You might be wondering what’s going, on, since I already raved to you about how much I loved this book back in February. But today I’m excited to be helping my pal Nikki at Books and Lemon Squash wrap up the blog tour to celebrate the UK publication of Master Artificer!
And just look at that beautiful cover!! This series has some seriously amazing design going on – the foil is so lovely! This finished copy was sent to me by Gollancz for the blog tour, and it’s huge in person (far bigger than it felt reading the ebook!).
As I mentioned above, I reviewed Master Artificer back in February, because Justin was kind enough to let me read an extra-early ARC! You can find my review here, and in fact, if you need to go back further to refresh your memory, you can find my review of the first book in this series, Master of Sorrows, here. This series is fun, exciting coming-of-age fantasy that really plays with traditional fantasy tropes: from the chosen one to the magic academy, this book may seem like a familiar story, but it twists and turns everything into something really fresh and clever – and dark! Do head to my reviews to read more!
What I have for you today is a little extra treat on top of my review. I thought about asking Justin to do an interview with me, but as we chatted, we actually ended up talking way more about the concept of interviews, and how they can not only benefit readers by revealing the answers to things we want to know, but can also benefit authors… and so, I present to you a meta-interview! (Oh, and he did end up answering one very vital question for me, so make sure you read to the end for that!)
So, Justin – never mind the interview, let’s talk about interviews! Do you like answering reader questions?
Actually, answering questions is my favorite part of writing, because it tells me if (a) I was unintentionally unclear, or (b) I was successfully, intentionally unclear.
Also, it’s much nicer than trying to predict what others are thinking, wondering, or guessing while they read my books. Sometimes I think I am being subtle (dropping some clever hints or foreshadowing certain events), but I later discover I am just being opaque (i.e., I wasn’t clear enough) or just as often, I fall into the trap of explaining something my reader already intuited (which comes off as condescending/belittling).
Questions relieve that uncertainty. They also give me an opportunity to explain something that I might have intuited while writing but which I failed to fully express or articulate. One example of this is Oyru’s healing powers. A recent reader said they didn’t really understand why he could heal sometimes but not at other times. So hearing the question forced me to examine my gut instincts, and I realized that Oyru’s explanation was insufficient… which meant he either didn’t want to tell the truth as he knew it, or he didn’t know the truth himself, or he knew it but he was trying to simplify things for his audience. Again, my gut instinct said it was a little of all of these things (which justified the explanation he gave in Master Artificer), but as the real life author answering a reader’s genuine question, I needed to be more honest about how that magic worked – so I gave two additional explanations/examples that illustrated the principles of Oyru’s unique kind of healing magic (and his nature as a half-man).
Stuff like that is really cool to me and really fun to discuss, but it’s not convenient to stuff those explanations into my books (much as I’ve tried), so I have to be content with finding authentic teaching moments for the characters to learn, ask questions, and be taught by other characters (who may or may not know the answers themselves). That makes the writing in Master Artificer a tad dense… but I don’t believe it’s done inorganically or inauthentically. It’s especially necessary to Annev’s character growth because he needs to better understand how the world works before he can find his place in it.
That is constantly on my mind as I write The Silent Gods books. How much truth can I dole out in this moment? How much can the character handle before turning away? What is the best choice for their character arc? What is the most authentic reaction? How do I balance presenting an authentic world to my readers while also showing that not everything I tell them is true? How do I convince my readers that I know what I’m doing (and that they can trust my instincts for telling a good, coherent story) while also having them recognize they are sometimes listening to an unreliable narrator?
So actually, a reader’s questions and guesses for the future can be useful feedback sometimes! How do you feel about reviews? The advice is often to try to ignore them, but do you?
I like reading critical reviews because often the critic is upset with something I’ve done intentionally! In this case, someone complained about how annoying Annev is in Master of Sorrows (and he certainly can be at times), but one of their reasons for being annoyed by him was (a) his life really isn’t all that hard, (b) he gets upset when things and people don’t immediately conform to his vision of the world, and (c) he’s too stubborn to accept that, so he is always trying to find a third path, which blows up in his face. This was super amusing to me because . . . yeah. Those ARE Annev’s character flaws. He’s also not great at judging someone else’s character when his feelings overwhelm his sense of judgment (which they also complained about). So it is right to be annoyed or upset by those flaws (because they ARE flaws), but it is also helpful to see when those flaws benefit a character and/or reinforce a world view that isn’t 100% correct.
As the author, I love seeing fans and readers make those connections. I love seeing that I did what I intended to do, and I love that people have mixed feelings about it!
I might have fibbed… I do have one actual interview question for you, and it’s obviously a very serious one: who would win if your main cast played mini-golf?
Annev would win! Titus is thoughtful, but he’s more in tune with people’s emotions and abstract concepts, and less physically talented. Therin would get a few lucky hole-in-ones but would also have some where he couldn’t get the ball in the hole to save his life. Fyn always hits too hard and doesn’t think far enough ahead to see the big picture. Kenton might give Annev a run for his money, honestly, but in the end he would doubt himself and lose. Myjun would also give him a challenge… but she’d also probably get caught cheating and disqualified!
Annev would feel pressured and would doubt himself, and he wouldn’t have a perfect game, but he’d consider the angles and would try to plan things for the best, adapting to the situation as it was needed. In the end he would win, and this would reinforce his belief that he knows what he is doing, that he is probably the smartest or most talented person in the room, and that he shouldn’t be surprised when he is the best.
I love this! Thanks for chatting!
Master Artificer is out now from Gollancz! This is definitely a series where I don’t recommend trying to start with book two, so grab a copy of Master of Sorrows to catch up if you need to, then get hold of this beautiful chunky book! And don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!