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Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014


Please welcome Kameron Hurley to The Qwillery. The Mirror Empire, the first novel in the Worldbreaker Saga, was published by Angry Robot Books on August 26, 2014 in North America and digital format and will be published on September 4, 2014 in the UK in print format.



Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014




Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants

I get a lot of questions about worldbuilding. It’s right up there with characterization as my favorite part of writing, and is most certainly my favorite part of choosing to write in genre. I can create whole worlds from the ground up.

As I relish in this power of virtual creation, it always seemed odd to me that more people didn’t spend time worldbuilding. Weird writers like China Mieville, KJ Bishop and Angela Carter impressed me with the lush weirdness of the worlds they built, both fascinating and horrifying me as a reader. So when I went to create the creatures inhabiting the world of my latest book, The Mirror Empire, my new epic fantasy novel, you can bet building fantastic creatures was top of mind.

In my God’s War trilogy, I had created a world powered by different types of insects – some real, some made up for the book. Using bugs as a form of commerce and technology affected every other thing in the book, so it was vital to get that system down early. For The Mirror Empire I wanted to have a similarly ubiquitous and strange way of populating the landscape that affected how people worked, traveled, lived.

So… why not flesh-eating plants?

Cue the “feed me” jokes. Yes, they are apt.

I tinkered with the idea of having these semi-sentient types of plants, like walking trees and ground cover that would creep up and engulf you if you sat still too long. I imagined huge bladder traps and massive pitcher plants that ate people and mammals instead of insects. I had also made the primarily point of view culture in the book vegetarian, which seemed to present some interesting issues: it wasn’t as if they could pretend plants didn’t have feelings and motivations when some of them really, really did. So their choice to be vegetarians, I suspected, was not going to be a wholly moral one.

I also made a conscious choice to steer clear of totally unfamiliar names when telling readers what my creatures were, from bears to treegliders to pitcher plants to bladder traps. I used real-world names whenever possible for things that were… well, almost like their earth equivalents. There were already a lot of made-up names across several cultures, and I wanted to reduce the number of new terms that readers were introduced to. So even though the bears on this world have forked tongues and bifurcated paws and protruding fangs, I call them bears. And even though the bladder traps are six feet tall and hidden underground, attached to the roots of trees, instead of miniscule things meant to catch bugs attached to the roots of small plants, they’re called bladder traps.

I learned this trick from author Tara K. Harper, whose Wolfwalker books appear, at first blush, to be standard fantasy novels. But as you get deeper into it you realize the “horses” have six legs, and the other creatures and landscapes you thought were fantasy pseudo-familiar are… not. I had a similar moment of dissonance reading Paul Park’s Starbridge Chronicles, when, halfway through the book there’s a sentence like, “He pushed her tail out of the way” and I was like HOLY CRAP THEY HAVE TAILS???

It turns out that when you’re building really weird worlds, waiting to reveal just how weird they are is kinder to the reader than a mess of word vomit at the start. I had approached many aspects of writing the God’s War trilogy the same way, using real-world words (though not always English ones) to describe things that most assuredly… were not. Or were, at best, used to define slightly different types of things.

Steering clear of too many made-up words is probably my biggest piece of worldbuilding advice, especially if, like me, you’re already making up a good deal, from the names of the people and places to the gods and the unique terms and titles used by several different cultures. You’re already going to have some interesting word salad. Try not to overdo it.





The Mirror Empire
Worldbreaker Saga 1
Angry Robot Books, August 26, 2014 (US/Canada print/digital)
     September 4, 2014 (UK print)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 544 pages

Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014
From the award-winning author of God’s War comes a stunning new series…
 
On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.

File Under: Fantasy





About Kameron

Kameron Hurley is the author of the novels God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture a science-fantasy noir series which earned her the Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer and the Kitschy Award for Best Debut Novel. She has won the Hugo Award and been a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Nebula Award, the Locus Award, BFS Award, and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Her latest novel, The Mirror Empire, was published by Angry Robot Books on August 26th, 2014.

Website  ~  Twitter @KameronHurley  ~  Facebook




God's War Trilogy / Bel Dame Apocrypha

God's War
God's War / Bel Dame Apocrypha 1
Night Shade Books, February 1, 2011
Trade Paperback and eBook, 307 pages

Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014
Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on--

There's not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war--but at what price?

