Tuesday, October 23, 2012

THE CRIMSON CROWN release day interview with Cinda Chima

From Goodreads:
A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed--Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.
Now, once again, the Queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa "ana'"Marianna, maintaining peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible; tension between wizards and Clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells' inner turmoil, Raisa's best hope is to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she's falling in love.
Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cut-throat world of blue blood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among Clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Han finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for Raisa. Before long, Han finds himself in possession of a secret believed to be lost to history, a discovery powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can use it?

A simple, devastating truth concealed by a thousand-year-old lie at last comes to light in this stunning conclusion to the Seven Realms series.

Cinda blogs with me over at the Enchanted Inkpot, and I was completely unfamiliar with her work until this past summer. But one day at Barnes and Noble I recognized the name and decided to purchase the DEMON KING, the first book in the Seven Realms series. That was in late August. Since that day, less than two months ago, I have blazed through all three books in the series (THE EXILED QUEEN, THE GRAY WOLF THRONE). Given my rabid obsession, Cinda kindly took pity on me and sent me a copy of the forthcoming CRIMSON CROWN, the fourth and (final—man I wish it wasn’t) book in the series so I could review it. I devoured it in a day and a half. All 596 pages!
I am not usually an avid reader of high fantasy, though I am a great lover of Tolkein and GRACELING is a personal favorite of mine. But beyond that, I tend to stick to urban fantasy, paranormal thrillers and dystopics. Yet, somehow, improbably, THE DEMON KING hooked me immediately. It may have been the alternating POVs between wily pauper and street thief, Han Alister and the independent-minded mixed blood heir to the Gray Wolf Throne, the impetuous Raisa ‘anna Marianna.

Chima is some kind of grand-master world builder. It’s as though she herself is a weaver of the same magic she describes, constructing the world of the Seven Realms, so thoroughly and solid in its details, you can imagine yourself there. Chima’s Seven Realms is a world of magic, cruelty, clashing cultures and danger. It’s as full of political intrigue as any spy thriller. And it is also, at its heart, a beautifully moving love story—a tale of love denied, and love at last realized. The series can be brutal, filled with the cruel acts of the heartless blue-bloods committed against the hapless peasantry. The scrappy resourcefulness of the irresistible Han Alister, who born to nothing, claws his way up from the filthy streets of Ragmarket to the pinnacle of society, and straight into a princess’s heart, will keep you riveted. In a nutshell—this series is EPIC on a grand scale.
But while it is epic, it is also detailed and full of the minute observations of intensely thorough character building. It is rare to find such a rollicking adventure, filled with so much nuanced human interaction and their complications. Cinda William Chima’s characters are neither all good nor all bad, in my opinion, one of the series’ great strengths. Nothing is black and white. In Chima’s villains there is good, and in her heroes, ruthlessness and a willingness to make hard choices. There are many characters whose true intentions are a mystery, such as Queen Marianna, the dashing young wizard Micah Bayar, Reid Nightwalker, Cat, the street waif, Fiona, Princess Mellony, and the embittered Adam Gryphon. It’s not really clear until the end whom the true villains are. Even the arch nemesis of the book, the ultimate villain of the Realm, the Demon King himself, is not what he seems.
The CRIMSON CROWN is a breathtaking, action-filled and heart-rending conclusion to a thrilling series. And for me, under the adventure, fantasy and world building is the very large and full heart of this writer, who is clearly telling us something about our own world.

I can go on and on, but I think it’s time I give Cinda a chance to speak for herself. Please excuse me if my questions range from the esoteric to the extremely lowbrow. I’m trying to ask questions no one has asked her before!

