Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Author Interview: Q&A with Marie Brennan

We're so excited to have the fantastic Marie Brennan on the blog today with an interview in celebration of the release of the last book in her The Memoirs of Lady Trent series. Our very own Rose Red has recently fallen in love with these books and she is ecstatic for the opportunity to ask Marie questions!

If you missed it, you can read Rose Red's review of the first book, A Natural History of Dragons, here.

Q & A With Marie Brennan

Rose Red: I'm a new reader to the series and I've adored what I've read so far! It's the naturalist fantasy-of-manners series I never knew I needed. Out of all of the mythical creatures out there, why did you choose dragons? Are there any dragon-related books outside of your series that you'd recommend to those of us that are obsessed with them?

Marie Brennan: It will come as no surprise that I had a thing for Pern back in the day. I also very much enjoy Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, which is set a little earlier in the nineteenth century (and in an alternate-history version of our own world). To be honest, I haven't read much dragon-related stuff in recent years, because I don't want to cross the streams too much! I've read and blurbed both Todd Lockwood's The Summer Dragon and Stephen S. Power's The Dragon Round, though, both of which pay attention to the biology and behavior of dragons in interesting ways.

RR: I immediately fell in love with Lady Trent! She's spunky and independent with a delightful sense of curiosity. Is there a specific person she was based on? Is she like you in any way?

MB: Well, I'm definitely a nerd -- but much less of a biologist than she is. (In terms of field of specialty, I'm much closer to Suhail, a character who shows up later in the series.) There's no single person she's based on, but there are a whole lot of historical women who contributed to the idea: Mary Kingsley, Gertrude Bell, Freya Stark, Isabella Bird (not actually my heroine's namesake, but a good match), and more.

RR: As a scientist myself, I loved Lady Trent's dedication and love for her field! I thought the narrative had the perfect balance of science and fantasy. What was your favorite part of writing the science? Was there any interesting research you got to do for the book?

MB: I wound up doing a whole lot of spontaneous reading about different kinds of animals along the way, because I used them as inspiration for several dragon breeds. Savannah snakes, for example, are behaviorally a lot like cheetahs. And because I work late at night, at one point it was something like 2 a.m. and I was googling giraffe vertebrae in order to make a point about what characteristics vary between species or stay the same -- so there was a whole lot of interesting research along the way. As for the favorite part, though, I think it was the fact that I could pull out all the stops on being precise and intellectual: I can have Isabella talking about obligate carnivores or monotremes or whatever, rather than feeling like I need to dial it back because my protagonist wouldn't think in scientific terms.

RR: One of my favorite things about the series was the world in which it is set. Did you base Scirland and the countries that surround it on real life places or is the world a product of your imagination?

MB: Every place Isabella goes is based on a real-world location, in terms of its culture and environment. Scirland is England, Vystrana is Romania with Russian overlords, Bayembe is a mix of West African societies like Mali and the Yoruba, Mouleen is the Congo, Coyahuac is Mesoamerica, Yelang is China, etc. But because it's a secondary world, I have some leeway to introduce new elements or tweak things, so that the Vystrani have Finnish-style saunas and the Keongans have a third gender and almost everybody in Scirland is Jewish. After all, the world has a different geography and a different history -- not to mention dragons -- so there's also a good reason for me to make things up.

RR: The last book in the series is set to come out today. Is there anything you're going to miss about working on these books now that it's over?

MB: I've compared the end of the series to a good friend moving away. Because of the style of narration -- first person, with Isabella aware that she's telling her story to an audience -- I feel like I've gotten to know her very well, and there's a part of me that's sad not to be continuing on with her. But I've finished the story I set out to tell, and I'd rather wrap it up when everyone still loves the story, rather than continuing on until it's grown stale.

RR: Thank you so much for answering answering our questions today! We have one more that we like to ask every author who stops by the Goldilox blog for an interview. What books have you read lately that you think that we need to add to our TBRs immediately?

MB: Yoon Ha Lee's Ninefox Gambit. TOTALLY DIFFERENT from the Memoirs of Lady Trent -- it's science fiction about an interstellar empire -- but excellent worldbuilding, and the best example I've seen lately of an unavoidable team-up with a really untrustworthy ally.

 The last book in the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, is on sale now!

About the Author
Marie Brennan holds an undergraduate degree in archaeology and folklore from Harvard, and completed graduate coursework in cultural anthropology and folklore at Indiana University in Bloomington. She now misapplies her professors’ hard work by using it as inspiration for her fantasy novels and short stories.

At present she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spends her time playing piano, studying shorin-ryu karate, dabbling in amateur photography, and playing a variety of role-playing games.

Her first novel was published in 2004. Since then she has sold a dozen books and more than forty short stories.

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