It’s been a little while since I’ve caught up with AM Dellamonica, so I’m very excited to have her back on the blog to talk about her new fantasy, CHILD OF A HIDDEN SEA! Please welcome her back!
Welcome back to the blog!
Thank you! It’s nice to be here.
Will you tell us a little bit about your new book, Child of a Hidden Sea, and what inspired you to write it?
One primary inspiration was the idea of fun. I love my first two books, Indigo Springs and Blue Magic, but there’s a fair amount of sadness and betrayal in the story of Astrid Lethewood. The heroes of that novel see a lot of tragedy. While I’ll probably never write anything that doesn’t have those dark elements, I wanted my new books to allow the protagonist and those closest to her to enjoy themselves, at least here and there.
I wanted them to be fun to write and fun to read, too.
As a result, Sophie Hansa is outdoorsy and adventurous–the sort of person who hikes, and bikes, and goes spelunking, and dives–and she lands in a world where there’s an almost infinite variety of natural wonders and unknown-to-her animal and plant species. What’s more, the locals are using that genetic treasure trove to work a unique form of magic called inscription.
Why do you think readers will root for Sophie, and what did you enjoy most about writing her character?
I have in the past tended to create fairly tight-lipped protagonists, people who think before they act. They’re a little buttoned down, self-contained. Their motivations can seem a little murky. Sophie, on the other hand, overshares. She’s terrible at keeping secrets. If she’s feeling something, she’s apt to spill it, possibly at the top of her lungs. When she’s upset, there’s no stiff upper lip–she bursts into tears. She’s very open-hearted, and my hope is that readers will respond to that.
Besides Sophie, is there another character that you particularly enjoyed writing?
All of them! I do have a soft spot for the Duelist-Advocate of the Fleet, Clydon Banning. Cly comes into the story comparatively late (but he’s big in the latter two thirds of the trilogy). He’s a combination of Supreme Court Judge and duellist–when someone wants to broker an out-of-court settlement in one of the Fleet’s many lawsuits, they challenge the other party in the case to a duel, and Cly gets to decide whether to let them fight it out, to assign a proxy for one party or the other, or to intervene personally by jumping into the ring himself.
My initial readers also loved Cly, but what I’m seeing now as more people review the book is that Sophie’s baby brother, Bram, is getting a lot of love. Bram is a child genius–the type of person who has three doctorates before he’s twenty-five. He came out to his family as a teenager, and his father packed him right off to a psychologist–not so much out of homophobia as from an idea that obviously a gay child prodigy would have a lot to process.
Bram isn’t just supersmart. He’s a very thoughtful, even-keel and sometimes wry guy. He adores his sister, but he can’t help being overwhelmed by how emotionally expressive she is… he sometimes wishes he could make her spend a few hours with his therapist.
Stormwrack is made up of many different islands, and languages! Did you do any specific research for the book?
Tons! The best part was going to Catania, Sicily, and seeing the black lava buildings that are described in Erinth. (I’d have loved to go to the Galápagos Islands, too, since the archipelagos of island nations on Stormwrack feature that kind of biodiversity, but it didn’t happen.) I have a pool of environmental scientists and biologists I can draw on for advice on ecosystems. I quizzed Peter Watts extensively about some of the underlying physics of how Stormwrack came to be the way it is. This is a central question for Bram and Sophie, and since I am not a scientist myself I needed a lot of coaching.
Before the novel begins, Sophie is in the early stages of a career as a nature photographer and undersea videographer. Another component of the research for this book is my own nature photography hobby. Which is a somewhat falutin’ way to say I spend a lot of my spare time chasing birds with a camera.
You’ve created a whole new world with Stormwrack, and worldbuilding is definitely an important part of books like this. What are a few of your favorite literary “worlds”?
As a kid I imprinted on Narnia, Oz and Wonderland, which is probably why I ended up writing portal fantasy. More recently, one of my favorite other worlds is the one from DD Barant’s The Bloodhound Files series, where an FBI profiler from our world goes to a place where humans are a federally protected endangered species. Earth is a place where vampires, werewolves and golems make up 90% of the population. I’m also a big fan of time travel narratives, and so Lauren Beukes’s The Shining Girls was a near-perfect read for me. Finally, I can’t resist a good historical: I felt that Hild, by Nicola Griffith, was a book that transported me to a place that might as well have been alien.
It’s been a while since we caught up…have you read any good books lately? Is there anything you’re looking forward to this year?
I recently read (and reviewed) James Morrow’s The Madonna and the Starship, and found that incredibly fun. I’ve also been easing back into horror fiction: I read Joe Hill’s Horns: A Novel and All Heads Turn when the Hunt Goes By, by John Farris. This is probably the fault of Christopher Beuhlman, whose most recent two novels were insanely good and left me wanting more of the monstrous.
As for things I’m looking forward to, there’s The Door in the Mountain,by Caitlin Sweet. It’s out, but I have to finish up a couple other things before I can read it. I’ve also been thinking about reading Peter Straub’s The Throat. I love about half of Straub’s books passionately–I reread Mystery almost every year–and the other half make me furious. I skipped The Throat, but some conversations with other writers lately have made me think I should give it a try.
I’m also reading more short fiction lately: the tor.com stories, some of the offerings at Daily Science Fiction and story collections like Kij Johnson’s “At the Mouth of the River of Bees” come to mind. I love short stories, and I’m also looking for other people who are currently writing ecofantasy. It’s an odd little sandbox, and I know I’m not the only one playing in it. I would like to have a better grip on what else is out there.
What’s next for you?
There are two more books about Sophie Hansa and Stormwrack in the works (that’s AlyxSpeak for finished and all but finished) as well as some more short stories set in the same world. If people enjoy them, I might have more stories to tell in the same world, but that’s too far in the future for me to know.
I have been writing a lot of short stories lately and have pieces coming out in Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Apocalypse and Quiltbag: Start a Revolution next year. I am hoping I can continue to find time, between books, to write short pieces. It’s challenging, it stretches other mental muscles… and it’s also fun. As mentioned, I’m in a space where I want everyone–my characters, my readers and me too!–to enjoy the ride.
About CHILD OF A HIDDEN SEA: