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Thursday, March 14, 2013

PR Special Edtion: Marie Brennan Interview!

Poisoned Rationality Special  Edition
  
Welcome to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition!  Our guest today is Marie Brennan and yes I am over the moon about this!  Seriously, I told Leah (at TOR) waaaaay long time ago how excited I was.  You'll find no one more excited.
 
Summary:
You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.
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Hey Marie! Thank you for coming by Poisoned Rationality! As a fan of yours since Doppleganger (renamed Warrior) and fascinated by the Onyx Court books, I have to say I was really intrigued by what exactly A Natural History of Dragons would be.

That said, you didn't let me down :)


First things first, reading the prologue (or just obsessively looking at information online like me) can tell a reader quite a bit about what Dragons is, but can you tell everyone what A Natural History of Dragons is not?
A Natural History of Dragons is not a floor wax. Nor is it a dessert topping . . . wait, that’s probably not what you meant.

It isn’t set in the real world, though the setting obviously draws heavily from actual cultures. It also isn’t science fiction, although my protagonist is a scientist. And finally, it isn’t boring -- I hope!
As someone who has an interest in fantasy (in all its varieties) and anthropology (though mostly as a hobby and specifically related to certain cultures) I love your Onyx Court books because they play to both my interests. Can you discuss how you used one to blend into the other? Were there unexpected obstacles you encountered?

Historical fiction giveth, and it taketh away.

What I mean by that is, sometimes history handed me the most amazing details and coincidences on a platter, that were just utterly perfect for the story I was telling . . . and sometimes people stubbornly refused to be in the right place at the right time, or died too early, or were born too late, and I had to figure out some way around that. (Which I guess is a statement more about history than about anthropology -- but one of the nice things about not being in graduate school anymore is that I don’t have to worry about disciplinary boundaries!)

More anthropologically, I think my background in that field helped me wrap my brain around the atmosphere of the period. The fascinating part was walking the setting forward from the Elizabethan period to the Victorian; I absolutely adored seeing how London and its inhabitants changed through the centuries. I suspect that the experience contributed to me depicting Isabella's world in A Natural History of Dragons as a place with historical depth, that has seen some major changes between her youth and her old age.

On your website you mention that "Two Pretenders", which is to date the earliest set Onyx Court story, is outside the normal period and style of its companions. Do you think "Two Pretenders" will remain the earliest story or are there plans for more earlier set novellas?  (wouldn't mind seeing what the Fae were up to during Joan of Arc's campaign for French victory)

The Onyx Court per se didn't exist before the sixteenth century, so any faerie fiction I write before then may be in general continuity with the series, but won't be directly linked. (Bar, perhaps, the full tale of Suspiria and Francis Merriman, which -- if I ever write it -- will include a  deep-past strand.) But I'd be nervous writing about something like Joan of Arc; the Onyx Court set my standards for historical rigor pretty high, and I'm afraid my knowledge of French history is barely Wikipedia-deep.

Did you pitch the idea to your editor or was Dragons a book you had percolating so long that you bowled over your editor with your enthusiasm and they had no choice but to let you have your way else weather your thwarted passion? (please tell me there was a sword fight!)

Of course there was a sword fight! Atop the Flatiron Building, in a thunderstorm. He said "There can be only one!" and I said "No, I want at least three books in the series, and preferably five."

By which I mean I wrote thirty thousand words of this book several years ago, then dusted that
off more recently and pitched it to my editor, who offered me a three-book contract.

Sooo....Lady Trent mentions that this is only one of 'many' volumes. What can we expect in
the next volume? Is there a bribe I can offer to get the low down?
Isabella goes to Bayembe and Mouleen, two countries that are equatorial-African in their inspiration. There are cheetah-like dragons and crocodilian dragons and an invading army, and
a place based on Iguazu Falls, with a cliff island in the middle of the waterfall.

To know more than that, you'll have to offer me something pretty darn good . . . .
And because I really want to know--why so cool? Between your essays, your world-building,
your research, your writing and your very helpful posts (both on your blog and at Book View
Cafe), I'm not entirely sure you sleep. Do you sleep? Do you do anything not related to your
writing to kind of unwind?
The funny part is, all I see is the list of things I could be getting done, if I weren't so busy lazing
around! But yes: I study karate, and play a lot of roleplaying games, and have started practicing
piano again. I also watch an embarrassing amount of TV and movies ia Netflix's streaming
service -- usually as a bribe to myself to do things like catch up on e-mail or clean the living
room.
Thank you Marie for coming by! For future reference I should just hand you my money now
because you've got a guaranteed sale in me every time.

Thanks so much for hosting me!

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Throughout the book there are gorgeous black and white drawings by Lady Trent depicting her travels and studies.  My favorite would have to be the image of the Wolf Drake(which you can see below).

(c) TOR & Todd Lockwood
Now for some fun Linkage!