Please welcome fellow Texan Arianne “Tex” Thompson to the blog! Her new book, ONE NIGHT IN SIXES (check out that gorgeous cover art!!!),is out today, and she kindly stopped by to answer a few questions about it. Also, courtesy of the nice folks at Solaris, I have 3 copies to give away to 3 lucky winners, and it’s international!
Arianne, I’m so excited for One Night in Sixes! Will you tell us a little about it and what inspired the story?
Well, not to jump on the bandwagon, but I’m excited that you’re excited! I’ve been calling it “cowboys-and-fishmen fantasy,” but the idea’s much bigger than that. The border town of Sixes is a little bit like Terry Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork or Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine: a thriving, improvised, unpredictable place where a huge variety of people (who don’t necessarily like each other!) are living cheek-by-jowl, doing the work of the present while trying not to trip over the cracks of the past. Which gets a whole lot harder when a couple of ignorant foreigners show up, and one of them causes an accident that threatens to destroy that hard-won peace. The genesis of this story was the idea of writing a thoroughly American fantasy – not so much because Sixes looks like someplace in 19th-century New Mexico, but because it reflects our 21st-century struggle to deal with our history without being consumed by it.
Why do you think readers will root for Elim? What did you enjoy most about writing One Night in Sixes?
That’s a tough question! I tell you what, though: what I really love about Elim (and what I hope readers will enjoy too) is that inside this huge, intimidating cow-spotted cowboy is the heart of a homebody hobbit. He’s not John Wayne. He’s not Clint Eastwood. He’s spent his whole life loving his family, his horses, and his dusty little niche – and when he’s forced out of it, he’s so afraid of the big wide world that he ends up making a horrible mistake. At the end of the day, I think what I enjoy most about this story is the idea that the hero isn’t going to save the day with his gun. As a matter of fact, the day was just fine before he got there! Instead, it’s his gun that’s gotten him into this really huge mess, and his heart and courage that are going to have to get him out of it.
You have degrees in history and literature, but what made you decide to start writing fiction? What authors or novels have influenced you the most?
The funny thing is, it actually ended up being the other way around! As a kid, my love of stories made me want to study history (the story of our world), and literature (the stories we tell about our world). My all-star favorite authors growing up are probably ones that any fantasy fans will recognize – Tolkien, Lewis, Weis & Hickman, Silverberg, Pratchett – but as a young adult, it was reading authors like Tolstoy, Faulkner, and Achebe that made me realize that I didn’t actually need monsters and magic to be absolutely enthralled by a book.
Why speculative fiction? What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, in the genre?
Y’know, I think what I love most about spec-fic is that it is (or should be!) the biggest, broadest, most inclusive space in the bookstore. It has no prescribed plot elements, like mystery or romance. It’s not defined by atmosphere, like horror or thriller. And even though it often does have magic and spaceships and whatnot, those aren’t essential either: literally the only requirement is that the story takes place outside the world as we know it. That’s it! That’s all! And that is SO exciting, because that means that we can have any heroes, any mood, any plot or setting or narrative structure – anything we can imagine.
I have to ask…how did you celebrate when you found out One Night in Sixes would be published?
Okay, this is 100% true: I was sitting at my computer, designing a new business card to take with me to WorldCon 2013. I’d decided to make my tagline “rural fantasy writer” – I’d literally just finished typing it. Then my email notification dinged: after seven months of waiting, here was a “stop the presses, Solaris want to make an offer!” message from my agent. Hot dog!
So I very calmly tabbed back over to Photoshop document. Hit the backspace key. Wrote “rural fantasy author.” Then I drove up to the nearest bookstore and took a picture of my book’s future place on the shelf.
Have you read any good books recently? Are there any that you’re particularly looking forward to this year?
Well, I have to make a shameful confession here: this year, my various deadlines, big life events, and shockingly poor time-management skills have meant that almost all of my reading has been for critique – so although I am just excruciatingly excited about easily a dozen books, most of them are still years away from the shelf.
Here’s one that I am super-stoked about, though: The Buried Life, by Carrie Patel. I’m in a weird place with this one, because I’ve read none of the book itself, but about 40% of the rough draft of the sequel – and I am SO STOKED. The basic idea is that there’s this grand underground city called Recoletta, where history is both forbidden and forgotten – but someone’s trying to unseal the great library, and sinister plots are afoot. And while I have to admit that I’m biased (because Carrie is both an agency-sibling and a friend of mine) I am also just wildly excited about this whole premise: the atmosphere of this elegant, decaying, gas-lit underground metropolis is phenomenal, and that’s before we even START on the story.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Y’know, if I could read The Rose of the Prophet trilogy again – as the teenager I was when I first discovered it – I would be on it in a heartbeat. It’s set in this Middle Eastern fantasy world, full of uptight angels and hilarious djinn and at least one seriously scary efreet, all of whom are in grave danger of disappearing as immortals vanish and the human world threatens to fall apart. And I remember being AMAZED to realize that make-you-laugh, make-you-cry, edge-of-your-seat epic fantasy didn’t have to have a European setting – that you could set it literally anywhere, have heroes who are men and women, white and brown, human and otherwise, and who have as much trouble with each other as they do from the Big Bad – and it could be AWESOME.
When you’re not writing, or teaching, how do you like to spend your free time?
You’re going to laugh, but here it is: going out to eat. More specifically: going out to eat with my posse. TV and video games and movies and regular reading time got left by the side of the road a long time ago, but everybody’s gotta eat – so you might as well do it with your favorite people, right? Mine are people who like talking about big ideas, who are striving to get somewhere and excited about what they’re doing (and it’s no secret that a big chunk of those folks are writers!) They absolutely sustain my soul, and I couldn’t do without them.
What’s next for you?
Well, as some of Sixes’ first readers have already discovered, this story is just the first part of a trilogy, and our man Elim has miles yet to go. I’m delighted to say that Solaris is already committed to the second book, so we’re spiffing and polishing and hoping to have Medicine for the Dead ready to go for a March 2015 release. And if that does well enough – “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” as we say in Texas! – we’ll be able to finish the story with the as-yet-unnamed Part 3 directly afterward. It’s hard to see that far into the future, but I tell you one thing: if people are as enthusiastic at the end of Sixes as you have been here at the beginning, I’m going to call it a huge win!
**Wanna win a copy of ONE NIGHT IN SIXES? Fill out the widget below and I’ll pick a winner on August 6th (it’s international!)
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