry Robot has classified The Buried Life as Science Fantasy. Uhm what? I always thought science fantasy meant Star Wars and Dune and The Buried Life sounds nothing like those! Could you explain a bit more about the setting?
You’ve figured out the label a lot better than I have! I always had a hard time with genre when I was querying The Buried Life, so I was thankful to have the trusty experts at Angry Robot finally tell me what it is. The speculative elements are defined in terms of a particular world history rather than a system of magic or a scientific explanation, and at the end of the day, I think “science fantasy” catches what falls between the cracks of “science fiction” and “fantasy.”
Your Goodreads profile says you’ve studied in Granada, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both of these cities contain architectural marvels. Has having spent a lot of time there influenced the way you designed Recoletta?
Absolutely! I spoil nothing when I say that the city of Recoletta was inspired by the Recoleta Cemetary of Buenos Aires. More generally, though, I love travel, and I love the sense of wonder it inspires. There’s something about immersing yourself in a new city and culture
that isn’t all that different from immersing yourself in the world of a good book. My dad grew up all over the world (and lived for a few years in Utrecht), so I suppose travel is in my blood.
The book is also a murder mystery. How did you go about writing this? Did you plot it closely or did you discover the culprits together with Liesl and Rafe?
I had to plot this one before I wrote it. I’ve enjoyed writing my short stories by feel, but given the length and plot complexity of The Buried Life, I needed a good roadmap before drafting it.
What has been the most surprising experience going from selling the book to actually holding it in your hands?
So far, I’ve only held the ARC, not the final version with John Coulthart’s amazing cover art. Even thought I’d seen pictures of my ARC (and the final cover) in Tweets and blogs, holding the ARC was pretty surreal. It’s been such a fast process—I signed with Angry Robot last November, and since then, I’ve been so busy with revisions, writing the sequel, and getting adjusted to my amazing new job with Obsidian Entertainment that I haven’t had much time to slow down and take it all in just yet.
The most surprising part, however, was probably hearing about the starred review from Publishers Weekly last week. As a debut, most of my experience in the writing world has been trying to get my foot in the door, so to get such a positive response from an industry
bellwether felt incredible (and surprising!).
I am working on Cities and Thrones and meeting new friends at the conventions! I’ve been to Apollocon and CONvergence this year, and I’m on my way to Detcon/NASFIC and Worldcon/LonCon.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
I love good food, good beer, and cheap wine. And travel. And snow skiing. I’m from Texas, so that last part always surprises people, but when you combine it with the travel, it makes a lot more sense.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone—Three Parts Dead was one of the best new books I read last year. As an attorney’s wife, I could certainly appreciate his clever and fantastical take on the practice of law. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie is going to be great, too. Everyone’s already heard how great Ancillary Justice is, but I’ll say it, too—it’s a brilliant book.
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?
I organize them by subject and feel. If you were to start from one end and work your way down, you’d slowly shift from one kind of novel to the next. Perdido Street Station is next to Clockwork Heart, and A Wizard of Earthsea fades into The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s like most forms of disorganization—it makes sense to the (dis)organizer, and probably no one else.
She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas A&M University and worked in transfer pricing at Ernst & Young for two years.
She now works as a narrative designer at Obsidian Entertainment in Irvine, California, where the only season is Always Perfect.