Mailbag II

When you dream, do you dream about Reswyt? Katie S.

That’s a very interesting question, and one that merits at least three different answers – no, yes, and yes. I don’t actually dream that I’m in Reswyt anymore; I did, for a while, while I was writing the first book. The concept, at the time, was very vivid to me and I think I was trying on the idea, personally. Then there’s the question of whether I dream about the book, which I do – I wake up with lots of scenes and ideas that I’m usually running downstairs to jot down. And then there’s this third answer, having to do with dreaming of Reswyt on the New York Times bestseller list. But that’s a whole different angle.

Why wasn’t Brummbar affected when the Balance spoke his true name? – Lisa D-S

There’s something to the act of true-naming that is sonic in nature – acoustic. This comes straight out of Budge and Brier, and it’s unambiguous in the Egyptian myth; true-naming was a spoken act of magic. It’s the action of a wave in the open air moving against your auditory canal. That’s why Brummbar wasn’t affected; he was named inside his mind by the Balance, but not out in the open air. It’s the same issue Sabine realizes later, with Matthew; that she wrote his name on the slate, but didn’t speak it aloud. In both cases, though, I don’t know that it would have mattered if their true names had been spoken aloud; Brummbar was dying, and the Balance knew it (but could not change that fact), and Matthew is simply a unique case in Reswyt. Not that there won’t be others, but his was something of a special situation, and I don’t think naming him aloud would have done anything.

Update: maybe he was. 🙂

Do you write for a living? – Anna L.

No, I don’t.  I work for a consulting firm, mostly in intellectual property and mergers and acquisitions, but I also partially-homeschool two of my daughters – one of whom is profoundly gifted and one is twice-exceptional (2E), gifted with a learning disability. I had to make some lifestyle changes when it became clear that I would need to work more with both of them at home, and I changed around some things about my consulting work to make time for them. That’s when I started making more time for writing, too. Someday I’d like to be a full-time writer.

What advice would you give to a young writer? – Anna L.

Know why you’re writing. This is an act that should keep you up at night, wake you up early, get you up off the couch, bring you home early – if you’re doing it for the right reasons. If you’re firing up Word and thinking, “I’m going to bang out a bestseller,” you should know that that’s vanishingly unlikely, and far too much work lies ahead of you to have an expectation that you’re going to make even a basic living writing. If you write good stories, and promote your work like crazy, good things will happen. In the meantime, focus on honing your craft, and having fun along the way. And keep writing!

Do you have a street team? – Cameron R.

I don’t. I know a lot of authors do, but I’m not sure I necessarily agree with the concept. Street teams started as kids papering flyers for local concerts (I know; I’ve done it before!) and I’m just not sure how applicable the idea is to a book. By all means, let your friends know about it, and if you think there’s someone who would enjoy the book, tell him/her where to buy it. But to be honest, the kindest things you can do for me are to review the books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and GoodReads, and post about the books on book blogs. Do those two things, and you’re helping me out immensely!

Are Reswyt and Nekhet ever going to come out in paperback? – Samantha D.

I did a blog post about this a long time ago over on Subterraneum, and it’s still there if you want the long-form answer; I did another one, recently, that’s probably up right now. The short-form answer is no. I could, and you could spend a lot more for the book, and I could receive a lot less, and someone in the middle could make a lot more. That’s the basic issue. If I wanted a paperback of either book out there, you’d be paying $16 for it instead of a few dollars, and I’d be getting a dime of that or so. Plus, if you’ve got $16 in your pocket, you’re one-fifth of the way to owning an e-reader anyway. Just buy a Kindle or a Nook!

How did the idea behind Reswyt get its start? – Kelsey K.

It’s twofold, but the basic version is: I couldn’t sleep, and I had a daughter who was bored with mainstream YA. What’s interesting is that I didn’t set out to write a YA book; the story picked the genre. What I originally wrote, on a sheet of Moleskine notebook paper I still have in a drawer, was the following: “Muscles paralyzed during REM sleep. What if our minds are elsewhere, controlling another body in our dreams?” That was the seed of the story. And I tried a bunch of different configurations of that story; one test write had Sabine as a late-twenties Vancouver police detective using her ability to enter the dreams of criminals. But none of the test-writes fit until I found this sullied-fairy tale configuration. It all just clicked, and what that turned out to be was a young adult’s story.

