Today’s author interview is with the truly great Sabrina Zbasnik author of The King’s Blood. We asked her some silly questions and some rather serious ones. She gave us fun, informative answers in true Sabrina Zbasnik fashion which means that they are sharp smart answers that you’re going to enjoy reading. So without further ado please enjoy our interview with Sabrina Zbasnik.
1. Do you prefer crushed or cubed ice? Crushed, that way it’s much harder for the ice golem to reconstitute itself.
2. Do you kill bugs or set them free?
I set most of them free. The only bugs I will hunt down mercilessly are mosquitoes and hornets/wasps. Then I go full Raid Rambo.
3. What is your favorite color? Blue, because Octeen hasn’t been discovered yet.
4. If you could be a character in any fantasy novel ever written who would it be? I’ll go with Granny Weatherwax in the Discworld novels because no one messes with Granny. She’s the female version of Gandalf.
5. If you were in your very own fairy tale would you rather be the fire breathing dragon or the sword wielding heroine? You always go dragon.
1. Have you always been a fan of epic fantasy? Oh boy, right off the bat I’m gonna get myself into big trouble. Honest truth, I picked up the first Narnia book and hated it. It wasn’t grounded enough in reality for my tastes. Because of that I avoided the classic/epic fantasy for a long time. I read Goosebumps like all kids my age and played around in horror type fantasy and was a huge sci-fi fan. Animorphs was my jam in middle school. But it wasn’t until high school that I attempted Tolkien and fell hopelessly for the historically focused fantasy. Later, I found the magic of Discworld and loved the combination of science, humor, and fantasy. It was perfect for me. What I do like about fantasy, and genre in general, is that you can easily twist it to be allegorical. With classic historical fiction you’re confined within human stereotypes, what people think happened in that time. With fantasy you can flip the script on something to highlight a strange or disturbing foible of human nature.
2. As a reader I can’t imagine how you keep such a gigantic story straight as you write it. How do you go about it and are there post-its everywhere?
The King’s Blood took about four months to write the first draft. I always have the basic plot in my head before the first word is put down, focusing on the beats, what major obstacles will have to happen; but it’s the little stuff that creeps up along the way that throws me. Like Isa’s walking stick. It began more as a side joke, the witch with her wand that she can hit people with. But then I kept forgetting about it. There were drafts when she’d lose the damn thing for months, then suddenly it’d pop up again. That’s what editing’s for.
The worst is probably random names. I’d toss out the name of a place, a god, an old friend and then 40 pages later I make a reference back only I can’t remember what it was. Then I lose a half hour combing through the manuscript to find the name before I can continue. Now, when I put down something like that, I jot it on the side in the research notes. With fantasy and genre one tends to use weird names in general, and my trick to spelling it properly from the get go is to add it to my word processor’s dictionary. It’s the spell check’s problem now.
3. Your characters are complex. What is most important to you when you’re creating your fascinating characters? I suppose I want them to be believable. It makes me sound wacky, but I feel less like I’m god creating stories and more I’m the dungeon master. I gave these pieces their setting, now to sit back and see what they do and maybe throw a random encounter or two in. Characters often do something unexpected. Like Isa and Ciara not getting on due to religious differences. I hadn’t set out to have it happen, but it came up and I ran with it because it made sense to me. I’ll also have characters that refuse to do what I tell them. Taban was the worst. He had some vital backstory he needed to share but he would not talk about himself no matter how many times I threatened to get him stabbed. It reached the point I was afraid I’d never get it out of him and have to find some other way to stick it in there.
4. You recently wrote a blog post about female characters. The tagline “Strong Female Character” has become a catch phrase full of everything that a strong female character really isn’t. What do you think it will take to shift popular thinking and what can female readers do to help shape the landscape so that authors and screenwriters choose to create actual strong female characters?
