So the other day, I got to sit down with the lovely and awesome Rachel O'Laughlin to talk about her recently released book, THE COLDNESS OF MAREK. Well, we virtually chatted using Google Chat. However, it was still awesome despite the occasional distraction from work and children.
Anyway, we decided to try something new and talk about some behind the scenes stuff regarding the world she created and where some of it came from.
There is also a giveaway at the end. :D
Here is our chat:
Andrew: Ok. Ready for the first question?
Rachel: Let's do it!
Andrew: Ok. Unlike traditional fantasy settings, yours has no overt religion or magic. Even Game of Thrones (which is also heavy into politics) has these elements. What made you remove those elements from your world?
Rachel: I honestly tried to include those elements, but since my main story didn't have a lot to do with magic, adding in extra felt shallow and contrived to me, and I knew that meant it would DEFINITELY sound contrived to my readers. I'm like this with certain types of characters as well. I don't want them to come off as fake, so I try to just focus on what is relevant. There is some very subtle magic and religion, but it doesn't become important until much later in the story... *hint hint*
Andrew: Let's talk about the politics, since this is a politics driven story.
Rachel: Yay! My favorite!
Andrew: I noticed that you have two major political forces. One is the Monarchy and the other is a Communist style government. What was the inspiration for picking these two. Generally it's Monarchy vs. Democracy. Why Communism?
Rachel: Good question! I based that part off of the transition from Tsarist to Communist Russia. I didn't stick with that theme completely, but I wanted to show how sometimes a group of people is looking for one or the other -- Communism or Democracy -- but they're not sure of what they want. Obviously there are factions within different groups who are certainly aiming for one direction or another, but my villains are playing off of the fact that this people (as a whole) wants to go for any kind of change. The resulting Communist government turns out to not even be all that communist by the time the evil dudes manipulate it for their own ends.
Andrew: Yes. I noticed.
Rachel: Hehe. Yeah, they basically end up with another monarchy-style dictatorship. Crap!
Andrew: Definitely! Personal question: You seem really interested in governments. Was this a major of study in college or just something you do for fun?
Rachel: Just for fun. I was very interested and involved when I was a teen, just because I was passionate about the world and where it's going, but as an adult I find it a little depressing. Fictional politics are much more fascinating. I still vote though, obvs. And when there’s something local that I really feel I can make a difference in, I participate.
Andrew: LOL.Good! Voting is important! Your story is very involved and the world is really well designed. Did you do a lot of world building before writing or did it come out as you wrote it?
Rachel: It came out as I wrote it, especially the Drei and the Desert People. They were both really tricky to write in COLDNESS, because most of their history and culture is saved for the second and third books, so all you really see is that some of the Serens view them harshly, in an almost racist way. I wanted that to be one of the tragic downfalls of the fact that Serengard is so strong -- this way that they tend to look down on people who are different, even while spouting ideals to the contrary -- but it was so close to home, because I've seen that in America. Really, it was tough. Even my main character has some growing and changing to do in this area, especially because she's not very patient, and she has never had the motivation to question a lot of the assumptions she grew up with.
Some of the other world-building, like the magical powers of Otreya -- and Trzl having inherited some herself — came to me at the last minute. Literally. Like, in my third revision. Also, the power the Orions hold over the people became more and more prominent the more times I revised.
That makes my process sound super scattered...probably because it is, ha! But that's how the worldbuilding works for me.
Andrew: Ooh! I didn't know Trzl had powers...
Rachel: It's only hinted at in COLDNESS. But it's pivotal, um...later.
Andrew: Good! Can't wait.
Rachel: It's one of the big reasons I follow her as a main character. She can be really frustrating, but a lot of that has to do with the inner turmoil she doesn't even know is happening. If readers are willing to stick it out with her, I'm hoping these little plot twists will make it pay off for them.
Andrew: Oh, she's an awesome character. I totally wanted to smack her repeatedly.
Rachel: That is SUCH a compliment. Really. *polishes tiara*
Andrew: The emotocons are huge squished faces on my screen. It's kind of creepy. o.O
Rachel: MINE TOO!! They are so weird.
