Hello everyone. My sincerest apologies to both Gollancz and Kristen Ciccarelli. Due to unforseen circumstances my blogging schedule has gone sideways. I was supposed to post this Q&A as part of the blog tour last month but I failed to do so. It is a brilliant Q&A and it is a shame it was a part of the event. I hope you still get a chance to read the interview because KC gave some superb answers. Thanks again!
27.09.2018 / Gollancz / Fantasy / Paperback / 400pp / 978-1473218161
About Kristen Ciccarelli
Kristen Ciccarelli hails from Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula where she grew up on her grandfather’s grape farm. She’s made her living as a baker, a bookseller, and a potter, but now writes books about bloodthirsty dragons, girls wielding really cool weapons, and the transformative power of stories.
About The Caged Queen
WHAT WOULD YOU SACRIFICE FOR LOVE? DEATH-DEFYING, WORLD-ALTERING LOVE?
Roa and her sister Essie were born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. It was a magic they cherished – until the terrible day Essie died and her soul was trapped in this world.
Dax, the heir to the throne of Firgaard, was responsible. Roa swore she would never forgive him – yet when he came begging for her help to dethrone his cruel father, Roa made him a deal. She’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen.
Now she is royalty, but an outlander; far from home and married to her enemy. And even after everything she has sacrificed, Dax’s promises go unfulfilled. Roa’s people still suffer.
Then a chance to right every wrong arises – an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Relinquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa can reclaim her sister for good.
All she has to do is kill the king. . .
The Caged Queen takes readers back to the lush, immersive world of The Last Namsara with a stunning story about the unbreakable bond between two sisters and the sacrifices we make for love.
Thank you Kristen for taking some time to answer a few questions about your new novel, The Caged Queen. Could you give us your own personal overview of what we should expect in within your book?
Definitely! Things you can expect in this book: dragons, the power of sisterly bonds, palace intrigue, romance, girl villains, and a king who is not what he appears to be.
Ultimately, The Caged Queen is about a girl who desperately wants to save her sister and must kill a king to do so.
What was your initial inspiration for your Iskari series?
Probably my love of dragons. But also my life-long craving for complex heroines. I grew up with protagonists like Sybil (The Forgotten Beasts of Eld), Lyra (The Golden Compass), Sabriel, Xena, Princess Mononoke, and Mulan. I craved stories about young women who got to be fierce or powerful or handy with a blade, but who were also vulnerable, creative, and loving. The Iskari series is very much about those kinds of protagonists.
Can The Caged Queen be read as a stand alone novel or is it important to read The Last Namsara first?
While both The Last Namsara and The Caged Queen are very much linked (readers of book 1 will find the characters, places, and even conflicts they loved continue into book 2) new readers can happily read The Caged Queen without having read The Last Namsara. I did this for two reasons: 1) As a reader, I get frustrated with the cliffhanger endings you so often find in trilogies; and 2) I love when each book in a series can stand alone (and be read out of order) while still participating in the overall series arc. I wanted to do what Kristin Cashore and Megan Whalen Turner did. Something a little different than a typical or traditional trilogy.
So if you haven’t read The Last Namsara, feel free to read The Caged Queen first. And then treat The Last Namsara as a prequel.
Is there a particular character or element in The Caged Queen that you especially enjoyed writing about?
I really enjoy creating mythologies, as well as the gods who fit into those mythologies. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it hearkens back to my Catholic upbringing (which was full of saints and icons and almost-mythical stories told from the liturgy every week). Or maybe it’s because I find religion in general fascinating, and I love it when people who believe different things can come together and find deep commonalities. Either way, there’s a new god introduced in The Caged Queen who’s a bit of a mystery and whose mythology comes out of the scrublands (Roa’s home). I did this because I wanted Roa to have her own gods and myths and traditions, in the same way Asha had her own in TLN.
Can you give us some hints on how far Roa is going to have to go to save her sister’s soul?
Well, she has to kill the king in order to save her sister’s soul. Which is a pretty big hint, I think. 😉 Roa’s sister, Essie, is the most important person in her life and Roa will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it goes against her conscience, requires committing treason, or costs her own life.
Had you always wanted to become a fantasy author/writer?
Despite spending my entire adolescence reading and writing fantasy stories, I never thought about growing up to become an author. You grew up to be teachers or firefighters or doctors, not authors. Being an author was akin to being a unicorn in my mind—they were both a kind of mythical creature. It was only as an adult when I found I couldn’t stop writing that I thought hey, someone has to write the books on the shelves. Maybe I could be one of them.
Are there any authors that you look up to as a writer that has helped shape your work?
Definitely Patricia McKillip. I grew up reading all her books, and I think a large part of why people call my writing “lyrical” is because of a steady McKillip diet as a child. Her prose is melt-in-your-mouth delicious (and more beautiful than anything I could ever aspire to write!), but more than this, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld was the first book I ever read where a powerful, complicated woman was the protagonist. That book showed me who I could be, what I was capable of, and it’s still my most reread book.
Also, this isn’t writing-related per say, but I really admire Patricia McKillip’s inaccessibility. She has a very outdated website, no social media presence, and I think she appears at a convention every once in a while maybe, but other than that, she’s a total mystery. I love that.
How long did it take you to plan and write The Last Namsara and The Caged Queen?
It took almost ten years to plan and write (and rewrite, and rewrite again) The Last Namsara. It took 2 years to plan and write (and rewrite) The Caged Queen simply because I had to, due to my deadlines.
Can you tell us in five words what writing means to you?
Joy. Fear. Nourishment. Resilience. Transformation.
Did you take the time to celebrate the conclusion of writing your book and its release?
In this industry, people often tell you to celebrate every milestone because publishing is unpredictable and such an emotional roller-coaster (which is totally true!) so you need to celebrate where you can. But I’m honestly not really a “celebrator” if that makes sense. My husband and I don’t celebrate birthdays or anniversaries or even holidays, really. Not because we’re taking a stance against them or anything, but because … we just don’t care that much. Remembering to celebrate something (especially book-related things) is kinda stressful for me. It’s something else I must do. I would much rather celebrate life in little, more spontaneous ways. Like calling my grandmother on an afternoon where something makes me think of her. Or getting in the car on a day where I have nothing planned and driving until I can’t drive anymore. Or going and sitting by the ocean for a while. Things like that.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the work and writing?
I love to bake bread and wash dishes and go for walks up in the headlands near my house. All of those things help to bring me back to the real world and get me out of my head
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
Earlier this summer my publicist, Stevie, sent me a copy of Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I was a bit hesitant to start it, because I loved Uprooted so much and wasn’t sure if it could possibly compare. They are very different books (and if you didn’t like Uprooted, I still recommend Spinning Silver for this reason), but I couldn’t put it down. Not only was it a unique and unexpected retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, I found it extremely moving. It’s probably my favourite read this year.
Thank you so much for your excellent questions, Stuart!
Thank you to Kristen for these brilliant insights into her latest novel The Caged Queen. KC’s work is immensely popular and I can see why. Blending so many curious and awesome themes and styles. And dragons of course! I hope you enjoyed the Q&A and get the chance to pick up a copy of The Caged Queen.