The world is about to find out.



Infidel
God's War / Bel Dame Apocrypha 2
Night Shade Books, October 1, 2011
Trade Paperback and eBook, 300 pages

Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014
The only thing worse than war is revolution. Especially when you're already losing the war...

Nyx used to be a bel dame, a government-funded assassin with a talent for cutting off heads for cash. Her country's war rages on, but her assassin days are long over. Now she's babysitting diplomats to make ends meet and longing for the days when killing people was a lot more honorable.

When Nyx's former bel dame "sisters" lead a coup against the government that threatens to plunge the country into civil war, Nyx volunteers to stop them. The hunt takes Nyx and her inglorious team of mercenaries to one of the richest, most peaceful, and most contaminated countries on the planet -- a country wholly unprepared to host a battle waged by the world's deadliest assassins.

In a rotten country of sweet-tongued politicians, giant bugs, and renegade shape shifters, Nyx will forge unlikely allies and rekindle old acquaintances. And the bodies she leaves scattered across the continent this time... may include her own.

Because no matter where you go or how far you run in this world, one thing is certain: the bloody bel dames will find you.



Rapture
God's War / Bel Dame Apocrypha  3
Night Shade Books, November 6, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook,372 pages

Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014
After years in exile, Nyxnissa so Dasheem is back in action in service to the bel dames, a sisterhood of elite government assassins tasked with eliminating deserters and traitors. The end of a centuries-long holy war between her country, Nasheen, and neighboring Chenja has flooded the streets of Nasheen with unemployed – and unemployable – soldiers whose frustrations have brought the nation to the brink of civil war.

Not everyone likes this tenuous and unpredictable “peace,” however, and somebody has kidnapped a key politician whose death could trigger a bloody government takeover. With aliens in the sky and revolution on the ground, Nyx assembles a team of mad magicians, torturers,and mutant shape-shifters for an epic journey across a flesh-eating desert in search of a man she’s not actually supposed to kill.

Trouble is, killing is the only thing Nyx is good at. And she already left this man to die…



You may buy the complete God's War Trilogy in a digital omnibus edition (Night Shade Books, July 15, 2013):

Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014


Interview with Kameron Hurley and Giveaway - October 3, 2011

Please welcome Kameron Hurley to The Qwillery as part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge interviews. God's War (Bel Dame Apocrypha Volume 1), Kameron's debut, was published in January 2011. Infidel (Bel Dame Apocrypha Volume 2) will be published tomorrow, October 4th.


TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Kameron:  I’m not a terribly quirky writer, which I think has something to do with writing marketing and advertising copy for a living. I recognize that writing is a job like any other, and if the only way you can do it properly is by standing on your head in a nest full of snakes on Tuesday afternoons, you’re not going to make it in the real world.

Writing for a living means writing even (and especially) when you feel stupidly, boringly, absurdly normal.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Kameron:  I have all sorts of favorite writers right now – Genevieve Valentine, Martha Wells, Tim Akers, and I’ve been far too interested in stuff from Joe Abercrombie and Margaret Atwood lately. I’m also a fan of the old Conan and Elric novels, which is where a lot of my inspiration for Nyx came from in GOD'S WAR. I wanted to create a truly badass female Conan, with far better treatments of race and sexual politics.

As far as influences go, there’s certainly a lot of New Weird in my work, and I think most folks familiar with Geoff Ryman, Jeff VanderMeer, KJ Bishop, and China Mieville will see some of that influence. But there are also folks like Angela Carter, Octavia Butler, Annie Proulx, Christopher Priest, Michael Cunningham, Toni Morrison, Mary Renault, Sarah Waters, and Rupert Thomson whose work has really forced me to look at language and narrative in new ways.

One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was to read outside the genre. Too often, I think, we get stuck only reading whatever’s in the SF/F section, and miss out exposure to some incredible writing because we’re busy trying to follow the “read what you want to write” advice. There are all sorts of places to steal things from. It’s good to leave SF/F regularly to mine for gold.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a panster?