I fear that a large part of the problem is this assumption that boys won’t read books with female main characters, boys won’t see movies with female heroes. It’s all about boys, boys, boys. You’d think Hollywood execs were teenage girls the way they go on about boys. We’ve become obsessed with gender dimorphism. Girls are only pink, boys are only blue, to the point we have color coded servingware for
kids and god help you if you eat off the wrong one. And since separate is never equal, it enforces the coded message of everything boy = good, everything girl = bad. Which is when you get that in order for girls to be interesting, to be worthy of listening to she has to act masculine, almost hyper masculine. She has to punch things through walls, she has to belch and fart, she has to never ever talk to another girl and declare herself “one of the guys.”
It is the nature of the beast, but because the female voice is equivalent to 1/10th of a male, those boys are the ones who can still enact real change. Getting boys to watch movies like Brave, to see other girls not as some unknowable species but a person like them is a huge and necessary step. It’s coming slowly. Things like My Little Ponies crossing the gender demilitarized zone helps greatly. Rising up and demanding it, making voices heard is all that gets through. Like the recent Assassin’s Creed fight about including female assassins. We’re sick of being treated like some abnormality. We’re over 50% of the population, not some tiny subset you have to cater to. I fear it is a fight that will never end.
5. What inspired you to include zombies in The Kings Blood? I needed something to show the power the unstable magic had, a reason why everyone is working for this end goal. Walking dead seemed a pretty great deterrent. Also, it gave me an excuse to have a nameless horde for the heroes to fight off. I’m not a fan of black and white, good vs evil, but I couldn’t logically send a couple of untrained teenagers onto a real battlefield and expect them to survive. So, the magic zombies came into being.
6. What would you go on an epic adventure for? What would be your goal?
Cheese, I would go on an epic adventure for cheese. Preferably to eat it. Destroying it would be hard, because then I would lose the power to control all the cheese in the world.
7. You have a lot of clever one liners in this book. Do they just come to you when you write and do you have a favorite? Some come up when I’m in the middle of writing. Some I think of when I’m outlining the scene, usually while walking or doing other mindless tasks. For a few I put in a placeholder joke, something so terrible I groan every time I read it, to force myself to come back later and add a better one. Though there are plenty of times while editing I’ll read a joke and think “I have no idea what in the hell I meant here. Delete!”
One of my favorites is probably the exchange between Ciara and Aldrin:
“Did your father have a lot of enemies?”
“He was king. If he didn’t have enemies, he wasn’t doing it right.” It’s a nice little microcosm of all the drawbacks of this royalty thing and why wanting to be king is kinda overrated.
8. What is your next project and where can we find you? I’m currently working on Dwarves in Space. As you can guess from the title it’s about Dwarves and they’re in Space. I call it Tolkien merged with Hitchhikers in a horrific transporter accident, though there are obvious touches of Firefly in there. It’s hard to do band of travelers skirting outside the law without paying an homage to Firefly. DiS also gives me a chance to skewer not only fantasy tropes but science fiction as well in one convenient series.
You can find some of my book info on my blog that’s still in the construction stages http://sezbasnik.blogspot.com/
Or follow me on twitter @introvertedwife I’ll post about any and everything on there
from Halloween props, to video games, to other one liners I think of during the day.
9. Is there anything you would like to share with our readers? I hope you like my book, as does every author in the history of the written word (except maybe for Jonathan Swift) and it helps continue the question of why can’t there be more diversity in fantasy.
But you cannot have the cheese. It’s mine, my own, my precious!
Sabrina Zbasnik is the author of The King’s Blood as well as TerraFae and Tin Hero – a rollicking tale of slime molds and their love of fine cigars.
Or a fantasy satire that lovingly pokes fun at those classic cliches.
Sabrina spends nearly of all her time in Nebraska but that’s because it is impossible to leave without finding the lamppost. She lives in a house that has at least four walls and there are some other souls wandering forlornly calling to their lost lives within.
Thank you for your time and wonderful answers Sabrina. We are looking forward to Dwarves In Space. We wish you luck and cheese.
Header image: King Family by Saavem
Versailles#3 by Zanuda
Italian cheese 2 by kalimevole from freeimages.com