Please welcome Kai Ashante Wilson to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps was published on September 1st by Tor.com.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Kai Ashante Wilson: I think like most writers I began as a tiny child, and started because writing seemed a natural extension of reading, my first and truest love. It wasn’t until 2010, though, after the six-week course at Clarion San Diego, that I began to write with the goal of publication.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Kai Ashante Wilson: I make it up as I go along, though I hold off beginning a story until I have a sure idea of the ending.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Kai Ashante Wilson: Being patient with my crazy process is a challenge for sure. Beginning a ten chapter book, for example, I’ll usually write a random selection of five chapters quickly. But those five missing chapters will each take me as long to write singly as the first five chapters collectively, costing all the blood, sweat and tears in the world.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Kai Ashante Wilson: I love Kenneth Rexroth’s translations from the Japanese and Chinese. I love Christopher Logue’s adaptations of the Iliad. I’m always excited about the next Tananarive Due novel. Paladin of Souls and Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold are both on my private list of “ten best epic fantasies ever.” And though this might not make sense to anyone else, Carmen McRae’s singing—where and just how she puts the emphasis in a song—has shaped my own sense of narrative rhythm, emotional beats, and how to inflect a sentence. (Pop over to YouTube and check out her versions of “Midnight Sun” and “As Time Goes By”.)
TQ: Describe The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps in 140 characters or less.
Kai Ashante Wilson: A nice country boy joins a wild fraternity while dating his dorm RA on the sly. But the boy’s a demigod; the frat, caravan guardsmen; the RA, last of the old world knights.
TQ: Tell us something about The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps that is not found in the book description.
Kai Ashante Wilson: I wrote this book before everything else I’ve ever published. I’m incredibly excited to see it finally in print!
TQ: What inspired you to write The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?
Kai Ashante Wilson: I’ll answer the second question first: I enjoy a broad array of genres as a reader, but I only ever write fantasy. That’s where my inspiration arises.
I was sick enough to believe I was living in my last year when I began writing The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. (A six year old MRSA infection, failing antibiotics, long story). Some people would have gone on a long road trip, but I wanted to finish at least one piece of writing longer than a short story… yet not so long that I might not manage to write finis. With that impetus—under that shadow—I threw all my ideas into one pot, pulled out all the stops authors put into place under normal circumstance, and wrote the novella’s first draft. I could never write a story quite like this now; the specter of mortality charges the mind irreproducibly. Any reader, then, looking for a sedate and measured read: beware!
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps?
Kai Ashante Wilson: When I began the novella, I knew next to nothing about big-cat predation, sub-desert topography, or the practical mechanics of apotheosis. The Brooklyn main library at Grand Army Plaza was wonderfully helpful on these and other topics.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Kai Ashante Wilson: Demane was the easiest to write. By nature, he has all the compassion I try to cultivate in myself. Writing him was encouragement for my own best impulses. Captain was the hardest to write. He’s socially maladept in exactly the manner I am, and has all my self-destructive tendencies unsuppressed, given full rein. It was hard going there.
TQ: Which question about The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Kai Ashante Wilson:
“Is this novella part of a greater continuity with your stories ‘Super Bass’ and ‘Légendaire’? And are you writing or have you written other works in the same continuity?”
What lovely, perceptive questions! And the answer to both is yes. I hope that my related, second novella, A Taste of Honey, will appear some time in 2016.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps.
Kai Ashante Wilson: Here are a couple lines concerning the captain that I couldn’t find space for, though I tried and tried: “A dog that cowers and whines any fool can see has been kicked around. But what of the one that lunges, savage and snarling, at every hand no matter whose or how kindly, even the one that feeds? Damn, that’s mean dog! Is that what you say?”
TQ: What's next?
Kai Ashante Wilson: In the short term, I have short story, “Kaiju maximus®,” forthcoming in the December issue of Lightspeed. In the long term, I dearly hope to finally figure out the missing chapters of my first full novel: In the Country of Superwomen.
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps
Tor.com, September 1, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 224 pages
Critically acclaimed author Kai Ashante Wilson makes his commercial debut with this striking, wondrous tale of gods and mortals, magic and steel, and life and death that will reshape how you look at sword and sorcery.
Since leaving his homeland, the earthbound demigod Demane has been labeled a sorcerer. With his ancestors' artifacts in hand, the Sorcerer follows the Captain, a beautiful man with song for a voice and hair that drinks the sunlight.
The two of them are the descendants of the gods who abandoned the Earth for Heaven, and they will need all the gifts those divine ancestors left to them to keep their caravan brothers alive.
The one safe road between the northern oasis and southern kingdom is stalked by a necromantic terror. Demane may have to master his wild powers and trade humanity for godhood if he is to keep his brothers and his beloved captain alive.
Kai Ashante Wilson's stories "Super Bass" and the Nebula-nominated "The Devil in America" can be read online gratis at Tor.com. His story "Légendaire" can be read in the anthology Stories for Chip, which celebrates the legacy of science fiction grandmaster Samuel Delany. Kai Ashante Wilson lives in New York City.