The Subconscious Interview: where your faithful interviewer left the digital recorder going while he went to check on his muffins, only to discover the interviewee had kept on talking and talking and talking.
You’re something of an apple geek, aren’t you? What is your favourite apple?
I have a crush on a New Zealand apple called the Envy, which is a non-GMO cross between Braeburns and Royal Gala. They’re available for a good long stretch of the year in Vancouver, but here in Toronto they only pop up in the grocery a few times a year, so you have to stalk them, patiently, like some kind of apple-eating jaguar. The rest of the year I’m eating Ambrosia, Honey Crisp when they aren’t $5 a pound, Smittens, and whatever’s looking best at the local farmer’s market.
The best way to get me off the subject of apples, generally, is to change the topic to coffee.
If you could improve anything about your writing, what would it be?
Oh! In recent years I’ve worked really hard on character and dialog, and I think if anything I’ve gotten a bit looser where plot’s concerned. I get praised sometimes for writing characters who remind critics of people they know, but the realer they are, the less they want to be confined by standard narrative structures. There’s a breakthrough waiting there I’d like to make.
My books are also talky, in the same way mysteries tend to be. There are things that need figuring out, and the characters have to go out, gather information, and chew on it awhile. It’s not necessarily a problem, but I’d like to experiment with dialling that down a notch.
What’s with the Stormwrack prequels on Tor.com?
After I put a proposal and three chapters for this trilogy on my editor’s desk, I vowed not to write the first book until I knew Tor wanted it. But by then I had done so much thinking about the terrain of Stormwrack, the people and magic, and I wanted to play in this enormous amusement park I’d built myself.
There’s a fairly important event partway through Child of a Hidden Sea, and I got to thinking: what if it was foretold? I could write some stories about Gale Feliachild and a teenaged Garland Parrish, and they could know about this thing is supposed to happen, but in the meantime they could be exploring the island nations and essentially having small adventures. There’s a great degree to which I conceived Gale as a sort of seafaring Doctor Who, with Parrish as her pretty young companion. So “Among the Silvering Herd” covers their first outing together, and “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti” is where he really decides he’s going to stay on the Nightjar crew. (It’s also where they meet Tonio.) There are about four more stories in various stages–I really enjoyed writing them.
You adopted feral kittens this spring, didn’t you?
Yes! They were born in a backyard in Etobicoke; the house belongs to an elderly woman who’d been feeding the kittens’ mother, but she had big life stuff on her plate and really needed them to be gone. We went and scooped up the two of them (and a sibling, whom we’d found a home for, too) in early May.
Our last cat had been born in 2001, so it has been a long time since the household soundtrack was a pitter patter of tiny paws. What I’ve learned is that no sentence gets finished when they’re awake. You start to voice a thought, and it seems reasonably intelligent, and then it inevitably ends in “. . . OMG, you are so cute!” And then you’re lunging for your phone to take a picture.
We named them Lorenzo and Chinchilla, Lozo and CinCin for short. I asked the Internet if their portmanteau should be CinZo or LorenCin, and CinZo won hands down.
If you were stupidly wealthy, what’s the most self-indulgent thing you’d buy yourself? Not your loved ones, not the cats, but you.
Now that we’ve been talking about apples, I’m thinking some kind of personal Envy-fetcher who would fly to New Zealand, get me fruit, swing by Vancouver for coffee beans from Elysian on Cambie Street, and then deliver them here. Having said that, my conscience as an environmentalist could never hack the carbon cost on that, not unless the plane was carrying hordes of green activists or maybe engineers engaged in inventing technologies to reduce our collective impact on the planet. And then possibly a guard, whose task would be keeping all those freeloading leftie activist types from eating my damned apples.
If you could answer one piece of the feedback you’ve gotten about Child of a Hidden Sea, what would it be?
I would say to all the people who’ve said they adore Sophie’s brother Bram–I hear you! I love him too! If all my dreams come true, there could be a Bram novel (or three) after the three books about Sophie are done. So buy six copies each and give them to your nearest and dearest. Or, you know, just continue with what you are doing, which is being a great bunch of book-loving readers who talk up the stuff they love, whether it’s mine or no.