Friday, April 14, 2017

Aliette de Bodard Author Interview

Photo Credit: Lou Abercrombie

Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Obsidian and Blood trilogy of Aztec noir fantasies, as well as numerous short stories which have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and two British Science Fiction Association Awards. Her space opera books include The Citadel of Weeping Pearls, a book set in the same universe as her Vietnamese science fiction On a Red Station Drifting. Recent works include the Dominion of the Fallen series, set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which comprises The House of Shattered Wings (Roc/Gollancz, 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award, Locus Award finalist), and its standalone sequel The House of Binding Thorns (Ace, Gollancz).


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I think that stories are how we make sense of the world. The human mind is trained to see and link patterns--which is why, incidentally, the human brain is super effective at seeing things like "red balls" or "lifeguard tries to save girl" in a crowded swimming pool scene, and computers aren't (because they accord equal weight to every pixel in the image).

It's a double-edged sword, in the sense that we also tend not to see the things that don't fit the story (witness, for instance, how we make sense of current events). We make up stories from the time we're children, and we consume them everyday--for me, that's why they have such a powerful hold on us, and why books and movies have such a draw.

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Most people don't know what I did a stint in the police force , as a result of which I learnt tons of things (and also saw plenty of interesting things, though a lot of them were seedy and depressing, since no one really calls the police when everything goes well! I was this close to attending the autopsy of a toddler and bailed out--a wise decision as the lieutenant in charge came back--understandably--green around the gills).

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote a picture book when I was 10 or 12 I think? It was about the Cat Emperor of Space and the quest for his missing daughter. I wrote the story and also did the illustrations, and I learnt that while writing was awesome and fun, I was really not cut out for illustrating! (one of my art teachers called my colouring skills "akin to (surrealist painter) George Braque", and it was emphatically not a compliment).

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
I think it's a tie between discovering the novels of Dumas (and especially The Count of Monte Cristo, which I so dearly love), and learning history (history seen at school wasn't detailed enough for my taste, but I found plenty of complementary resources in libraries!)

Did you learn anything from writing THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS and what was it?
Entirely too many things! *grin* Because the book was set in a post-magical-war, alternate version of 19th Century Paris (albeit with alchemists, Fallen angels, Vietnamese dragons in human shape and entirely too many ruined monuments), I devoted a lot of time to researching the city: I've lived there almost all my life, but it's been fascinating to see it under new light. I read up a lot on the history of harbours and the banks of the Seine in Paris: I found out about laundry barges, which were large boats where people went to rince clothes (it was easier to do it near the Seine because the water was so close).

From a writing craft point of view, I think this was the first book where I actually attempted to juggle so many plotlines (there are four main characters, plus major players): I thought the main issue was going to be keeping up the pacing, but actually it was making sure everyone was where they were needed at the right time. In particular, Asmodeus, the Fallen angel head of House Hawthorn, crosses all four plotlines, and it was a bit of a struggle to make sure he wasn't in three places at once!

What was your inspiration for the series?
I started out writing a urban fantasy set in 21st Century Paris, because I wanted to write something set in the city where I'd lived for a long time: it wasn't really working, however, because the setting felt too mundane for me, and I was having a hard time connecting to the characters or the magic. So I reused an old story that I'd never got around to publishing, where people hunted down fallen angels to make magical drugs, and merged it with a Paris setting--and then, in a fit of inspiration, I decided to completely destroy the city through a magical war, to make the setting a little more different from the 21st Century one. So Notre-Dame is a ruin, the dome of the Galaries Lafayette is broken, and there is a kingdom of Vietnamese dragons under the Seine, slowly being eaten away by magical decay. All the fun things, really!

