A Conversation with Eric Nylund on Mortal Coils
Tor publicist Patty Garcia sits down with writer Eric Nylund and his editor, Eric Raab, to discuss Nylund’s latest novel: Mortal Coils.
PATTY: This latest novel is a departure from your fictional HALO works. What’s it about?
NYLUND: This is (as far as we can guess) the factual account of fifteen year-old twins, Eliot and Fiona, who think they’re orphans...but they’re not. They’re the product of an illicit tryst between a goddess and Lucifer, both of whom are very much still alive. Being both immortal and infernal, the twins are pawns who might break the truce between good and evil forces and start Armageddon. To settle which family has custody, the fallen angels create three diabolical temptations, and the gods fashion three heroic trials to test Eliot and Fiona.
PATTY: Hmmm. Pretty heady stuff. Is it true that you’ve done extensive research for the book?
NYLUND: You wouldn’t believe some of the places I’ve had to fly—Iceland and Argentina. And some of the interviews! Let’s just say this book has put me through hell and leave it at that.
It’s been a challenge chasing down original references, too. Half the antique booksellers online won’t return my emails anymore. But the real treasure is the copy of Mythica Improbiba Tor got for me on loan.
RAAB: Tor always goes that extra mile for its authors. By the way, Nylund, Oxford called. They need the book back by Friday.
PATTY: There’s been a lot of controversy about this novel in publishing circles. Can you tell us once and for all: Is it fiction or nonfiction?
NYLUND: Well, parts of it are true. There were pieces of the story, though, where we couldn’t resolve some of the extreme points of views and versions of events held by the two families.
RAAB: Fiction. Definitely fiction. Nylund, you remember the talk we had with our lawyers and the other…very persuasive gentleman? The one who paints houses?
NYLUND: Uh, yeah. Fiction.
PATTY: What about the rumors of incidents at the Tor office while the manuscript was being edited?
RAAB: That poltergeist thing? That’s bogus. My office always looks like that.
PATTY: What about the video pulled off YouTube?
RAAB: Sure, having symbols from the Alphabet of Angels scrawled over every square inch of my office was weird...but that happened after a big book-release party, so who can say? Death threats and backward voices on my answering machine? I’m an editor; we all get those.
PATTY: The issue of fiction or non-fiction aside, hypothetically, if the events described in the book were even partially true, what would the implications be for our world?
NYLUND: Immortals living among us? Influencing the stock market and pulling political strings? Fallen Angels wandering the streets? The world on the brink of apocalypse? ...I don’t like to think too much about it.
Look, all we can say for sure is this story (so far...our research is ongoing...and might continue in later novels) is what Raab and the editorial board at Tor calls “mytho-historical” where you can’t really separate the mythology from history from today’s headlines because the world is more wonderful, strange, and terrifying than any of us can ever know.
Let’s hope they’re right (except that “terrifying” part).
And let’s hope there’s a happy ending.
Mortal Coils (978-0-7653-1797-1, $14.95) by Eric Nylund was released from Tor on February 3. Watch the Mortal Coils trailer here. You can visit Eric on the web at ericnylund.net.
An Excerpt from The Rise of the Named Lands
By Ken Scholes
Ken Scholes channels one of his characters to give us a tiny bit of the history behind the world he created for his novel Lamentation.
An Excerpt from The Rise of the Named Lands: A Brief History of the Settlement of the New World and the Establishment of Kin-Clave
By Arch-Scholar Tertius
First, when contemplating the settlement of the New World, it is critical to remember that from the viewpoint of our neighbors to the north and northeast, settlement took place 500 years prior to the arrival of the Androfrancines and their caravans of survivors. In the minds of Gypsies and Marshers alike, they held first claim to this new world. After all, the Wizard King Xhum Y’Zir actually deeded them the lands locked behind Keeper’s Wall just prior to his death choirs marching out into the old world. It is said that Pope Windwir himself once saw the deed while visiting the Marsh King Grunric. He described the Wizard King’s seal upon the golden parchment in great detail in his 242nd letter to Entrolus.
But of course, the arriving survivors did not regard Xhum Y’Zir’s writ as binding. When we Androfrancines arrived (and do not for a moment believe the comfortable mythology that we arrived in peace to an open gate) we took what we wished when we were able and they kept what they could when they were able.
It may surprise you to know that the Marshers were not the imminent threat they are now thought to have been. Certainly, there were many skirmishes during those early decades but the true enmity did not emerge until Pope Windwir’s successor, Remembrance, established an Androfrancine fortress deep in the Marsher Territories, on the heels of Windwir’s forced relocation of Grunric’s people north to free up choice farmlands for newly arrived settlers. This Androfrancine fortress, now known as the Papal Summer Palace, was erected to keep watch over the newly relocated Marshfolk in the event that their perceived madness would spill over into violence. This perhaps is the most important point I can make: In their desire to prevent violence by way of this fortress, the early Androfrancines actually invoked it.
