Please welcome Arianne 'Tex' Thompson back to The Qwillery!
TQ: Welcome back to The Qwillery. Your newest novel, Dreams of the Eaten (Children of the Drought 3), was published on December 26, 2016. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote One Night in Sixes (Children of the Drought 1) to Dreams of the Eaten?
Tex: I’m so glad to be back! And I would really like to tell you that I’ve become a much more stable, productive writer since my first book came out. Unfortunately, here in one handy visual chart was my word-count progress on Dreams of the Eaten. (It was due on October 21st).
As you can see, my process is apparently an exponential growth-curve of procrastination and deadline panic. Remember, kids: the only minute that counts is the last one!
TQ: What do you wish that you knew about book publishing when One Night in Sixes came out that you know now?
Tex: You know, I cannot think of a single “overnight success” who has not been writing, publishing, and working in the community for at least a decade. Not even the so-called debut authors. It’s really easy not to realize that when all you see is their giant award-winning bestseller splashed everywhere you look. If I had, I would have stopped comparing myself to them a long time ago, and saved myself a lot of unproductive angst.
TQ: Tell us something about Dreams of the Eaten that is not found in the book description.
Tex: Y’know, when you’re trying to wrap up a trilogy and make it sound properly epic, all the packaging has to talk up the world-ending cataclysm. You don’t get to say, “by the way, there’s some funny stuff in here too. It isn’t all doom and gloom.” I wish the fantasy market in general was more tolerant of that kind of thing: I feel like we’re at our best (authors, publishers, and readers alike) when we don’t let the genre disappear up itself.
TQ: Which character in the Children of the Drought series surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?
Tex: This is an odd thing to admit, but my principal female character was the hardest one to write. Whenever I’m out in public, I’m usually operating half a dozen layers of empathy, situational awareness, and self-analysis, and it feels REALLY good to turn off one or two of those to write or roleplay a character, usually male, who doesn’t depend on them to navigate their world. Día is hard for me to write because she has to be even more vigilant and thoughtful than I am: as an outsider, a woman alone, and a visible minority, she has to walk through the world more carefully than I ever have. As it turns out, turning off a couple of your own mind-layers is easy – but adding temporary ones is tricky, intricate business.
TQ: Please tell us about your fabulous covers!
Tex: Oh, what covers they are! That is the work of the brilliant Tomasz Jedruszek, a professional artist from Poland whom Solaris commissioned to paint the covers for this series. I was very happy to be able to ask him for certain images and scenes, and happier still that they did not turn out exactly how I’d pictured them. For example, the town of Sixes is a mishmash of adobe buildings built over an old military fort – but what’s on the cover of One Night in Sixes looks more like a medieval European village.
That juxtaposition of old-world architecture with new-world landscapes and figures is a huge part of the cover’s appeal, I think, and perfectly reflects the idea of a ‘patchwork’ fantasyland. I love it, and am so lucky to have Tomasz’s beautiful work on my books!
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in the Children of the Drought series?
Tex: Honestly, sticking my sheltered nose into a political anthill was the last thing I wanted to do with my first novels - but I just couldn’t avoid it. The minute I chose to write a historical American setting, considering race and colonialism and identity became a moral mandate: to include people who have been misrepresented or left out, to build the fantasy world in a way that reflects the struggles of the real one, and (most importantly) to give the characters in that world access to the better future that we’re trying to create right now. I am the least-qualified person to judge how successful I’ve been in that effort, but it would have been tremendously irresponsible not to try.
TQ: Which question about Dreams of the Eaten do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Tex: “Tex, did a fan really actually make this incredible handmade doll version of your main character and make you cry when she surprised you with it at your launch party?”
Yes. Her name is MaryLou Condike, and yes. Yes, she did.
TQ: Please give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Dreams of the Eaten.
Tex: Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Tolkien, it’s that you can’t finish a fantasy trilogy without someone climbing a mountain. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from hiking the Sandias in Albuquerque for research, it’s that that is WAY harder than the hobbits make it look.