Which character have you enjoyed getting to know the most over the course of writing DOMINION OF THE FALLEN?
That's a bit like picking favorite children isn't it? *grin* I actually really like Thuan, the dragon prince and spy in House Hawthorn, from The House of Binding Thorns. He's this level-headed person with not much ambition of his own--but no ambition doesn't mean no skill. He's a mediocre magician, but a very competent diplomat who excels at navigating complicated political waters--and I really enjoyed throwing him into a tangle of backstabbing factions and intrigue, and seeing what he made of it.

What part of Madeleine did you enjoy writing the most?
I love Madeleine, but out of all my characters she's probably the worst suited to post-magical-war Paris: she's an even worse magician than Thuan, she has a very rigid conscience and a set of compassionate principles she lives by--and this mostly gets her into trouble repeatedly, because this isn't a universe that rewards kindness or faithfulness. I really enjoyed writing her interactions with the head of House Hawthorn, Asmodeus, because he complements her: she wouldn't see it that way as she's too frightened of him, but he also lives by principles (in this case, protect his own whatever the cost), but he's utterly without scruples or morality in holding to them, and will kill or maim or torture in an eyeblink if he thinks it will get him anywhere.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I kind of want to introduce Asmodeus to Michelle Sagara's Emperor from the Elantra books: he's another character who gets rather intense in safeguarding what he considers his belongings (in this particular case, all of the empire), and I'm kind of not sure if they'd get along like a house on fire (literally as the Emperor is a dragon), or if they'd just end up fighting to the death (the Emperor doesn't really have much of a sense of humour and Asmodeus is way too sarcastic for his own good).

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
That's really difficult because I've had the luck to be supported by a lot of writers over the years (and I'm doing my best to pay it forward): both directly, and indirectly through their advice in books and social media. If I had to pick one it would be Kate Elliott, whose books I was utterly blown away by, who writes and shares awesome advice--and is also kind enough to put up with my writerly anxieties!

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Don't put off doing a thing you really want to do because you're scared.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
Two days ago actually! I write letters to friends in an irregular fashion--I have terrible handwriting, but I know it's really nice to receive a handwritten letter as it's got a heft that computer-written ones don't have (especially now that they're rarer).

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
I like my decade (the last one of the 20th Century) just fine, to be honest!

Where can readers find you?
My website is I blog on everything from books to cooking (I have an extensive collection of recipes all drawn from personal experience, and a tendency to do far too much baking). I'm also on twitter as aliettedb, where I share thoughts, frustrations and the daily writing process/kids-wrangling/etc.

"The multi-award-winning author of The House of Shattered Wings continues her Dominion of the Fallen saga as Paris endures the aftermath of a devastating arcane war.... As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the great Houses of Paris, ruled by fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital. House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Phillippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal--to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic might be more than he can bear. In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater dragon kingdom--and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear.... As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength--or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will"--


“If reading [The House of Binding Thorns] is sometimes walking the unfenced edge of a cliff, the vista is dizzying and beautiful.” —Fantasy & Science Fiction

“This affective sequel to 2015’s The House of Shattered Wings touches the heart as often as it cuts throats.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)


“The devastated Paris of Aliette de Bodard’s novel is especially haunting…A series of mysterious deaths turns the novel into a surprising but compelling murder mystery, which plays out according to the supernatural terms de Bodard has laid out so evocatively.” —The Chicago Tribune

“The House of Shattered Wings exists in a rich, evocative Paris that is thick with magical history. Pathos and beauty intertwine in a novel filled with longing.” —Mary Robinette Kowal, Multiple-Hugo award winning author of the Glamourist Histories

“A Gothic masterpiece of supernatural intrigues, loves and betrayals in a ruined and decadent future Paris—wildly imaginative and completely convincing, this novel will haunt you long after you’ve put it down.” —Tim Powers, author of The Anubis Gates

“Lyrical, sophisticated, lush, suspenseful…brings to life an exciting world of deep magic and complex, layered characters.” —Ken Liu, author of the Dandelion Dynasty

You can purchase The House of Binding Thorns at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ALIETTE DE BODARD for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard.

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