Thursday, April 3, 2014

Guest Post by Katherine Addison

Morning, readers! I am super excited to be hosting Katherine Addison here on the blog today. Her debut, The Goblin Emperor, just hit shelves this week and has been garnering lots of great praise from readers and writers alike.

Here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

The youngest, half-goblin son of the elvish Emperor has grown up in exile, isolated and ignored by the glittering world of the elvish court. After his mother’s death he is prepared to spend the rest of his days in a dreary swamp – until an airship crash kills his father and brothers, leaving him the next heir.

Hastily pulled into the role of the next emperor, he is utterly unprepared for the endless intrigue and complex machinations of life in the capital. Even worse, it soon emerges that the airship crash was no accident – somebody assassinated the emperor, and now he stands between the ambitious plotter and the throne. Surrounded by enemies and potential assassins, an alienated child must step up to the throne and assume power he never asked for.

Katherine Addison brings together fantasy elements, from steampunk airships to the labyrinthine societal complexity of historical empires, to create a world of depth and originality. Under the byzantine tale of political intrigue lies an engaging core: craftily rendered, vulnerable characters that will draw the reader into the world of the Goblin Emperor.

And now to hand things over to Katherine and the inspiration behind The Goblin Emperor!

When I was a kid, I read pretty much everything I could get my hands on. Some of it stuck, and some of it didn't, which is pretty much what you expect. But one of the things that stuck like glue was Jean Plaidy's The Young Elizabeth. (Jean Plaidy was the pseudonym of Eleanor Hibbert, who was also Victoria Holt.) We had both The Young Elizabeth and The Young Mary Queen of Scots, and I certainly read both of them more than once, but Mary Queen of Scots was a little difficult to get behind as a young adult heroine--although that was nothing compared to the difficulties I found in sympathizing with her as an adult--and Elizabeth Tudor might have been designed for the purpose. There's probably a permanent warp in my view of Elizabeth I because of this book, even though I know perfectly well that there is a prodigious amount of spin involved. 

Still. Plaidy vividly captured the anxiety of being Henry VIII's second daughter, sometimes a legitimate heir to the throne, sometimes illegitimate (and the daughter of an executed traitor), depending on how Henry wanted to view the world that week. In favor, out of favor, favorite child, least favorite child. Elizabeth spent part of her childhood at court and part under semi-unofficial house arrest at one or another country estate, and her situation only got more precarious during the reigns of her half-siblings, Edward VI, a sickly puppet for ambitious politicians, and Mary I, who earned her nickname, "Bloody Mary," honestly. But Elizabeth survived to become queen, which, if I recall correctly, is where Plaidy's book ends. 

Given Elizabeth's iron grip on her own PR, it seems highly unlikely that even if she had any doubts about her ability to rule, anyone ever saw them. But the idea dug its way into my imagination. What would it be like to come to the throne only because you'd survived all your siblings? What would the decompression be like, from house arrest to coronation? And that's where I found Maia, The Goblin Emperor's protagonist 

I am not actually all that fond of politics. (To be perfectly honest, I loathe politics with a crimson passion.) I don't like novels about politics, and I certainly never intended to write one. But I outsmarted myself. Because if you want to write that story, you really have to write the politics to go with it. Especially if you reject the deus ex machina of the sword in the stone (the gladius ex saxo, I suppose we might call it) or Divine Right kingship, which of course in fantasy can be literal instead of a convenient piece of ideology. But without those "I'm king because the sword says so!" workarounds, the story of Elizabeth's ascenion to the throne is a story entirely made of politics. 

But from Maia's perspective, the political is intensely personal. Without any of the political knowledge that would allow him to sort people by ideologies, goals, and biases, he can only deal with them as individuals, even though he's painfully aware of the agendas he can't see. So, although I was definitely writing about politics on the book's macro level, I was actually writing about people and relationships. I found some of those people frustrating and stupid, just as I find real politicians frustrating and stupid, but I also found that I was able to be sympathetic to characters whose positions I vehemently disagreed with. It was good practice for real life, just as Maia's determined compassion is an ideal I strive to live up to. 

The Goblin Emperor, obviously, is a mish-mash of inspirations (Tolkien and steampunk and the history of the Industrial Revolution and goodness knows what all); The Young Elizabeth is one that's not immediately obvious, but also very deep rooted. Without Eleanor Hibbert's book, I certainly would not have written mine.

Big, big thank to Katherine Addison for her post today and to the folks over at Tor for arranging everything. Be sure to head over to Katherine's site to read an excerpt of the book and check back here soon for my review of The Goblin Emperor.

About the author:
Katherine Addison's short fiction has been selected by The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror and The Year's Best Science Fiction. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin. You can visit her online at www.katherineaddison.com and find her on Twitter as @pennyvixen.

(Katherine Addison is the pseudonym for Sarah Monette.)

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