What followed were long years of intense skirmishing and atrocity on both sides, culminating eventually in the First Gypsy War, when Prince Isaak’s Wandering Army marched on Fort Windwir and held it for two years until Retrospect. I finally petitioned the settlements of the southern coastline to admit both the Ninefold Forest and the Marshers to the council of kin-clave as full members. With the Forester militia occupying Windwir’s streets, Retrospect I was forced to open the Articles of Kin-Clave for re-negotiation and re-adoption, this time taking input from the first settlers of the new World. Isaak negotiated fair boundaries for himself and his neighbor, and trade agreements that assured his people of the economic strength to hold their territories. But the Marshers refused to participate and to this day live outside the kin-clave that binds the Named Lands together.
Given their experience of these interlopers in their lands, we can not blame them for refusing kinship and maintaining a defensive, sometimes even hostile, posture toward us. Centuries of unrest in the border towns of the Windwir Protectorate—lands that were once Marsher farms and villages—and four major wars is all the evidence needed that tragic mistakes were made in integrating the peoples of the Named Lands and creating the much-celebrated Articles of Kin-Clave.
More forethought could have accomplished the same outcome—a set of guiding principles for surviving together—with far less bloodshed.
This scholar believes Androfrancine willingness to use violence to prevent violence will be the undoing of that noble Order if we do not find a better means of guarding the light entrusted to us by P’Andro Whym.
Copyright © 2009 Ken Scholes
Ken Scholes’ novel Lamentation (978-0-7653-2127-5, $24.95) is a February release from Tor Books. Set in the Named Lands, Publishers Weekly called it a “mesmerizing debut novel” that “launches him into the stratosphere of contemporary epic fantasy”. Lamentation is the first of a five-book series that will continue with Canticle, in October 2009. For more information about the author visit kenscholes.com.
The Birth of a Magical World
By Cathy Clamp
Readers frequently wonder where authors come up with ideas for books. Sometimes, the ideas just “come to them” in a dream or as a fully formed world. Other times, the idea has to be crafted through a series of careful twists to old ideas.
The latter was the case with our February release, Magic’s Design. Several years ago, I (Cathy Clamp, one half of “Cat Adams”) was attending the Texas SF/F convention, FenCon. Several authors didn’t show up at the last minute, so the authors who were there wound up running all over the hotel, sitting in on panels we hadn’t originally been scheduled for. I could go on at length about how I wound up as the moderator of the panel about television and movie tie-in novels. I not only had no business being on the panel, since I’ve never actually written a tie-in novel, but I was expected to come up with intelligent discussion topics for authors who had, like SF legend Alan Dean Foster. Yikes!
But that’s not today’s story. The world of Magic’s Design came about from another panel I was assigned to, entitled “Is Atlantis Dead?” The authors were asked to discuss whether writing about about legendary worlds was a lost art. Naturally, the authors unanimously agreed there were plenty of stories still to be written. From Ur to Shangri-la, Mount Olympus to Shambala—there were still new versions of old legends left to discover.
Hmm…Shambala. I hadn’t heard of that particular legend, and wrote a note to check it out when I got home. That’s when I discovered a little known (but very real) belief called the “Hollow Earth Theory.” It seems that as far back as Admiral Byrd’s exploration of the Pole, there have been legends that the Earth is hollow and that a race of magical beings lives inside, hidden from humanity.
Now, that’s book fodder for a fantasy writer! More research turned up names of major underground cities (Shambala being one of them) and even more legends. Then came the fun part of plotting for an author writing a novel. The “whys”. Why stay hidden from humanity? Why go underground in the first place? Why can’t satellites see a big gaping hole under the mantle? Paranormal and Urban Fantasy novels are identical to Science Fiction in that they require sound logic behind the world building.
I decided that if magicians existed at some point in our past, the Middle Ages was the most likely time. But why did they go underground? Well, what about the Black Plague? Scientists still aren’t really certain what caused it, so why couldn’t it have been a mutated magical virus? Then, if the feudal system had still existed when they left, the different types of magic users might well have been organized as medieval guilds. The only questions then would be what would the magic be based on and how did it work? Ah, now there’s a story!
Want to find out more? Pick up the February Tor release, Magic’s Design (978-0-7653-5963-6, $6.99), by Cat Adams, available everywhere February 4th.