Are you ever going to release the deleted scenes you talked about on your blog? – Olivia N.

I’m not sure. Some have genuinely been supplanted by other scenes, so reading them now would do nothing but confuse the plotline. Others are simply superfluous; they’re interesting, but not all that substantive. I had thought about releasing them for a while during the writing process for Nekhet, but now that it’s finished, I can’t see a good reason to put them out there. That’s not to deny anyone anything; you’ve read the core of the story, and what’s left is, essentially, a big pile of frosting.

Your books don’t really read like anything else in YA, and I’m wondering who your influences are – and some of your favorite books by those authors? – Chelsea B.

That’s probably because Reswyt didn’t begin its existence as a YA book – it began as a story in search of a framework and a genre. It’s made a home in YA (or ‘YGA’, as some of my readers are calling it, for ‘young gifted adult’), but that’s more by accident than design; I’m renting here, not settling down. A few of my favorite authors – and if you haven’t given these authors a try, you definitely should – are Neil Gaiman, Iain Banks, Neal Stephenson, Dan Simmons, China Mieville, Greg Bear, and Justin Cronin. I’d start with Neverwhere by Gaiman, Feersum Endjinn by Banks, Snow Crash by Stephenson, Ilium by Simmons, Kraken by Mieville, The Forge of God by Bear, and The Passage by Cronin. If you went on to read everything they’ve written, that would be, like, ten years’ worth of quality reading right there.

Is Reswyt a political allegory? – Jaya V.

You can read it at that level, if you like, although I didn’t write it with specific nations or political actions – or actors – in mind. There’s a certain human constancy to the act of arming oneself, though; today you and I fought with our fists, and then tonight, I found a bone to hit you with. Tomorrow you’ll pick up a stick, and I’ll need a bigger stick, and you’ll fashion a crude bow, and before we know it, we are in an arms race of two. That’s certainly set forth in the books, and in particular the second one. Reswyt began as a realm for children to find the nature of their souls in advance of the judgment of Ra. But what it’s become, through its inclusive nature, its allowance of the existence of the pendants in particular, is something else entirely.

My brother downloaded Reswyt to his Kindle and proceeded to read it cover to cover, and later told me he liked it but was surprised that I enjoyed it. I told him exactly the same thing. So now we have something like a bet going. Who did you intend this book for? – Caitlin W.

Everybody. Sorry to wreck a bet. I’m not being flip with this answer; I genuinely hoped there would be some aspect of both books that everyone could enjoy regardless of age or gender.

Would the magnetic rifling scheme work on the siege gun? – Mingmei C.

In theory, yes. It’s been discussed before, in different contexts; railguns, for instance, use electromagnets – but for propulsion, not really rifling. I introduced this more as a literary device that highlights Matthew’s creativity. He sees the problem of extending the gun’s range as a pure scientific challenge, without regard – at least initially – for the morality of what he’s building. Part of the story of Nekhet is Matthew’s moral awakening, in addition to his physical awakening, and the magnetic rifling scheme was useful in writing that story.

Update: no, they don’t; coilguns use electromagnets. Railguns use pure electric charge. Important to the next book? Maybe.

Why can’t the Balance see the injury to Brummbar? – Emma O.

The fundamental failure in Reswyt is the failure that occurs when a closed system unexpectedly becomes an open system. The pendants were Nephthys’ ‘back door’ to the dreaming realm, and they weren’t intended to function in the ways that humans have used them – purposefully or accidentally. That becomes a major theme in the second book, when Nephthys begins to realize what has happened on her watch, and it’s expanded on in the third book. In any case, Nephthys can’t see anything that wasn’t manifested in the realm – so she can see children, and the dead minds, and even had some sense of who Matthew was. The niferew-essence, Nephthys’ hawk form, tells her of what happens in the world, but she is an aspect of a long-dead Egyptian god, and would have no idea what sort of alien technology the Queen and Matthew have brought into being. She just doesn’t have any idea what those objects are, or what they can do.

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