Thursday, April 6, 2023

6 Books with Juliet McKenna

The rolific Juliet McKenna is a British fantasy author with more than 15 novels, ranging from secondary world fantasy series to rural contemporary fantasy. Under a pen name, she writes historical fiction as well. Today she tells us about her Six Books.

 1. What book are you currently reading?

The Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim. Arabian Nights-style myths are the inspiration for an original and intricate fantasy world, and this story quickly promises to be an exciting quest tale. It soon turns out to be a whole lot more besides.


2. What upcoming book are you really excited about?

Furious Heaven by Kate Elliott. She has an incredible talent for finding new perspectives on so many of the classic plots and characters of epic fantasy and science fiction. Her fresh eye makes for original, powerful and compelling drama.


3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?

I’ve just scratched that particular itch with a reread of The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee. I read Jade City, Jade War and Jade Legacy as they were published and have been promising myself a continuous read-through for a while. The trilogy is every bit as good as I remember, and going straight from one book to the next definitely added to the experience.


4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?

I’ve had mixed feelings about the last two Discworld books, Snuff and Raising Steam, since first reading them when they were published. I adore the Discworld and like so many fans, I was eager to read every possible story as long as Sir Terry could possibly write them. But even while I was still deep in denial/ignorance about the impact of his rare variant of Alzheimer’s, I felt something was ‘off’ with both books. I tried to tell myself I was being hypercritical or distracted or something. Now that I’ve read Terry Pratchett A Life With Footnotes*The Official Biography, I have a far clearer understanding of his condition while those books were being written. They’re undoubtedly of interest to Pratchett scholars, but I don’t think they’re worthy of inclusion in the series, certainly not for new readers who don’t know that sad context.


5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

The Moon in the Cloud by Rosemary Harris, along with the two other books in this trilogy. In the first story, Noah’s feckless son Ham persuades a poor musician called Reuben to go and find two lions and two sacred Egyptian cats for the ark. He promises safe passage for Reuben and his wife in return, when the great flood comes. Looking back, so much from this little series has stayed with me, starting with a writer taking history and myth and creating something fresh and unexpected. I met characters I could really relate to, without ever losing sight of how different their lives and world were to mine. I learned without consciously realising it how important humour can be, as a counterpoint to real, serious peril and that genuine villainy takes different forms. Most of all, I understood that for a story to matter, there can be no guarantee that virtue will be rewarded, unless it rolls up its sleeves and does the hard work for itself.


6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome?

The Cleaving is a retelling of King Arthur’s story from the perspective of the women closest to him; his mother Ygraine, his half-sister Morgana, his wife Guinevere, and the enchantress Nimue. These women simply come and go when the story is centred on the king and his knights, but they would have had lives of their own when they were off-stage, so to speak. They would have known each other and they would have talked to each other. Would Arthur be such a hero to them? Once I shifted my focus away from the king, I saw a very different, untold story. Add to that, rereading early versions of these legends reminded me how much magic and mystery has been stripped out of recent retellings that aim for historical realism. Excalibur’s not the only enchanted sword in these stories by a long way, and the sorcery that’s around every corner includes curses, quests and prophecies as well as eerie, unknown lands. I decided to bring all those things back.

Thank you Juliet!

POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.