Kameron:  Honestly, I can’t plot my way out of a paper bag. The Bel Dame Apocrypha books are the first ones that I dared write out of order, though, because I had it in my mind that I had to write beginning to end with no breaks. But now, instead of just starting at the beginning and working my way to the end, I write in sections/scenes – middle, end, beginning whatever – and then link them together as I go. I had a vague idea of where I was going in GOD'S WAR, but too much plotting tends to take all the fun out of the discovery process for me. That said, the trouble with too little plotting is that you spend an incredible amount of time in revision. My goal is to get better at plotting beforehand so I can save some revision time on the backend and put more energy into worldbuilding and character development, which is where I have the most fun.

TQ:  Describe God's War (Bel Dame Apocrypha Volume 1) in 140 characters or less.

Kameron:  After centuries of war, a godless assassin and her rag-tag team of mercenaries go looking for an alien gene pirate who could end the war.

TQ:  What inspired you to write God's War?

Kameron:  It was some combination of reading too many bloody Bible stories as a child and enjoying far too many 80’s apocalypse movies, I’m sure. I’d been wanting to write a bounty hunter story in a resource-strapped world for a long time, and started digging into Assyrian, Babylonian, and old school Biblical history. That was when I stumbled on the term “bel dame” or “blood avenger,” which is a very old, old Hebrew term that referred to somebody who collected blood debt for a family by tracking down the person who’d harmed or killed a family member. That was the kick I needed to start building a wicked band of government-sponsored assassins in a dusty, bloody, biblical-justice style world.

TQ:  Tell us about Infidel (Bel Dame Apocrypha Volume 2)

Kameron:  INFIDEL is the story of what happens when a group of bloody-minded government assassins decide they want to take over the world – and how one woman intends to stop them. Nyxnissa so Dasheem and her ragtag band of mercenaries are on the hunt again in this one, trying to stop a bel dame coup that could topple the government and cost them the war. There’s plenty of old friends and foes from the first book, as well as some new mangled faces, rogue shapeshifters, and mad magicians.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Infidel?

Kameron:  There’s a scene in INFIDEL when a group of bel dame assassins tracks down a character from the previous books and do some really nasty things. When I started having nightmares about bloody women bursting into my house and slaughtering my family, I knew the book was done. I also knew I’d done the scene right. One of things I wanted to accomplish with this series was to create women who were actually scary. Not what passes for “scary” women these days, with their sexy hot pants and midriff-baring shirts and tendencies to fall for vampires, but truly, deadly, crap-your-pants-while-they-murder-your-children scary. When I woke up in a cold sweat, listening for assassins on the stairs, I knew I’d accomplished that.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do to create the world of the Bel Dame Apocrypha?

Kameron:  My Master's degree is in South African history and how the African National Congress recruited female fighters into Umkhonto we Sizwe, the militant wing of the group. Best guestimates put female guerilla fighters involved in many of southern Africa's liberation movements in the 80's at 20% or more of the armies' fighting forces. That seemed like a crazy high number to me, and a fascinating subject to explore. What drew women into the fighting forces? What made it acceptable? How did they deal with sexism and assult from their own people? And, most pressing of all, to me, was why didn't joining fighting forces to topple the existing government and social structure ever seem to translate into full equality for women after any of these groups were successful?

The answers to that are varied and complex, and led me to look a lot at racism and sexism in the U.S. as well. I went on to spend an inordinate amount of time studying genocide, Biblical homocide, Assyria, Persia, more modern Iraq-Iran (and their US-sponsored war), Islam, and a whole host of other things. I basically just went to the library, picked up 20 or 30 books, wrote down more books from the bibliographies of the best of those, and just kept churning through them until I had so much stuff in my head that I felt I was ready to create something new from it. GOD'S WAR still suffers from a lot of laziness and biases on my part, but I think that a lot of the complexity of the world that everyone comments on does come from the fact that I was full to bursting with a lot of diverse histories, vistas, politics, geography, faiths, and social mores. For fantasy writers, this kind of research is invaluable.

TQ:  In the Bel Dame Apocrypha series, who was the most difficult character to write and why? The easiest and why?

Kameron:  By far, Rhys was the toughest character to write. He’s a person of faith with some very interesting ideas about women’s place in the world (as well as his own). I wanted desperately to write a character like that in a way that was human and believable. He needed to find comfort and solace in his faith, and his surety that women needed male protection and seclusion needed to come from a positive place, for him. He was all about nurturing and protection and doing what he believed was morally right. It’s always difficult to write characters who come from a place that’s morally much different than your own and write them sympathetically. I think I did all right with him. In the second book, he was actually one of the easiest to write, because he was allowed to feel things that my main character, Nyx, was not.

