The Gray Wolf Throne, the latest book in the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima, hit stores earlier this week. But today, we are delighted to bring you an exclusive Q&A with Cinda, in which we talk about the third book & what she’s planning for the fourth (and presumably, final) book in the series!
Generally, I begin with character, and develop the world as I go along. This series was unusual in that the world of the Seven Realms was already well fleshed-out before I began—the history, magical system, cultural conflicts, and so on. This is because this series is set in a world I created for The Star-Marked Warder, an adult high fantasy series I began but never finished. Seven Realms is actually a prequel of sorts to SMW. Even some of the characters were very well known to me—as adults.
In fantasy, one of the great dangers is delivering so much detail that the reader gets bogged down. Hemingway used the notion of an iceberg to illustrate that fine balance. Most of what the writer knows is beneath the surface of the story, yet it supports what the reader sees.
Did you have to do a lot of research on court life in medieval times to incorporate details into your story?
Some people assume that fantasy writers don’t need to do research, because we just make stuff up. We actually need to work harder than authors of realistic fiction to make our worlds believable to the reader. We do that by using elements of the familiar. Get something wrong, and the reader loses confidence.
I’ve done some wide-ranging research—answering questions such as: How far can a horse and rider travel in a day? What tactics and weapons were used in medieval warfare? What are the elements of castle architecture? What were common foods and cooking methods? How does geography, terrain, and climate affect commerce? Does a crossbow make a sound when fired? Recently, I posted a question on Goodreads about soldier uniforms, and an expert reader responded.
Obviously, medieval fantasy worlds are prettied up from the real thing—not so many boils and pustules.
I have a degree in philosophy—can you tell? Spirituality provides cohesion—an idea that holds a world together. It makes us committed caretakers of the natural world.
Will Crow become a more prominent character in the fourth book? Will we see more interaction between him and Han?
Oh, yes, Crow has a huge role to play as the story roars to its conclusion. He is one of my very favorite characters, and he finds his own kind of redemption.
I’m sure you had a vision for the story when you started writing the first book. How much did the story changed since you first started writing it? Have you been surprised at all by where your characters have taken you?
Hmm. I’m not sure that what I had qualifies as a vision. I knew how it all ended, because, of course, I had written that other series. I knew the characters very well as adults. I thought—how did they get here? How did they become these characters I love? I took them back to when they were teenagers and that was the seed of the book.
I sat down and wrote sixty pages and gave them to my agent, who loved it. I told him I thought it was three books. He asked for an outline of each of the three books. I said, how about a paragraph? So I wrote a paragraph for each book—that and the sixty pages (and the success of my other series) got me the deal. I finally used the sixty pages in The Gray Wolf Throne (book 3.) Oh, and it actually turned out to be four books. Who knew?
Do you have more fun writing about the good people or the evil characters? (Because while we love the good characters, the evil characters are so delicious!)
I think it’s important not to choose sides. I don’t like monster movies, precisely because the antagonists are one-dimensional monsters. I love all my characters, and I really make an effort to make each and every one of them three-dimensional and layered, with a history and motivation that is understandable to the reader. When a reader tells me that they hate one of my characters*, I take it to heart. Don’t you see? Look at how he was raised! He’s doing the best he can, you know.
*Feel free to hate Gavan Bayar, though. He is sort of a monster.
If they made a Cinda Williams Chima candle, what would it smell like?
Vanilla and brown sugar.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate chip cookie dough
Your personal theme song?
Right now? “The Seven Realms” by James Rotondi
You’re on a deserted island and have to read one book for the rest of your life. What is it?
I’m a fantasy writer. You at least have to give me a series.
Favorite book as a child?
Black Beauty made me cry.
I love to sing, and I used to be in a folk band. My next Heir book has a musical element, so I would like to take guitar lessons again.
Cinda Williams Chima has authored two best-selling fantasy series: The Heir Chronicles (The Warrior Heir, The Wizard Heir, The Dragon Heir) with two books forthcoming; and the Seven Realms series (The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, and the newly-released The Gray Wolf Throne) with more forthcoming. You can find information about her tour for The Gray Wolf Throne and other upcoming events here.
More information and excerpts from each book are available on her website. Help for writers can be found under Resources/Tips for Writers, including a document called, “Getting Started in Writing for Teens.”