The Neverending Interview

Ask me anything!

I do a lot of interviews. A lot. Of interviews. And those are just the ones from this year, which are online in text or audio form — I don’t reprint the ones in print magazines, or the ones in my own books (there’s an interview in the back of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Killing Moon). I’ve tried to keep track of most of them here or here, but frankly I know I’ve missed a few. Slippery li’l buggers.

Anyway, I’m fond of not reinventing the wheel, so I figured I’d start this post as a chance to collect in one place all the questions people would like to ask me. I’ll answer them here in the comments — but I’ll also create a new page to hold the answers, and make that page a permanent navigation link that anyone can get to. That way potential interviewers can, if they so choose, research what questions not to ask (again). Or I can just refer them here if they ask an especially common one.

Note: I’m not promising to answer every question you guys ask! I got books to write. Also, this isn’t school; there are stupid questions, or offensive ones. I reserve the right to answer with snark, or with bannination. I will also clearly mark spoilers, so feel free to ask about those, too.

Aaaaand, shoot!

28 thoughts on “The Neverending Interview”

  1. Can you explain who’s on each cover? I could’ve sworn it was Yeine on 100K by the eyes and hair, but I saw somewhere that it was Nahadoth. Then is that Itempas or Oree on The Broken Kingdoms? I’m fairly certain that KingofGs is Sieh judging by the eyes.

  2. Tiffany,

    The only person who knows for sure who’s on the cover of each book is Cliff Nielsen, the artist who made the images. He took enough artistic license with each one that I’m not entirely sure in any case. But I’ll tell you who I think they are. 100K’s cover is Nahadoth. The image just looks too much like my descriptions of him from the book — eyes you can see even in shadow, active malevolence, long hair. BrokeK’s cover is Itempas, probably in one of his moments of major power — when he’s in human form, his eyes are an ordinary brown, and he doesn’t glow except to Oree’s sight (sometimes). I’ve decided that the image on the cover of KingofGs is Sieh… but it could be another godling who has some importance in the story. (I know I said I was OK with spoilers, but since this one isn’t officially out yet, I’ll say who later. :)

  3. I picked up 100K stone cold – knew nothing about you, the book. And loved every page. Often one thing leads to another. Currently I am reading Octavia Butler. I heard through the local knitting/reading group that you mentored under her. If so, do you mind talking to that experience a bit?
    And thanks for this opportunity.

  4. nrlymrtl,

    Er, I’m afraid that’s not true. I never met Ms. Butler before her death; didn’t have the courage to approach, on the one occasion that I had the chance. (In my own defense, it was my first SF con, and I was very, very new to meeting my heroes/heroines… but yeah, I still regret it.)

    What your group might be referring to is the fact that I list Octavia Butler among my role models/literary influences? Granted, I list a lot of other writers too, but most people only seem to notice that name.

  5. I really liked the sexy bits of 100k :). Any chance of ever pulling an a.n. roquelaure/anne rice?

    What are your favorite shojo manga/anime?

    What direction do you think you will go after the trilogy is done, thematically?

  6. In book one, Yeine has a stand-out vision of Nahadoth and Sieh. Is that set early after Sieh was born, or while the Enefadeh were trapped in Sky?

    Also at the end of book one, there’s a segment from Shahar’s daughter Aetr that mentions her suspiciously dead brother Bentr. When I read Broken Kingdoms, I assumed Bentr’s blood had killed Enefa, but then I read the Shinda fragments on this blog. Did Aetr just not know about Shinda?

  7. Renee,

    Hey, that’s like fifty questions! :) I’ll take them in order.

    a) What, as in creating a penname just to write pr0n? HOW DO YOU KNOW I HAVEN’T? ::dramatic music::

    b) I’ve mentioned my faves here in various posts, but offhand: “The Wallflower” by Tomoko HAYAKAWA, some stuff by CLAMP, everything ever written by Fumi YOSHINAGA.

    c) This direction. :)

  8. James Davis Nicoll

    Ah, the question I reluctantly cut from my interview with you: Atlanta Braves or New York Mets [1][2]?

    1: Obviously I’d prefer to ask “Braves vs Brooklyn Dodgers” but it turns out there’s a fundamental problem with that.

    2: Nobody ever picks the Yankees.

  9. Perry,

    Wow, everybody’s doing the multiple-question thing. OK, in order:

    a) That’s in Sky. There’s a scene of shortly after Sieh’s birth in The Kingdom of Gods.

    b) Bentr isn’t suspiciously dead; he committed suicide after witnessing the ruin of the world. The Arameri aren’t demons (except Shinda), so their blood doesn’t have any power to harm gods. Shinda’s blood is what killed Enefa.

