In the first of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented Emily Gee to drop by. Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.
Before Solaris bought my King Rolen’s Kin trilogy, I ordered all the books that were shortlisted for the 2008 RITA (The RWAmerica’s best of award) in the sections I liked (paranormal and regency) and I also took a look at the new authors section and ordered a couple there.
So that was how I found Emily Gee’s Thief With No Shadow which was shortlisted in two sections, Best First Book and Best Mainstream with Romantic Elements, which is quite an achievement for a fantasy book. As it turns out, Emily and I are both published by Solaris now.
Thanks for inviting me to your new blog, Rowena – it’s lovely to be here! It’s not often I get to chat with a fellow Solaris author, especially one who’s also from Downunder!
Q: Your latest book, The Sentinel Mage has just been released. (For a taste of The Sentinel Mage, click here). Can you tell us a little about it?
The Sentinel Mage is something new for me. Not only is it the first book in a trilogy, but it has three different storylines. I’d describe it as a fast-paced tale of adventure with some dark overtones.
The primary storyline is the one on the back cover blurb: In a distant corner of the Seven Kingdoms, an ancient curse festers and grows, consuming everything in its path. Only one man can break it: Harkeld of Osgaard, a prince with mage’s blood in his veins. But Harkeld has a bounty on his head – and assassins at his heels.
Innis is a gifted shapeshifter. Now she must do the forbidden: become a man. She must stand at Prince Harkeld’s side as his armsman, protecting and deceiving him.
The second storyline follows Harkeld’s sister, Princess Brigitta, and her armsman as they negotiate palace intrigues, while the third storyline follows a young orphan boy named Jaumé who is trying to outrun the curse. The storylines will start colliding in the next book – rather bloodily!
Q: Your father is the renowned author Maurice Gee. I notice in your bio you said you never had any intention of being a writer and did a science degree instead. Yet, here you are a published writer. Was there a moment of stage fright, when you realised you’d inherited the writing bug?
Not so much stage fright, Rowena – it was more like resignation, since I knew that writers don’t earn much money! Fortunately, I write very different books from my father, so people can’t compare us. I have absolutely no desire to write the great New Zealand novel!
Q: From the gallery on your web page it looks like you do a lot of travelling. Was this because of your work or were you also bitten by the travel bug?
Bitten at a young age. My parents took my sister and me out of school for six months when I was eleven, and we backpacked through Europe. I never recovered from the experience. Since then I’ve done as much travelling as possible – not just Europe, but also the Middle East, North Africa, China and Pakistan, and North America. If I ever win Lotto, I’ll probably spend most of my life travelling. I’m an addict!
Q: I see you are a Joss Whedon fan. I’m a big fan of Buffy and Firefly, too. Perhaps we should have a fan-girl moment and talk about how wonderful Joss Whedon is. I think when you are a writer, you can appreciate the craft that goes into really good TV show writing. Other than these two shows, do you have some favourite TV shows and why?
Oh, yes, let’s have a fan-girl moment! I love Buffy and Firefly – they’re fabulous shows! Dark and funny and smart. Joss Whedon is a genius!
I’m not sure whether being a writer influences my reactions to TV shows or not, but I really like intelligent dialogue. So many shows dumb everything down. Joss Whedon doesn’t usually fall into that trap.
Lately I’ve been watching Dexter and Glee and Dr Who. Oh, and dare I confess to liking Midsommer Murders? Why do I watch these shows? Because they all amuse me! I watch TV to laugh and be entertained. Yes, I’m shallow. <grin>
Q: I see you also write Regency romances as Emily May. Why Regencies rather than any other historical period?
I’ve been hooked on the Regency period since I read my first Georgette Heyer as a teenager. (If you haven’t read The Grand Sophy, read it!) Then came the marvellous BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. After that, there was no looking back!
I love the Regency for so many reasons – the glittering and absurdly privileged lives of the Ton; the dark underbelly of society, with poverty and crime and prostitution; the strict rules well-born ladies lived by; the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars; the importance of chivalry and honour. It’s such a fun period!
Q: As someone who writes both historical and fantasy books can you tell us the similarities and the differences from a writing perspective?
With the fantasies, I can create my own worlds and do what I like with them; with the Regencies, I’m aware that there are a large number of readers who know the period extremely well, so I do a lot of research! I tend to write significantly darker for the fantasies, and to have more humour in the Regencies. Since the Regencies are purely romances, I only write good sex scenes for them, whereas there are some rather unpleasant sex scenes in the fantasy novels!
Q: What are you currently working on?
Currently I’m finishing a Regency romance about a penniless spinster who starts writing erotic tales in order to earn money. The hero is an ex-soldier who barely survived Waterloo. My research has included reading letters from Waterloo soldiers, Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women, and Regency-era pornography.
<Wow, Emily, you get to do the coolest things!>
Q: Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?
Good question, Rowena! Do female writers have stronger female protagonists? Do they focus more on the relationships between characters? Do they have more romance in their novels? More description?
I really don’t know if there’s a difference in terms of plot or character — someone out there may have done a doctorate on this and actually have an answer! — but there may be a difference in the nuts and bolts of writing. In general, men and women tend to speak differently — or rather, men tend to use fewer words than women. Perhaps this shows up in the writing in terms of description and dialogue? Who knows?
There’s actually an algorithm on the internet that analyses whether a passage is written by a man or a woman. I tried it with a piece in the armsman, Karel’s, point of view, and it told me it was (just) written by a man, and then I put in another piece in the mage, Innis’s, point of view, and it told me that was most definitely written by a woman, which I think reflected the word choices I made, i.e. Karel’s a guy, so he’s terser, both in how he thinks and speaks, whereas Innis is a young woman and is more emotional and descriptive.
<Emily, I’ve done the same thing with my characters and had the same result. It’s a great way to test if your male VP character is coming across as ‘male’ enough.>
Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?
With a female writer, I expect there’ll be at least one strong female protagonist. Several of my favourite fantasy authors are women (e.g. Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones, Lois McMaster Bujold) and their strong female characters are part of the reason why I like them so much — although, of course, they write fabulous male characters too! I also hope there’ll be some great writing and an element of romance, because I’m a sucker for romance. <grin>
Q: I see you would like to interview Pliny the Younger, who witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. That sort of pre-empts my last question … If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?
You’re right, Rowena – I’d choose to go back to Classical times! I did Latin at school and Ancient Greek at uni, plus Classics, and I find that time period utterly fascinating. I’d love to meet Pliny, and also Catullus, who wrote some fantastic poetry. So definitely, if I had a time machine, I’d go back to Greece and Rome – with a side trip to ancient Egypt as well!
Emily has very kindly offered a copy of her latest book The Sentinel Mage as a give-away. We’ll keep the competition open for a week.
Her question is: What do you like most about the fantasy genre?