Mike Allen of Mythic Delirium Books has tagged me to answer ten questions about my current work in progress. Thanks, Mike, for giving me a chance to talk about the novel.
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing
1. What is the title of your book?
The current title is Bridgers, but it might not be final. My original title for the project was Languages of Wakewood, which I love, but it no longer works, since the book now includes many other languages.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’ve been telling myself stories set in Birdverse for the last five years. The stories form a loose arc, a series of tales set in motion by an environmental disaster whose inception goes almost unnoticed, until it suddenly and precipitously deteriorates. I call the arc The Earthkeepers. In the beginning of 2012, I found myself working on a YA novel set fairly close to the end of the arc. The story took me to the east of the landmass, where I have not formerly dared to go. The main character in the YA discovers some very grim and yet exciting things that had happened to her parents at the time of the revolution, seventeen years prior. I became fascinated by the MC’s father, a lice-maker for the government and a broken and frightened man who had once studied languages now dead or forbidden. Something clicked; I needed to know exactly what happened during the revolution, and I realized that the whole arc begins then. I needed to know more about this group of people who called themselves Bridgers – in our terms they are linguists, anthropologists, folklorists, ethnomusicologists – and what they did to bring about the very revolution that eventually outlawed their discipline. I thought, well, I could put the YA on hold for a moment and write a novella about all this. So it began.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Social science fantasy. Oh, wait, there’s no genre like this. Then I guess it’s secondary world fantasy. It really is social science fantasy, though – it tackles social science questions, the process of research, and the evolution of these disciplines within the constraints of my secondary world. The story revolves around linguistics primarily and anthropology second. But it is also fantasy, with deepname magic and dreaming magic and a Bird deity who might or might not exist.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
That’s not a question I feel equipped to answer. I am not a movie person, and I just don’t think in these terms.
5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?
I don’t have an elevator pitch yet. It is hard with a book like this. “A foreign linguist attempts to do fieldwork, gets embroiled in a revolution.” “A linguist discovers her informants are people.” “A linguist discovers her informants are people; sociolinguistics ensue.” See, this is hard, because much as I love Ulín, she is an outsider. There are six other characters who are insiders, and each one of them deserves a pitch. I’ll just have to keep thinking about this.
“A tale of revolution and linguistics, with a bonus lion.”
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
At this time I am not planning to self-publish, but I am not ruling this out as a possibility. I am hopeful that my book will find an audience, but I cannot gauge at this point whether it is just the 20 or so people who are already waiting to read it when it’s done, or a larger group.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Bridgers began as a novella, The Languages of Wakewood. I started writing it in mid-February and wrote 30k in two months. I sent it to my wonderful beta-readers for critique, revised, and was dithering when at the end of May Amal El-Mohtar convinced me to expand the novella into a book. She was right – the story needed more space. In addition, I have excluded some characters from the novella because of length restrictions, and they needed to be in the story. As of early October I am still writing (now at 90k, with about 20k still left) and hope to finish the manuscript by the end of the year.
8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
While I know of no books exactly like this, Bridgers wants to hang out with C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner, the work of Ursula Le Guin, and the Elemental Logic series by Laurie J. Marks.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This is a book that stems from my passions, work, and activism. I am a linguist who has been repeatedly told that sociolinguistics is not ‘real’ linguistics. It is too real linguistics that matters to real people in real circumstances every single day. Last semester I’ve been teaching a course on multilingualism, and writing about multilingualisms, language shift, language loss, and language and prestige; these themes are at the core of the book. I am multilingual myself, and a twice-immigrant; those issues are of intense interest to me. The book was set in motion by Shweta Narayan and Amal El-Mohtar, who wanted to read it.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
If you like intersectionality: this story is told by people who are disempowered in different ways. They lack magic, they are poor, they are queer, they are renegades, they belong to ethnic and religious minorities. They come from different cultures.
If you like interesting female characters: this book is full of them.
If you want images, then I give you these: four hundred bird-shaped weathervanes rattle on the roof of the university. The names of rivers past. A people who follow the tumbleweed star across the great desert. A lion of fire.
If you want to know more about the protagonists: the heroines are a linguist, disinherited after her loss of magic; a revolutionary in a short sack dress; a peasant who has once killed a bear out of mercy; an artificer who makes mechanical rats and paints them with flowers. And the heroes are a musician who has been forbidden to sing; a folklorist who sews a baby quilt at night; and a killer desperately in love with a woman more ruthless than him and twice his age.
Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.
Mike Allen’s responses are found on his blogs (Descent into Light; Livejournal mirror). Tagging Sofia Samatar, Mat Joiner, Ann Leckie, Lisa Bradley, Amal El-Mohtar, and Bogi Takács. You can write about any creative project you are working on, be it a short story, a novel, a novella, a poem, an anthology – anything.