    Aetr and Bentr don’t know about Shahar’s liaison with Itempas. After Shahar bore them for the Order, she essentially abandoned them and went back to her career. Then she vanished for a time; no one knew why, but during this time she abandoned the Order to serve Itempas directly (so to speak). Aetr and Bentr were raised by the Order. But after Itempas returned to the gods’ realm, Shahar came back to the Order. It’s not clear (or rather, I haven’t sat down to hash out) how much time passed between Itempas leaving her and her killing Shinda; probably a few years. Shinda was late teens/a young man when he died — old enough to know full well that his mother didn’t give a damn about him. But Shahar never told anyone what she was doing while she was away, so no mortal except herself knows about Shinda. Even most of the gods don’t know Shinda’s name — he was just another demon, to most of them. That’s one of many reasons why Itempas’ madness was so inexplicable to them; they didn’t realize just how deeply Itempas loved Shinda. Unlike all the other gods, Itempas sees no difference between his pure-god and demon children.

    I outlined all this years ago, so I might be forgetting something; no time right now to go look it up. And I might get around to writing it someday, but that’ll have to wait for me to have a lot more free time than I do. :)

  10. Nora note: Editing this one because it’s from someone in the UK, where The Kingdom of Gods started shipping a couple of weeks earlier than in the US. Most US readers haven’t received their copies yet! So I’m spoiler-screening it; highlight to view. IF YOU DARE.

    One of the aspects of the trilogy that always appealed to me was how you portrayed families, both human and divine – yes, they were backstabbing and imprisoning and disowning and killing each other, but they were still families and loved each other even when they anted each other dead. Two of the biggest relationships that always stood out in my mind were Kinneth and Dekarta (and, linked to that, Oree and her father), because a father/daughter conflict is so rarely shown, and because I felt so deeply for each of them, Dekarta losing the daughter he loved more than anything and Kinneth plotting to destroy him, even if she still loved him as well. And that was only magnified in the conflict between Sieh and Itempas, though i congratulate you on having me be completely on Sieh’s side at first, then become ambivalent, and then see how Sieh had unittingly hurt Itempas first. As Glee says, it’s never one person’s fault.

    This all leads up to my first question; how did you decide that such tragic family dynamics would become such an important part of the story?

    And my second, much easier question; how did Ahad and Glee meet and fall in love? Because I really like those two, and I’m glad that Ahad got his purpose and some happines :)

  11. Sarah,

    Going to have to spoiler-cover some of my answers; highlight to view.

    1) It wasn’t really a decision. I always prefer character stories to idea/milieu/plot stories — or rather, what interests me is how people react to the plots, ideas, and milieus that I as the author inflict on them. :) It’s why I have such a hard time enjoying hard science fiction; too often hard SF authors fixate on the stuff happening and not who it’s happening to or how those people respond. But then, I’m a soft-science geek, and lots of hard-SF writers are hard-science geeks, so it’s understandable that they’d write where their hearts lie. So do I.

    2) I imagine they started working together when Itempas began his plan to use organized crime to bring order to the world. :) Ahad, being Ahad, probably was amused/intrigued enough by the notion that he signed on out of sheer contrariness, and Glee probably decided to keep a close eye on him. In a manner of speaking, Ahad is one of Nahadoth’s children — sprung fully-formed from Naha alone, in fact — and this is not exactly the kind of guy you want in charge of a business venture, or at least not without close supervision. A probably-contentious professional relationship gradually gave way to mutual respect, then admiration… Like Itempas and Nahadoth, first enemies, then beloved. Nature, after all, is cycles, patterns, repetition.

  12. You’ve mentioned taking inspiration from video games, but I was curious how you feel as a writer about the narrative potential of games on the whole. Do you think they can present a narrative as compelling and meaningful as a novel? Does interactivity expand that potential or diminish it? Would you ever consider writing for games if you had the chance? (Sorry, I’m doing the multiple question thing too…)

  13. Quinn,

    Yep, expands, and yep. This one was actually covered in the interview at the end of 100K — I mentioned which games were (at the time) my faves, and my willingness to offer a limb in order to write for Square Enix or Atlus. :) I personally love games that are like novels; I don’t particularly feel like doing the heavy lifting of character creation and plot development in my spare time, given that this is what I do every day as a writer. I don’t like letting someone else take the driver’s seat if they do a bad job of it, but when the game-writing team is solid enough to write characters who aren’t just ciphers for the player, plots that can’t be guessed 5 minutes in, etc., then I love it. Playing a good game is like reading a good book.

