In a departure from his previous Steampunk-ish novels for Tor, Mainspring and Escapement, author Jay Lake has just come out with Green, a lush fantasy with an Eastern feel. The title refers to the name of the unusual heroine, Green, who undergoes all manner of trials and tribulations to win through as her own person. Green narrates Green, and in this spellbinding account of her early years, her training as a courtesan and assassin, and her subsequent adventures. It's a very intimate narrative, from the first paragraph: "The first thing I can remember in this life is my father driving his white ox, Endurance, to the sky burial platforms. His back was before me as we walked along a dusty road. All things were dusty in the country of my birth, unless they were flooded. A ditch yawned at each side to beckon me toward play. The fields beyond were drained of water and filled with stubble, though I could not now say which of the harvest seasons it was." As Publishers Weekly wrote, "the story is nicely powered by strong mythic undertones and a fresh take on the relationship between gods and mortals."
Lake has already talked elsewhere about some of the reasons he wrote Green, and wrote it now, but I thought it'd be interesting to ask him about how his travels influenced the novel. His answer below...
"In April of 2009 I spent two weeks traveling in China. This very much put me in mind of my childhood in Taiwan. Much of rural China today is similar to the Taiwan of the 1970s. Green is also rooted in my childhood. One of the central images of the book is Green's father's white ox, Endurance. Her earliest memories in life revolve around playing in the rice paddies under the ox's watchful eye. My brother, born when I was 9, had something of a similar relationship to the ox that grazed daily in the field next to our house in the Taipei suburb of Waihsuangshi...Though I wrote her in a secondary world South Asian analog setting, Green's earliest years are in the Taiwan of my youth. China today is as modern a country as any you'd care to name. Beijing is full of electric scooters, cell phones, skyscrapers and all the appurtenances of twenty-first century civilization. At the same time, China is full of hot, wet paddies, grazing oxen, and small children staring into those big brown eyes. My recent trip there was a very much a coming home for me, but it was also an opening up of the ideas and places inside of Green, and inspiration for the sequel I am writing now, Endurance."