Elim had never had much of an opinion about mountains. He could approve of them on principle, in much the same way as he would lend his endorsement to petticoats, libraries, and the moon.
That was before he’d tried to climb one.
Now, he’d decided, mountains were awful – just the most horrible, hateful, unnatural piles of shameless man-eating lies. And about the only thing worse than the rocks – the ones in his shoes, the ones in his path, the ones hanging down overhead waiting to crush him like a lizard under a dropped brick – was the nauseating drop mere inches from his feet, the yawning abyss of scrubby red earth just waiting for him to put a foot wrong, just waiting to receive his broken body like a window-pane whacked by a cross-eyed idiot pigeon.
“Hell,” he swore as he inched past. “I was tired of living anyway.”
TQ: What's next?
Tex: I don’t get a chance to mention it much, but I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett for all kinds of reasons, especially his Discworld publishing model: one big sandbox with multiple sets of characters, and lots of entry-points into the world and the series. I would like to do something similar: put these characters down for awhile and pick up a new set in some other corner of Droughtworld, for even more rural fantasy adventures. Stay tuned!
TQ: Thank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.
Tex: Thank you for having me!
One Night in Sixes
Children of the Drought 1
Solaris, July 29, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day. Still, Appaloosa Elim has heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient animal gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.
And the daylight is running out. Elim's so-called 'partner' - that lily-white lordling Sil Halfwick – has disappeared inside the old adobe walls, hell-bent on making a name for himself among Sixes' notorious black-market traders. Elim, whose worldly station is written in the bastard browns and whites of his cow-spotted face, doesn't dare show up home without him.
If he ever wants to go home again, he'd better find his missing partner fast. But if he's caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth in his own flesh - and discovering just how far he'll go to survive the night.
Medicine for the Dead
Children of the Drought 2
Solaris, March 31, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
The story of Appaloosa Elim continues.
Two years ago, the crow-god Marhuk sent his grandson to Sixes.
Two nights ago, a stranger picked up his gun and shot him.
Two hours ago, the funeral party set out for the holy city of Atali'Krah, braving the wastelands to bring home the body of Dulei Marhuk.
Out in the wastes, one more corpse should hardly make a difference. But the blighted landscape has been ravaged by drought, twisted by violence, and warped by magic - and no-one is immune. Vuchak struggles to keep the party safe from monsters, marauders, and his own troubled mind. Weisei is being eaten alive by a strange illness. And fearful, guilt-wracked Elim hopes he's only imagining the sounds coming from Dulei's coffin.
As their supplies dwindle and tensions mount, the desert exacts a terrible price from its pilgrims - one that will be paid with the blood of the living, and the peace of the dead.
Dreams of the Eaten
Children of the Drought 3
Solaris, December 27, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
As the funeral cortege draws near, the crows begin to gather...
The stunning conclusion of this extraordinary trilogy.
After trials by fire and thirst, Appaloosa Elim's quest to bring home the body of the crow prince is finally nearing its end.
But the coffin is missing, the funeral party is hopelessly scattered, and the fishmen are hell-bent on revenge. Worse yet, the pilgrimage has disturbed an ancient power – and the earth is crumbling in its grip.
As the ground shakes and the crows gather, the final reckoning promises to unite the living and the dead in a battle for the land itself. One way or another, blood debts will come due, Elim will face his judgment, and the World That Is will be forever changed.
Arianne "Tex" Thompson is home-grown Texas success story. After earning a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in literature, she channeled her passion for exciting, innovative, and inclusive fiction into the Children of the Drought – an internationally-published epic fantasy Western series from Solaris. Now a professional speaker and writing instructor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Tex is blazing a trail through conferences, workshops, and fan conventions around the country – as an endlessly energetic, relentlessly enthusiastic one-woman stampede. Find her online at www.TheTexFiles.com and on Twitter as @tex_maam!