  14. How much demon’s blood is necessary to kill one of the three? I’m guessing Shinda was drained dry. Was that really necessary, or was Shahar just too singleminded and mad to think of giving a smaller, less lethal portion of his blood? (I ask because a much smaller amount killed Madding, but he was a godling.)

    Also, are there races Enefa designed to look like herself? I know the Maroneh seem like they were made with Itempas in mind (a gift?), but did she make races with herself in mind? (If so, is it the Darr? I had this fanwank that the Darrens were the Enefa race.)

  15. Tammy,

    What are you, brewing up a recipe? :)

    Only a small amount of a “first generation” demon’s blood is necessary. Frankly, a few drops would’ve been enough. Shahar didn’t need to kill Shinda; she did it to hurt Itempas, because he left her. Shinda allowed her to do it because he hoped it would make her love him at last. It didn’t.

    Oree and Dateh are basically “throwback” demons; a much larger portion of their blood was necessary (several pints), and even then it had to be concentrated through Dateh’s refinement process to work.

    None of the gods designed mortal races. They chose to pattern themselves after various mortal races, once human culture had evolved enough to be interesting to them. Each one chose a mortal race that they wanted to emulate. Enefa chose High Northers (no specific race — the High Northers are all cultural fissions of one isolated group of humans). Itempas chose the Maro — there were many Maro tribes too. Nahadoth chose no one. :) Sieh chose the people of Tema. You’ll see a bit more of them in The Kingdom of Gods.

  16. Anon 10:33:

    Yes, I look at fanart and fanjewelry? and in fact have posted some here. I don’t look at fanfiction, though, partly as a matter of principle — don’t want the authors creeped out by the idea that I might see their stuff. (I didn’t think this was a problem either, but I’ve had some readers tell me so, so to reassure you — no, I won’t look at your stuff!) Also, there’s more legal risks for me in looking at fanfiction, so I don’t.

  17. I have some other questions. Hope that’s okay.

    1. If the Inheritance Trilogy were to be turned into a movie, would you want it to be with real people, anime-like, or the way Pixar does things? Who would you want to be the actors or voice actors?

  18. Tiffany,

    Sure, shoot.

    That’s a hard question, because my answer is, “It depends”. I think I’m less concerned with the media format of a film version than I am with who would be at the helm. A good director can create magic in any medium. A bad director will create a bad movie no matter the medium (or budget). And even good directors have to answer to producers, investors, etc., who might force changes that disrespect the source material and fans. We’ve seen Hollywood do this again and again, especially when it comes to characters of color — so in my case the first question I’d have for any would-be director is whether they’re willing to hire actors of color to play Yeine, Oree, Itempas, and Sieh. If the answer is no, the conversation stops there. If the answer is yes, we can talk.

    As for who the actors/VAs would be — I have no preferences/thoughts. Can’t think of any “knowns” offhand, and I’m open to talented unknowns. That’s something I’d leave to the director, because film is their art; books are mine.

  19. Hi Ms.Jemisin :)

    First off, I would just like to say how amazing your books are. I’m sure you’ve heard that plenty of times before but once more I would just like to express how much I love your books (hopefully an author never gets tired of hearing that?) When I started Broken Kingdoms and realized you had decided to write in the POV of a blind woman, I was completely blown away. It takes an incredibly amount of skill and guts to be able to write something like that and write it so brilliantly.

    Anyway for my question, I was just wondering how you construct world building and character personality profiles. The world and the characters are so detailedly flushed out. Did the inspiration all just come to you right away? Or did you develop certain parts of it much later? How do you give the world and all your characters that full three dimensional aspect to them?

    Thanks for taking the time to answer everyone’s questions!!! :D

  20. Nora Note: Adding a spoiler cover to your question, since it’s cute but still a spoiler:

    Given Itempas’s role in book three, how did you stop yourself from making The Godfather jokes?

  21. Arya,

    1) No, authors never get tired of it;
    2) It’s not really something I consciously do. When I come up with a character, I just try to think of them as complete people, who came from somewhere and who have places to go, so to speak. Once I figure out what those things are, their character tends to come together.
    3) Re: worldbuilding — I’m working on a post on that. :)

  22. James,

    I’ve been noodling a YA SF/dystopian novel for a few years now, actually. But I thought it made more sense to establish myself in one genre before I tried tackling another. Now that my fifth fantasy novel is bought & paid for (the two Dreamblood novels next year are #s 4 and 5), I might tackle it… but honestly I’ve already started work on another fantasy, so maybe not. -_- The SF/dystopian story would’ve been set in a cyberpunkish world I’ve already explored in two short stories (neither in e-print, sorry): “The Trojan Girl” and “Valedictorian.”

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