Today, in this week’s installment of my series dedicated to sharing some things I’ve found that help me to feel a little more comfortable when Im having a Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day, I am OVER THE MOON excited to be hosting author Isabel Joely Black, creator of the world of Amnar, who has currently published three books in the Amnar series: “The Execution“, “The Expulsion“, and “The Inheritor“.
I first discovered Joely and her work about two years ago which was great for me, because it was shortly before that that I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. So I DEFINITELY needed as many soothing things I could find, since that diagnosis pretty much turned my entire life upside down and then shook out all the different parts until there was no possible way of putting them back together again.
I feel like anything I could say about these characters and their stories and this world just pales in comparison to the experience of actually reading the books for yourself. But I’ll give it my best shot before I let Joely take over.
The first thing that is so captivating about this series is the world of Amnar itself. Before she focused all her energies on fiction writing, Joely earned a Ph.D. in geography. So Amnar itself is a character, with continents and civilization and history and cultures and races of people, drawn with just the right amount of detail to make it exceptionally vivid for the reader, without it being overwhelming or tedious (Tom Clancy and Robert Jordan, I’m looking at you).
The second thing I like so much about the series is how the characters are portrayed. They’re very realistic as human beings. I think it’s safe to say that there are some people who are truly evil in these stories. And there are definitely heroes and heroines. But they are believable in those roles because they are just like us-some virtues, some flaws, some knowing exactly what to do, some big mistakes. So, at least for me, it makes it easier for me to believe that I can be brave, virtuous, contributing to the world, too, because they are just like me. Or maybe I am just like them. I definitely know I can (and frequently do) do boneheaded things,but reading about these characters reminds me to remember that, oh yeah, I do a lot of good things too.
So, without any further ado, let me turn things over Joely.
1.Welcome, Joely. I’m so, so excited that you’re here. And I’m so glad I get to pump you for some more information about Amnar, as well as let all my readers know how great the Amnar books are. So for my first question I was wondering-how would you introduce a new reader to the world of Amnar?
You know, I was telling somebody last night that I really struggle with this bit. I don’t have a good “elevator speech” for Amnar worked out, and I fumble around with words whenever somebody asks me. Where do I start with a world I’m so engrossed in, that’s so huge and complex? I think ideally, they would go away and read Amnar: The Inheritor first, and discover it without me actually saying anything, because I think that’s the best way. They wouldn’t have any preconceptions and could allow it to speak for itself.
Usually, that’s not possible, because Amnar isn’t something people just come across unless they know me first. I usually do the traditional pitch thing, where you relate the story to authors already popular in the genre. It has the political complexity of a lot of China Mieville’s work, although not his writing style, and much of the spiritual interest and the fascination with physics and the power of consciousness of Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials series. It’s also got many of the aspects of Ursula le Guin’s sociological perspectives, and the social structure is so different it’s probably a bit like Iain M Banks’s Culture novels.
Or, I could say it’s about a girl – a young woman – working out who she is and whether she agrees with the horrific things she sees going on around her. She makes a choice to take action and save a life, and finds herself swept up in a complex story of destiny, fate and politics. Oh yes, and there are occasionally dragons.
2. You write about some very heavy topics in your current web serial (in addition to being available on Amazon, “The Expulsion” is also being release as a web serial on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays)-rape, torture, despots, persecution and oppression of a marginalized people, etc. What kind of a toll does that take on you? Are there things you do that help balance that out, or help you recover from the time you spend in the dark places?
It can be horrible, I’ll be honest. It’s been hard enough reading about it, especially when I’ve studied experiences from people who lived in China during the Cultural Revolution, or survived the death camps or Stalinism. Writing it is something else altogether, because I’m there being the characters, going through what they’re going through, and I really hurt for them.
Writing much of it has been very tough indeed, and I get very tired after it. When I get through something very tough, like writing scenes with Nenja in them, or the fight scenes, I’ll have to go out for a walk to clear my head. It doesn’t have to be very far, but I really have to get away from the computer when I’ve done something like that, to get back into the real world. Whatever I do, there has to be some moving around.
3.Are you still learning about the Amnar world as you go along, or is it all already mapped out in your head?
A lot of the background has come from people asking questions. They want to understand how small details work, and that means I need to come up with an answer. It’s lots of fun, endless research questions, I suppose.
4. Are you ever surprised by anything that happens as you’re writing? Do any characters do unexpected things? Do new characters ever pop up?
I do love the process of just writing it, the interactions between characters, putting together action sequences, that kind of thing. Being able to get on with it without anything else getting in the way, that’s wonderful.
6. Are there things that frustrate you as well?
I think the whole publishing side of it has been the frustrating part, because that’s made me feel bad toward Amnar itself, and at times I’ve wished I never thought it up. If I talk about Amnar, people inevitably want to know why I’m publishing it this way instead of that, and it’s very tiring having to go through the whole thirteen-year thing with everybody new. I could just not talk about it, but because it’s a big part of my life, it’s not as though I can pretend it’s not there. I’ve been held up by being ill for two years with a long history of difficulties, and it annoys me when that gets in the way of being able to write.
7.Is there a question you would LIKE to be asked about Amnar or your work that no one ever asks, or something you would like to talk about that never comes up in any interviews?