That said, Nyx was the easiest to write. I built a very selfish morality for her, which - sadly - was pretty easy to create being inudated like I am with our American binge-and-purge-all-out-for-yourself culture. As I understood more about her – how she was a person of faith who had abandoned it, and how she subsumed a lot of her most human emotions in order to survive – she became a lot more interesting to write. I enjoy writing about people with non-traditional morals. I suppose folks will say that they see her as totally amoral, but to me, she simply has a different idea of morality. I love working in that gray area of personal values, and Nyx was a really fun exercise in weird but consistent screwed-up-ness.

TQ:  How many books are planned for the Bel Dame Apocrypha series?

Kameron:  I’ve planned three. I’m working on the third book, RAPTURE, now. I also just recently released some free short stories from the same universe to tide folks over until INFIDEL’s release. I’ll likely do that again prior to the launch of RAPTURE, since it was a lot of fun (http://www.kameronhurley.com/?p=11619)

TQ:  What's next?

Kameron:  Next on my plate is a bloody little space opera about a mad, wandering legion of world-ships and the feuding rival families battling for control over them. Right now, I’m affectionately calling it my “BLOODTIDE in Spaaaaaace” novel. Outline, synopsis, and a couple chapters are done, but I’m trying to keep it on hold until I finish and turn in RAPTURE.

It’s easy to get distracted when you have so much cool stuff you should be working on…

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Kameron:  Thanks for the invite!


About the Bel Dame Apocrypha

Infidel
Bel Dame Apocrypha Volume 2
(Night Shade Books, October 4, 2011)

Interview with Kameron Hurley and Giveaway - October 3, 2011
The only thing worse than war is revolution. Especially when you're already losing the war...

Nyx used to be a bel dame, a government-funded assassin with a talent for cutting off heads for cash. Her country's war rages on, but her assassin days are long over. Now she's babysitting diplomats to make ends meet and longing for the days when killing people was a lot more honorable.

When Nyx's former bel dame "sisters" lead a coup against the government that threatens to plunge the country into civil war, Nyx volunteers to stop them. The hunt takes Nyx and her inglorious team of mercenaries to one of the richest, most peaceful, and most contaminated countries on the planet -- a country wholly unprepared to host a battle waged by the world's deadliest assassins.

In a rotten country of sweet-tongued politicians, giant bugs, and renegade shape shifters, Nyx will forge unlikely allies and rekindle old acquaintances. And the bodies she leaves scattered across the continent this time... may include her own.

Because no matter where you go or how far you run in this world, one thing is certain: the bloody bel dames will find you.


God's War
Bel Dame Apocrypha Volume 2
(Night Shade Books, January 18, 2011)

Interview with Kameron Hurley and Giveaway - October 3, 2011
Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn't make any difference...

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there's one thing everybody agrees on--

There's not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx's ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war--but at what price?

The world is about to find out.


About Kameron

Interview with Kameron Hurley and Giveaway - October 3, 2011
Kameron Hurley currently hacks out a living as a marketing and advertising writer in Ohio. She’s lived in Fairbanks, Alaska; Durban, South Africa; and Chicago, but grew up in and around Washington State. Her personal and professional exploits have taken her all around the world. She spent much of her roaring 20′s traveling, pretending to learn how to box, and trying not to die spectacularly. Along the way, she justified her nomadic lifestyle by picking up degrees in history from the University of Alaska and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Today she lives a comparatively boring life sustained by Coke Zero, Chipotle, low-carb cooking, and lots of words. She continues to work hard at not dying.


Kameron's links

Website
Twitter
Facebook
YouTube
Stumble Upon



The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:   One commenter will win a copy of Infidel (Bel Dame Apocrypha Volume 2) from Kameron!

How:   Leave a comment answering the following question:

What woman or women inspire you? 

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)  Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)  Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)  Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Monday, October 10, 2011. Void where prohibited by law. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*
Guest Blog by Kameron Hurley - Creative Creatures: Not Your Typical Houseplants - August 29, 2014Interview with Kameron Hurley and Giveaway - October 3, 2011

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