Jacqueline Carey’s interview
Estante de Livros – How did you come up with the idea of writing “Kushiel’s Dart”?
Jacqueline Carey – Part of the inspiration came from research I was doing into angel lore for a non-fiction book, and part of it came from a trip to the south of France. Other aspects are simply a gift of the Muses – like the main character, Phèdre.
E.L. – Was your intention from the beginning to write a series of books or did the good reception encouraged you to continue?
J.C. – I left the ending a bit open on purpose, and when I acquired an agent, one of the first things he said was, “Write a sequel!” The ideas for the second and third books came all at once, along with the possibility of continuing the series with a different protagonist.
E.L. – I really enjoy reading books told in the first person, but of all the books with this characteristic I have read until today, probably half of them didn’t work well. As Phèdre’s voice is so unique and well done, was it a big challenge? How did you get inside her head?
J.C. -A lot of writers find the first-person voice restrictive, but I like never having to worry about changing points of view. My literary voice is naturally baroque, and I let myself turn it loose for the first time in Kushiel’s Dart. As for getting inside Phèdre’s head, I think that’s part of the mystery of creativity. Writers don’t always know how we do what we do!
E.L. – There are a lot of graphic sex scenes in your books, and most of them fall out of the category “comfortable” for most people. But I never got under the impression they were unnecessary or dislocated: they make sense, within the story. What do you think about their importance? Did you think that this aspect could keep away some readers?
J.C. -Believe me, I thought long and hard about the dark erotic element before I began writing, because I knew it meant taking a big risk. Ultimately, I thought it could be a fascinating way to subvert many of the “heroine as victim” clichés that exist in much of our popular entertainment. I tried to handle it delicately and make sure that none of the scenes were gratuitous, that they were indeed relevant to the plot. Still, it definitely meant I wouldn’t be drawing in younger readers! I often have to tell parents no, my books are not suitable for your thirteen-year-old Harry Potter fan.
E.L. – I’ve read a lot of fantasy books, and I think one of the things that makes some of them remarkable is a well built and researched world. Kushiel’s books are set in a reminiscent Renaissance Europe, with well described locations and a very strong mythology. How did you do your research? Have you visited Europe and the other countries the locations in your book resemble with?
J.C. -I’ve probably visited half of the countries I cover in the course of the six books of the Kushiel series. France, Britain, Italy, Greece, Egypt; yes. Germany, Spain, Iran, Cyprus, Russia; no. I wish I could do on-site research for all of them, but time and cost don’t allow it! Old-fashioned book research, with a lot of help from the internet, makes up the difference.
E.L. – Religion plays a very important part in this first trilogy, but I felt it was very far from the way that a lot of people understand religion nowadays. Was it a way for you to emphasize what you think is more important about faith?
J.C. -I was interested in exploring the concept of a deity whose sole divine attribute is love, in all of love’s many manifestations. If I had to pick one aspect of faith to highlight, that would certainly be it.
E.L. – You have already wrote some books outside the Kushiel’s world (Santa Olivia, Banewreaker series), but you’re still coming back to it (recently with Naamah’s Kiss). Are you challenging yourself and at the same time keep returning to a “safe harbor”?
J.C. -That’s a fair analysis. It was certainly a challenge to examine a familiar setting through a fresh set of eyes, but I love the world I’ve created, and it was a pleasure to revisit it. I also took the opportunity to explore farther afield, which included a wonderful research trip to China.
E.L. – Your main works have been under the category of speculative fiction. Have you considered writing something out of that genre?
J.C. -I have, and perhaps some day I will, but so far all my best and most compelling ideas are within the genre.
E.L. – What are your literary references? (authors, genres…)
J.C. -I read across the board in any and all genres. I enjoy mainstream literary fiction, mysteries, thrillers, paranormals, fantasy, science fiction, comedies. Historical fiction is a big literary influence for me; Mary Renault’s novels set in ancient Greece were the first “adult” books I read, and remain favorites, both for their ability to bring the past to life, and the lyrical writing. The opening line of Kushiel’s Dart is structured as an homage to The Persian Boy, the first book of hers I ever read.
E.L. – Is there something you want to say to your present and future portuguese fans?
J.C. -I hope you enjoy the books, and that some day I’m able to add Portugal to the list of countries I’ve had the good fortune to visit!