Andrew: Speaking of the Drei. What was their inspiration or where you needing a culture that the Serengard could use as the scapegoat?
Andrew: Did you see my question or are you still wrangling children?
Rachel: Yes, saw them! Am trying to type but my kids just got into the electric toothbrushes and are brushing hair with them. One sec.
Rachel: Okay I've bribed them with milk. Should be good for a few mins. Whew!
About the Drei: At first I just wanted someone who was very different from the Serens. I invented the Drei to be serious and logical, almost emotionless, and also militaristic… whereas the Serens are passionate, love to party, and haven't had a standing army in forever. Once I had characters who were Drei, they took on their own identity as people with a natural knack for both war and for healing. I did get into supernatural elements a little bit, too. Them being the scapegoat just came about as the natural progression of the villain's plot: the fact that he couldn't go back on the Orion treaties without the Drei becoming angry, AND the Seren people were rightfully scared of their "epic skillz". The new government chose to strike first.
Andrew: Oh very cool. A lot of stuff gets developed for a novel (world, people, relationships) that don't have a place in the novel proper, but are still there. Besides the magic/religion (which I hope we see some in the 2nd book), what is something (non-spoilery) that you can tell us about either the world or a character that was behind the scenes, but didn't show up in the novel proper?
Rachel: The Swamp People were sort of half-lizard in my original draft, and the gypsies have had people with powers in their lineage that I touched on. I took out their development because it wasn't relevant at all, and instead focused mainly on the cliff folk. Also, the Orion family has some spiritualistic backstory, but I had to trim it from COLDNESS. Originally, I had a little bit of Mikel's perspective in there, and his love of culture lent to all kinds of historical commentary. I had to cut his POV for continuity reasons. But I promise much of the Orion elements are revisited in KNIGHTS OF RILCH.
Andrew: Oh awesome! The second novel has a title! And when will we be seeing the second part of the story?
Rachel: February 2014! I've already drafted it and am in the middle of major revisions. I'm even more excited about this one than COLDNESS…which means A LOT. It is has more action and a kick-butt warrior girl MC. So. *shrugs*
Andrew: WOOT! What's the timeline in regards to COLDNESS? ie...how much time has passed from first book to second?
Rachel: Almost four years. Can't tell your readers who the MC is yet (though I'm sure YOU can guess), but Trzl is thirty, Malcom is thirteen, and Colstadt is all mid-twenties and cool.
Andrew: LOL. I'm running out of questions! *whines* Is there anything you want to say that I haven't asked about?
Rachel: Hm, not really! You asked awesome questions. Thank you so much for having me! It was really fun. I love talking about this part of the story.
Andrew: Yes, it was!
COLDNESS OF MAREK
The First in the Serengard Series
Release Date: August 6, 2013
The First in the Serengard Series
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Serengard has been under Orion rule for centuries—centuries of insufferable adherence to laws and traditions that its people no longer believe in. Raised by her scholarly grandfather in the fiery southern city of Neroi, Trzl is dedicated to turning the monarchy into a free society where knowledge is king and no one has to be subject to the whims of an Orion.
As the rebellion escalates, her choices have an eerie impact on the revolution at large, elevating her to a position of influence she has only dreamed of attaining. But there are downsides to her new power that entangle her in a dangerous web of emotions, appearances and alliances. Even as she plays to the attractions of Hodran, a rich nobleman who wants to aid her cause, she is drawn to Mikel, a loyalist farmer who hates the rebellion but just might be winning her heart.
By the time Trzl realizes she is in too deep, she has an infant son and a dark mess of betrayal and lies. She runs to the furthest corner of the kingdom in hopes that she will be left alone with her child, but she has created too many demons. A figure she once trusted will take her captive in the chilling Cliffs of Marek, throw her back into the political upheaval she helped create, and leave her at the mercy of a man she never wanted for an enemy.
Obsessed with all things history, Rachel O’Laughlin grew up writing adventure stories and only recently fell in love with fantasy as a genre. She lives in New England with her husband and children, grows roses and tweets often. She adores lattes, The Fray, long drives in the country, and any dark story with a good twist. Coldness of Marek is her first novel.
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