Note: As part of the Blog Tour for the second book in the Hidden Sea Tales, I was given the opportunity to ask Alyx a few questions…. and I asked her seven. She very graciously didn’t tell me off for asking so much of her, and instead provided me with her thoughful and detailed answers. Here, then, is her full interview. If you have not read her work, get thee to your best indie bookstore and start reading!!!
Q1: Being the second book in the series, there are some more serious issues that arise for Sophie, particularly related to her developing relationship with her father and with Verena. Cly in particular is incredibly unsettling, and I could absolutely see why Sophie was so torn about whether or not to continue to see him. How has Sophie changed from the first book, and how do you see these two relationships developing further?
A1. The big change in Child of a Hidden Sea is that Sophie learned to take herself seriously. She had always considered herself something of an intellectual lightweight, and maybe used this as an excuse, sometimes, to underachieve. Now she has higher expectations of herself. What’s interesting about this is that it means being less compromising with others. If you don’t consider yourself a big deal, it’s easy to let everyone but you have their way in an argument. Now, as she deals with Verena and Cly, and discovers the limits of her former easygoing nature, she also discovers that when you don’t give people what they want, they push back.
Q2. The construct of the nations was fascinating to me; there’s almost a sense of historical referencing taking place, especially in regards to the views about social status and slavery. How long have you been developing the world of Stormwrack? Was it already something quite clearly laid out in your mind prior to this trilogy and the prequel stories, or has it evolved from there as you continue to write this world?
A2. A good deal of the structure and story were laid out in my mind a long time ago, but every time I made a major decision about the setting or particularly one of the island nations, I had to stop and do a good deal more thinking. Some of this thinking took the form of separate stories – the prequels you mention. When I was exploring what Gale’s job might look like (I see her as something of a Doctor Who at sea, with a very pretty companion) I wrote “Among the Silvering Herd.” Before I wrote the passage in Child of a Hidden Sea where everyone ends up on Erinth–and a pretty major event unfolds–I wrote a story set there called “The Ugly Women of Castello di Putti. There will be a piece next year on Tor.com, “The Glass Galago,” that digs into what, exactly, got Garland Parrish bounced out of the Fleet.
Q3. I loved how you continued to blur the lines between science and magic, and between predestined or fated love and chemistry in this book. Do you believe in ‘love at first sight’, and/or a predestined life?
A3. Like Sophie, I do not *want* to believe in love at first sight, as Parrish does, or the idea of a one true love. I am at core a practical person, and part of me would love to say that no tinge of superstition ever gets in the way of what I consider my commonsense. Where love is concerned, I want to believe that for most of the human race there are several wonderful possible romantic prospects, people who would make fantastic, loving, lifelong lovers and companions. Because, really, how tragic would it be if that wasn’t true? Yet the weird thing is, I found my soulmate at quite a young age. I do have a one true love. Every fibre of my being rejects the idea, violently, that anyone else could ever do. Which is why Parrish believes in it absolutely, and without question.
Q4. There was a wealth of opportunity for comparative science/fantasy references in Daughter of No Nation, and they all seem to coalesce under forensics this time. Why did you choose forensics as a potential gateway for Sophie and Bram?
A4. The first answer, obviously, is that the person driving the importation of forensics is Cly… and Cly works in the court system. He sees an obvious benefit to himself and he knows how to exploit it. The second answer is that for someone with Sophie and Bram’s training in biology and physics, reverse-engineering forensics would be comparatively easy. It is a bundle of procedures and practices, rather than a nuclear submarine. And a lot of those practices are things they have casual familiarity with from watching TV.
I bet everyone reading this could explain the idea of preserving a crime scene to someone from a culture that didn’t yet have the practice. Does that mean they would do it in the same meticulous way that modern police do? No. But you could outline the process and explain how it’s beneficial.
Q 5. I adore Sophie, not only because she’s smart and funny and holds true to her own personal set of ethics, but also because she acknowledges the people who are important to her in her life. I also love Bram, not only who he is as an individual, but as his role as a voice of reason for Sophie. His reminder that Sophie “is allowed to want things” is the kind of thing we all need to hear. Why was it important to have both siblings as part of the adventure?
A5. I don’t want it to be too easy for Sophie to simply relocate her life to Stormwrack. There are things in San Francisco that really matter to her, and by the same token she also doesn’t get to keep the whole world and its secrets to herself. Bram presents a tight little cluster of problems and solutions, all tangled up together. In the first book, he ends up in quite a bit of danger and Sophie feels incredibly fearful that it’ll happen again. She wants him to stay at home and be safe, but his skillset is pretty much crucial to any chance she has of coming to understand the relationship between the two worlds.
More importantly, Bram is the most important person in Sophie’s life, and he in hers. Until each of them finds a romantic partner, these siblings represent the only truly equal relationship either of them has ever had: they’re the same age, they had the same upbringing, they’re both highly educated and they are natural research partners. They are a team – that’s just how it is.
Q 6. You’ve planned the Hidden Sea Tales as a trilogy, but some of the back stories of the other characters (Tonio, Lena, and especially Gale & Parrish) would be fascinating to read. Is there a chance of more stories? Even short stories or novellas?
A6. I will probably be writing stories sent in this universe until I die. I like the idea of a novel about Bram, but I haven’t quite figured out how it would work yet. But the fourth Gale and Garland Parrish story, “Losing Heart among the Tall” has just sold to Tor.com–I don’t have a date for it yet, but it’s about how Sophie’s birth mother ended up the keeper of a certain magical item from the first novel. The fifth, “The Boy Who Would Not Be Enchanted,” is doing the rounds now and has a direct link to that question of predestination and true love. (And, since you mentioned Tonio, I’ll also mention that he is the one who tells it.)
Q7. Finally, in honour of your own amazing interviews with the Heroine Question, I wondered if you would answer your own question: Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child – someone you pretended to be on the playground, or a first love? Who was she?
A7. Oh, my! I should have expected someone to turn this back on me. The first chapter books I read as a little kid were the biographies of famous American women – wives of presidents, mostly, but there were also writers like Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe. There were suffragettes like Julia Howe and Jane Addams (though, strangely, those books aimed at six year old girls didn’t once mention the fight for the vote). And, finally, there were explorers and pioneers. Clara Barton. Sacagawea.
One of my favorite books of the bunch was the biography of Amelia Earhart. As a kid I lived under an airport and a small plane crashed on our street once, so airplanes fascinated and terrified me. The courage of Amelia in flying planes–planes!–and the sad end of her story was something I found incredibly compelling.
My thanks to Alyx for taking the time to answer my questions! Child of a Hidden Sea and Daughter of No Nation are available for purchase from your favourite retailer, as a number of amazing short stories that you really, really need to read.