This is an interview with a writer I know on Facebook. She kindly did a piece on Shatterworld when it first came out on her blog.
Tell us a bit about your latest work.
The Gladiator and the Guard is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, the first one being The Collar and the Cavvarach. The stories take place in a world almost exactly like our own. Although most aspects of the culture are just about what they are currently on Earth, a few sports are different, such as the martial art known as cavvara shil. The main difference, however, is that slavery is legal there.
The Krillonian Empire rules much of the world. An emperor, who is never named, governs from the capital city, Krillonia, on the continent known as Imperia. Eight separate provinces (independent nations before they were conquered) can be found on nearby continents. Each province, plus Imperia, is allowed to elect its own legislature and decide on many of its own laws, but the emperor reserves the right to veto any of them and make changes as he sees fit. This seldom happens, however, and to most people the emperor is merely a vague and distant ceremonial figure.
The prevalence of slavery is probably what would stand out the most to visitors from Earth. There are nearly as many slaves in the city of Jarreon, where both books take place, as free people, and they are easily identified by the steel collars they are required to wear locked around their necks. From each collar hangs a tag inscribed with the slave’s name, their owner’s name, and a copy of their owner’s signature. On the back of the tag is their owner’s phone number and a bar code that can be scanned to access additional information.
Many families own one or more slaves who do their housework and yardwork. Businesses often own a large number of slaves, usually for manual labor, though some are trained for more complex tasks. Those who don’t own their own slaves may “hire in” one belonging to someone else. The accepted rate for an hourly wage is two-thirds the amount that a free person would earn for equivalent labor (the money goes to the slave’s owner, of course).
To read more about the culture of the Krillonian Empire, take a look at this post on my blog.
Here’s the back-cover blurb for The Collar and the Cavvarach :
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?
And the blurb for The Gladiator and the Guard :Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?
Which characters in your books most interested you while you wrote? Why?
All my characters are special to me in different ways (every author has to say that, right?). One that was especially fun to write, though, is not actually even a real character. Steene is constantly arguing with his conscience over the issue of owning a slave. He imagines his conscience’s exact words as it responds to him, complete with body language. I enjoyed giving his conscience a little personality of its own. For example, after one particularly lame argument on Steene’s part, “his conscience rolled its eyes and refused to dignify that with a response.”
Some of my characters seemed to take matters into their own hands and decide they wanted a different role than the one I had planned for them. For example, City Watch officer (the equivalent of a police officer) Kalgan Shigo ended up playing a much bigger part than I had anticipated. While still a minor character, he is a more important one than he was originally supposed to be, and he plays a different – and much needed – role in Bensin’s life. I loved watching him take charge and step into the position he wanted!
However, my favorite character in these books is definitely Bensin. The struggles he is forced to go through make him stronger, and I admire him for his perseverance and determination to meet his goals no matter what. He is willing to sacrifice himself for those he cares about, and while his choices aren’t always the wisest, he is committed to doing what he feels is right. Society is against him, since he’s a slave and has few rights, but that doesn’t stop him.
Where did you grow up, and how did your childhood affect your writing?
I grew up in Kenya, where I lived from age 3 to 17. My family has never had a television, nor did we want one, and I spent my childhood immersed in books. That instilled in me a love of reading, which soon turned into a love of writing. That love has never left, and I have never regretted not owning a TV (my husband and I still don’t).
I've heard that you live in Taiwan now. Tell us about that. Has it influenced your writing at all?
My husband and I moved to the island of Taiwan, just off the east coast of China, almost nine years ago. I teach fifth grade in an international school in the city of Taichung and love it (both the job and the location). The hardest part about living here is that, even after all this time, I speak very little Chinese; and most people in Taiwan don’t speak much English. Linguistic difficulties have been the cause of countless awkward moments for me! But other than that, life here is great. I enjoy the culture and have found people to be very welcoming and tolerant of my stumbling attempts to communicate. The food here is great, too – “Chinese” food in America just can’t compare!
I’ve based a few details of Jarreon’s culture on the culture in Taiwan, where I live. The convenient boxed meals and the importance of New Year, for example. In addition, competition winners receive award money in red envelopes. As in Taiwan, some people in Jarreon’s lower class chew betel nut, a legal drug sold in shops decorated with flashing colored lights.
What books are similar to yours (ie: if a reader enjoys X, they'd like yours)?
While this isn’t technically a dystopian story, fans of the dystopian genre would probably enjoy both of these books. One of my beta readers said The Collar and the Cavvarach reminded her of The Hunger Games (but she liked my book better!).
Have you written any other books besides the two in this series?
Yes; I have a fantasy series called the Annals of Alasia, with three books in it so far: Prince of Alasia, In the Enemy’s Service, and Prince of Malorn. They take place in overlapping time periods and can be read in any order. I also have a little book of “interviews” that I conducted with characters in that series; it is available for free to anyone who signs up for my mailing list. In addition, I have written a short puppet script and compiled five separate anthologies of my students’ poetry, with proceeds going to charity (all available through my Amazon author page).
What are your upcoming writing plans?
There will be at least one more book in the Krillonian Chronicles, though I’m tossing around ideas that may eventually lead to other stories set in the same world. In the meantime, I’m working on a final book in my Annals of Alasia fantasy series, called King of Malorn, which should be ready to publish in the next few months. I’m also eager to get back to Heartsong, the science fiction novel that I drafted for last year’s NaNoWriMo. I hope to have that one polished and ready for publication in another year or so. Lots of irons in the fire!
Where can readers connect with you online?
Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon