Please welcome K. Eason to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Enemy was published on June 1st by 47North.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
K.E.: I started writing as a little kid. I remember winning a short story contest in something like 4th grade...something about a horse. I refused to read it at the ceremony because I was too freaked out. The person who did read it mispronounced "foal."
As to why I started... because I had stories I wanted to tell. I was making up sagas for the stuffed animals long before I figured out I could write it all down.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
K.E.: I'm a hybrid. I get an idea for a character, or characters, and then pants (this is a verb? I name it so) my way through figuring out what they're all doing together. THEN I start plotting, usually a scene at a time. Whenever I attempt to try it the other way--plot to character--it all goes pear-shaped and leads to notes and tears and starting over.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? How does teaching impact (or not) your writing?
K.E.: In general, finding the mental energy to do it. Teaching takes up a lot of the same creative/energetic space as world-building. If I've just spent 6 hours with students and their writing, I usually don't have anything left for the characters and the world. As for the writing itself, the most challenging thing is the plotting. I get caught up between meta-thinking--themes, the big picture--and what's happening on the ground with the characters. It's a balancing act.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
K.E.: Everything that I read, watch, experience--it's all fair game. My writing style was influenced by stuff I read as a kid:...Gibson's Neuromancer, CJ Cherryh's Cyteen. Of course Tolkien, more The Hobbit than LOTR (I found The Hobbit when I was much younger). The Last Unicorn. Music, sometimes; for Enemy, it's the Amorphis album Silent Waters. Playing and running role-playing games actually taught me the most about the craft of telling stories. Staying a step ahead of smart players is the best way I know to build a consistent world and head off plot holes.
TQ: Describe Enemy in 140 characters or less.
K.E.: Half-blood assassin meets outlaw with an axe meets honorable soldier; before they kill each other, a vengeful god shows up. Also, ghosts.
TQ: Tell us something about Enemy that is not found in the book description.
K.E.: There are no horses anywhere. They're all gone.
TQ: What inspired you to write Enemy? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?
K.E.: Enemy came when I was thinking about outsiders, and how sometimes we're on the outside by choice (or we tell ourselves we are), and sometimes we're there because of things beyond our control. It was also the only way I could think of to get Romans and Vikings into the same story.
I like writing fantasy because magic. Also, dragons. But okay, more seriously...because fantasy (and SF) provide a way to look at "real-world" issues (which I think are really people issues) in a different framework. Sometimes it's easier to see the problems against an unfamiliar backdrop. And I like seeing how those same issues play out against different contexts. What changes, what doesn't.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Enemy?
K.E.: I didn't set out to do deliberate research, since Enemy isn't a historical fantasy, but I drew inspiration for the world-build from various historical and primary texts I've read over the years. So, in no particular order... The Kalevala and Juha Pentikainen and Anna-Leena Siikala's works on circumpolar shamanism; Du Bois, H.R. Ellis-Davidson, and Simek on Viking religion/culture; the Icelandic sagas, the Poetic and Prose Eddas, the Viking Romances (seriously they are a thing), Beowulf; Roman history/culture I pulled from college Latin classes (Sallust, Cicero, Tacitus, Caesar's De Bello Gallico) and from Adkins & Akins and Shelton; Colleen McCollough's Masters of Rome series gave me a feel for what it might've been like to be Roman.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
K.E.: The easiest was probably Snow, because I know her the best; she's been in my head a very long time. The hardest was probably Kenjak, because, well. Spoilers. And also because he's young and idealistic and hasn't ever questioned the way his world works. I have a harder time connecting with that.
TQ: How is Snowdenaelikk pronounced?
K.E.: Snow(tiny pause) den EYE likk.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Enemy?
K.E.: I don't know how not to include social issues. If you're trying for a complete world-build, one that's believable, then you have to consider the seams of that society: who's got privilege, who doesn't, why, etc. Characters are people, people come from cultures/societies, and all societies have imbalances and prejudices. Class, gender, ethnicity, education, religion. It's all in there. The dragons, the magic--that's part of it, but there has to be a functioning culture(s) underneath or it doesn't matter.
TQ: Which question about Enemy do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
K.E.: Hey, where'd the names Alviri and Dvergiri come from? Why, I am so glad you asked! Alvir and Dvergir are adapted from the Old Norse (ljus)alfar and dvergar (which are sometimes equated with svartalfar, because both are subterranean)--elves and dwarves (and black elves, oh my). I didn't want to have separate races, though; in the world of Enemy, Alviri, Dvergiri, and Taliri are all the same species; they just have genetic and cultural variation, like humans.
Sub question: Wait. Like humans? So no one's actually human? Sub answer: nope.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Enemy.
"No. You're honest. And you're a good man."
Another frown, and this one stuck. "I am a fool. And now I am an outlaw."
"Same thing, yeah?"
TQ: What's next?
K.E.: I'm actively drafting an SF novel at the moment, and I have two other manuscripts in revision, including the third and final installment of On the Bones of Gods.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
K.E.: Thank you!
On the Bones of Gods 1
47North, June 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 347 pages
The Illhari Republic rests on the bones of gods, telling tales of conquest and forgetting its once-bloody devotion to its most powerful goddess. Snowdenaelikk, half-blood conjuror and smuggler, cares less about history than the silver she can win with sharp metal and sharper wits. But when the local legion blames her for burning a village, an outlander with a sense of honor intervenes, and Snow finds herself tangled in politics and an unwelcome partnership.
Snow and her new partner, Veiko, together with the legion scout Dekklis, uncover a conspiracy that will destroy the Republic from within. It seems that the goddess is back from wherever dead gods go. She has not forgotten the Republic, and she wants revenge.
Loyal Dekklis will do anything to save the Republic, and Snow reluctantly agrees to help—until she realizes that “anything” means sacrificing Veiko. Now Snow must decide whether her partner’s life is worth betraying her allies and damning the Republic to war.
K. Eason started telling tales in her early childhood. After earning two degrees in English literature, she decided to stop writing about everyone else’s stories and get back to writing her own. Now she teaches first-year college students about the zombie apocalypse, Aristotelian ethics, and Beowulf (not all at once). She lives in Southern California with her husband and two black cats, and she powers everything with coffee.
On the Bones of Gods 2
47North, July 12, 2016
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 320 pages
Snowdenaelikk never planned to return to the city of Illharek, but that was before the siege in Cardik, before the violent and once-forgotten goddess Tal’Shik came looking for revenge at the head of a Taliri army.
The only people who can save the Republic are Snow, her partner Veiko, and the highborn scout Dekklis. Together they mean to muster the power of the Senate and leverage the arcane knowledge of the Academy’s Archives.
Once in the city, however, they discover the situation is already dire. A rash of disappearances among highborn men and the resurgence of old heresies suggest that Tal’Shik’s godsworn have already infiltrated the city.
When Veiko is added to the ranks of the missing, Snow is done waiting. She brokers a deal with a rival god to get the power she needs to stop Tal’Shik. But Snow has never been good at making bargains, and this deal is going to cost her…