For fans of bestselling author Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series, the recent publication of Naamah's Blessing, the third book in the current Naamah trilogy, must be a bittersweet experience. Despite many answers for both readers and for the main character, Moirin, but also an ending to the latest saga. The series is set on Carey's re-imagined Earth, where angels and humans have intermingled, among many other interesting concepts. It's a potent mix of alt-history, fantasy, romance, and adventure. Omni caught up with Carey to talk about the series"¦
Amazon.com: Can you describe where you are while answering these questions?
Jacqueline Carey: I'm holed up in my lair, a.k.a. my home office. The walls are a poisonous apple-green, a hue suggested by my colorist and agreed to by me for reasons I no longer recall. My desk faces a window that's obscured by an immense Entish pine tree which may well tear apart the entire house one day. Large bookshelves flank the walls, containing hundreds of research books, various editions of my own work and a handful of treasured childhood tomes, as well as an array of tchochkes and keepsakes including a replica of a Minoan libation vessel, a Yoruba woodcarving, a Xena: Warrior Princess action figure, a Fortune Beckoning Cat, and the bust of a Gorgon sporting a jaunty top hat that says "Happy New Year."
Amazon.com: The Naamah series takes place centuries after the other two trilogies set in this milieu. What were the main challenges in re-imagining the same world at a vastly different moment in time? And why did you decide to make this leap?
Carey: I decided to jump forward in time to allow the characters from the first two Kushiel trilogies to pass gracefully into legend. It felt like the right choice. After all I put them through, they deserved it! And in purely pragmatic terms, it freed me from the necessity of incorporating thousands of pages' worth of back-story and let me view this world through fresh eyes. The biggest challenge was addressing the discovery of the New World, and deciding how I was going to rewrite a piece of history that was far more familiar to the average contemporary reader than any I'd dealt with before.
Amazon.com: How do you keep a balance in these novels between the sweep of history, so to speak, and the personal, inner lives of your characters?
Carey: While I love the sense of awe and wonder that a vast, sweeping epic plot filled with magic and adventure can evoke, for me, what grounds a story--even a fantasy, and maybe especially a fantasy--in a sense of the real is the emotional and psychological integrity of its characters. Also, there's an inherent dramatic tension in the interplay of the intimate and the epic that resonates for me. Accordingly, I try never to lose sight of either element. Writing in the first person point of view helps, since it's an innately intimate and personal voice.
Amazon.com: What kind of research do you do for these novels?
Carey: Travel is a key component. It's a significant part of what inspires me. At last count, I figure I've visited almost half of the places I've written about; and if time and budget allowed me to explore them all, I would! Since that's not feasible, I rely on a lot of old-fashioned book research. Once I know a novel's general "itinerary," I do intensive background reading and take notes I can refer to along the way. The Internet is great for fact-finding on the fly, like when I have an urgent need to know the saline content of an iceberg, or for digging up bits of esoterica that may or may not be reliably sourced, but are plausible enough for my needs. Lately (okay, since I got streaming Netflix), I've developed a new appreciation for documentaries. And sometimes thinking outside the box pays off. I wasn't able to travel to the rivers of the Amazon jungle, but the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago had a timely exhibition that provided a more visceral experience than my research books.
Amazon.com: Your alternative version of the New World, Terra Nova, is very, for lack of another word, cool. What do you think makes your view of history in your fiction individual and unique?
Carey: Thanks! One of my readers dubbed the way I write alternate historical fantasy "cafeteria-style" for the way I pick and choose among the many strands of history, making a multitude of alterations rather than positing one central "What if?" I've adopted the term as my own, as I think it's a fair description. Accordingly, the books contain a lot of elements that strike me as cool, things I come across during my research and say, "Oh, that's SO going in the book." I love being able to resurrect the past and rewrite history so that something as awesome as the causeways of Tenochtitlan didn't pass from the world.
Amazon.com: How has your readership responded to the final book? And how did they respond to the shift away from the time period they were familiar with in the first two trilogies?
Carey: So far, my readers' response to Naamah's Blessing has been great. It's a funny thing to be in a business where when people claim that you kept them up into the wee hours of the night and made them cry, you know you did a good job! However, I know some were disappointed at the time shift at the outset of this trilogy, and would rather I'd played out the story of other beloved characters from the first two, or at least the very next generation. Hopefully, they've forgiven me.
Amazon.com: What did you learn from writing the character of Moirin? And has your view of Moirin changed over the course of writing the trilogy?
Carey: This may sound corny, but one of the things I like most about Moirin is that her greatest strength is her innate kindness. She can be impulsive and thoughtless, but she's quick to offer comfort and solace to those in need. Okay, it may come in the form of sex more often than most of us experience in the real world, but it's still a lesson in compassion well worth bearing in mind. Over the course of the trilogy, I think she's grown, becoming more mature and thoughtful.
Amazon.com: Having lived with Moirin in your head for awhile now, were any of the scenes in this final book hard to write?
Carey: The climactic scene in Qusqu was a tough one. I don't want to divulge any spoilers, but it's an unusual twist on the themes of sacrifice and triumph in classic quest fantasy in that it's not Moirin, the protagonist, who's the ultimate instrument of redemption in the conflict. Making that work, and attempting to convey a sort of dreadful, terrible beauty in the process, was a considerable creative challenge. And of course, it's always hard to write THE END, to say goodbye after living so intimately together for so long.
Amazon.com: Do you see the uses of magic in your books as primarily beneficial or...?
Carey: I see it as a double-edged sword, capable of being wielded for good or evil. Moirin used her own magic unwisely in the first book, Naamah's Kiss, and unloosed a dangerous force into the world. In Naamah's Blessing, she's confronted with the results of that mistake and has to use her gifts to redress the balance.
Amazon.com: What part of working on the novel did you most enjoy?
Carey: I loved the whole Terra Nova sequence, and especially the river voyage. To me, it felt like an homage to the kind of adventure stories I loved as a child, combining a sense of newness and wonder with danger and beauty.
Amazon.com: Are you working on a new novel, and what should readers expect in terms of time period and characters?
Carey: Yes, I'm working on something completely different! It would be probably classified as a contemporary urban fantasy, although it's set in a small Midwestern resort town. The protagonist, Daisy, is a reluctant hellspawn raised by a single mom (sort of like "Gilmore Girls"
if Rory's dad had been an incubus). I know the subgenre is crowded, but I'm having fun putting my own spin on it!