Monday, April 15, 2013

"Rebel Elements," by Jasmine Giacomo

Today we're pleased to feature our KindleBoards interview with Jasmine Giacomo, author of the newly-released novel Rebel Elements.

We received an advance review copy of the novel. Giacomo paints a rich world with depth and a storyteller's gift of imagery. The book is a fantasy with a fully fleshed-out world and magic system, populated with memorable characters.

Now, on to our conversation with Jasmine!

Congratulations on your new novel. In a few words, how would you describe your book to someone who hasn't heard about it?

REBEL ELEMENTS is Harry Potter meets The Last Airbender in the arena from Gladiator. It’s the story of a young man who loses love and freedom. His search for a way to cope with his rage and learn to live for something besides revenge is hung against the backdrop of a flawed empire and its tradition-bound rules.

The novel features impressive world-building - with the notion of the duelists, the elemental magic system, nations with histories of wars and alliances, and characters richly rounded out with customs, traditions, and dialects. Can you comment on how you as an author went about defining and describing this fully-formed world?

Obsessively. Worldbuilding is my passion. I inhale fantasy series with strong worldbuilding. I love new traditions, customs, styles of dress, and idioms. A culture’s customs are the sum of their desires and their fears. They are a people’s way of coping against an unfriendly world and attempting to maintain the status quo, all rolled into one. I create peoples with realistic fears and desires, assign them certain terrain surroundings and historical events, then let their customs spring naturally from there.

I also ask “What if?” rather a lot. “What if a culture based on the famously seagoing Dutch people claimed the center of a continent for their homeland?” led me to settle the Waarden in Helderaard, a rich swath of farmland with rolling plains and zero dikes. In my universe, their bountiful wheat crops fueled their eventual takeover of nearly every neighboring culture. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond has been extremely helpful in the background stages for my cultures—who has the resources to conquer whom, what terrain obstacles do to an incipient culture, etc. I highly recommend it to authors who want logical worldbuilding.

The novel includes references to foreign and mystical languages, and even a pronunciation guide. It's reminiscent of the love of language that permeates the work of Tolkien. What was your inspiration for the language systems in the novel?

You hit the nail with the hammer, as it were. Tolkien’s love of languages, and the creation of languages and alphabets, has long intrigued me. During and right after college, I used to write letters to my best friend. We worked our way up to writing in six different alphabets in the same letter. At least two of those alphabets we created ourselves, and we got all into the shapes the letters would have based on the culture we thought would use them.

Creating new words means understanding the need for those words to exist. What drives one culture to describe a new concept, but not another culture? (This can hark back to the GG&S issues of dominance, terrain, exploration, etc.) When one culture dominates, other cultures adapt—such as the Dunfarroghan province of Gallenglaas adopting the double-a in deference to the predominant Waarden culture. It’s all very geeky, I assure you, but I adore a world-sized playground more than just about anything.

What authors have influenced your writing?

Tolkien, first and foremost, for his worldbuilding and language development. Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series had excellent political characterization and worldbuilding. Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion wowed me with its masterful blending of culture and language.

How long did it take you to write the novel? Can you give us some insights into your approach?

As with most of my novels, this book was a NaNoWriMo project. I wrote the rough draft, 110k words, in 21 days during November of 2010. A month earlier, I had hopped in bed assuming I’d be falling asleep soon. Instead, the entire Seals of the Duelists trilogy framework popped into my head. I spent the next month outlining book one, and when November began, I started writing it like a mad thing.

What advice would you give to other writers or would-be writers?

When you create a whole new world out of your imagination, the more details you can incorporate, the more realistic the world will feel. But there’s nothing so irritating as reading a fantasy book that doesn’t follow its own rules, whether of culture, worldbuilding, or magic. Reality is consistent, so fiction needs to be consistent, too.

Tell us a bit about your reading interests! What books have you read recently?

I recently polished off the Wheel of Time series. After investing so much time in the world, I couldn’t not find out how it ended. By the end, I enjoyed its worldbuilding and cultures more than its characters and plot, but Brandon Sanderson did a good job of salvaging that series for me.

Okay, let's get a bit more personal. Tell us five random things about you!

  1. My desk is decorated with fantasy items for inspiration. I have pottery, my own handmade leather pouches, and everything from a dragon kris blade to an antique glass fisherman’s float.
  2. I based the elemental magic system in this series on the moves I learned during jujitsu classes.
  3. I love to buy office supplies.
  4. I’m allergic to morphine.
  5. Though I’m left-handed, I’m right-eyed and right-legged (probably due to all the jujitsu). I kick with my right leg and perform archery like a right-hander, but I can fence equally well (or poorly, more like) with either arm.

The book ends with a hint of adventures to come. Can you tell us about any plans for follow-on books? Will they be centered around Bayan, the main protagonist in Rebel Elements?

The second book in the series, TRAITOR SAVANT, was recently edited and proofed, and is waiting on its cover art. Its plot heavily involves Bayan and his hexmates again, and introduces the reader to the inner workings of the mysterious Singer magic, which were only hinted at in book one via the chanting magic of characters like Doc Theo and Azhni. Once more, Bayan and his friends must rise to the occasion, risking much more than they thought they ever would in order to prevent disaster. I really love the magic details in this book. There are actually two new magics involved—but, spoilers—as well as more detail on elemental magic and its (and the empire’s) checkered history.

It was so much fun to put all of that detail into book two, because it creates a perfect lead-up for the epic clashes that form the conclusion of the series in book three, PRODIGAL STEELWIELDER. I’ll be writing book three this NaNoWriMo and bidding a (temporary?) farewell to these amazing characters and their world.

Thanks for talking with us. We're pleased to feature your book on KBoards!

Thank you kindly. It’s been a pleasure to gush about my worldbuilding obsession. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some characters to freak out with their scripts for book three.

Rebel Elements is available now to download to your Kindle!

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