Cinda, I detect a fair amount of allegory in your series. We have very diverse and intolerant cultures squabbling amongst themselves in the Realms for centuries, until finally an open-minded queen steps forward to try to bring them together. There is Han Alister’s tale, the destitute thief who fights his way into the upper-crust of society, finding it even more treacherous than the dangerous streets of his criminal past. Also, there is the lie—the false myth on which a thousand years of enmity is based—the tale of the Demon King.  I won’t give that secret away, but tell us, Cinda, what are some of the themes you are touching on in your books? What’s on your mind?
I’m a strong believer in the notion that theme comes from story and not the other way around. In other words, story comes from the desires of characters and not the desires of the author. That said, certain themes surface in my novels over and over. For example, how we are often imprisoned by history and so commit the same mistakes over and over. I do believe that unfettered power corrupts, which is why my wizard characters are so often arrogant and corrupt. I’m fascinated by how resilient some people are—in real life and so in story. Han Alister is a character who survives many setbacks and tragedies, and somehow finds a way to move forward.

What cultures influenced the different peoples in the Seven Realms? What geographic terrain inspired the landscape?
In order to be believable, a fantasy world has to be coherent and integrated—all the elements of setting have to work together. So when I developed the mountainous queendom of the Fells, I thought about what kind of people would thrive there, and how they would make a living. They wouldn’t be farmers primarily, because agriculture is difficult in that terrain. And so they’re miners, and metal-workers, and artists.  They have to be traders, because they trade for products they can’t produce themselves. The clans owe a lot to indigenous peoples everywhere, but especially to the First Peoples of the Americas.
Fantasy landscapes are, of course, based on the real world. It’s those sensory details from real life that make the world real to the reader. I have never been to the Seven Realms, but I’ve been to the Canadian Rockies, and to Yellowstone, and to New Zealand. I use photographs, journals, and memories from travel to build new worlds.

Now for the lowbrow gushing fangirl question: What actor would play Han Alister in a movie? How about Raisa? Micah? Amon? (Can you tell how attached I am to them?)
I’m not going to be able to help out much there, though I often get sugestions from readers. I have so little knowledge of popular culture, I’m the family joke. I think it would be cool if the cast were made up of relative unknowns, so that the actors could more easily inhabit the skins of my characters.
Han’s street lingo is one of my favorite aspects of the book. It so clearly defines his character and also tracks his transformation from guttersnipe to the most powerful wizard in the Realm. Someone once asked you on your website where the slang comes from. Can you elaborate for us?
Most of the Ragmarket and Southbridge street slang is drawn from actual 17th and 18th century British thieves’ slang, or cant. There are dictionaries online and in print of thieves’ cant. Here’s a link to one site I’ve used extensively.
The important thing with dialect and slang is to use a light hand—otherwise it gets annoying. One of the challenges with Han’s speech is that it changes over the four books. Gradually he loses some of the structures and slang characteristic of Ragmarket cant, and begins to develop speech that can serve him at court.
I know you have another series, the Warrior Heir Series. Can you tell us about this?
The Heir Chronicles is a contemporary fantasy trilogy set in Ohio, beginning with The Warrior Heir. I began writing this series when my sons were 13 and 16. I wanted to write something they would enjoy reading, and so I wrote a story about a high school student in Ohio who learns he is among the last of a guild of magical warriors being hunted by wizards to play in a deadly tournament known as the Game. I’m currently writing two more novels in that series.
Okay—I just have to ask this. You say on your website that the CRIMSON CROWN is the last book in this series. Does this mean, that perhaps there is another series with the same characters in your future? You mentioned on your website that this book was inspired by an unfinished adult fantasy you’d written. Are you finished with our friend Han Alister, or has his story only just begun?
I have no specific plans to write more Seven Realms books. As soon as I mention more books, people are writing to me asking me when they’ll be released! I guest the best answer is that there are many stories in the Seven Realms, and I would not be surprised if I ended up back there again. But I’m currently working on two more Heir Chronicles novels. 

Thank you for stopping by, Cinda. It was a total pleasure to have you, and I am already engrossed in THE WARRIOR HEIR.
If you'd like to learn more about Cinda and her books, visit her at:


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