Before Our Story Begins: An Intro to Sorcerer to the Crown
Zen Cho's SORCERER TO THE CROWN, her fantastic, delightful debut, is out in paperback tomorrow. Here Zen opens a window into the world of the novel - and her inspirartions - to prepare us for adventure...
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Sorcerer to the Crown was inspired by lots of things, as most novels probably are. I wanted to tell the sort of story I enjoyed reading, so I threw in a bunch of things I liked, on the basis that maybe other people would like the same things. Things like:
1) Regency stuff
The Regency romance genre is the most obvious influence on Sorcerer. I love the mannered style used in letters of the late 18th century and early 19th century: the rhythm of the endless sentences, the adverbs and exclamations, the way clauses are constructed, the overuse of em dashes (something I deeply identify with – it's probably my favourite punctuation mark). I also enjoy all the paraphernalia of the Regency romance: the lovingly described frocks, the glittering balls, the banter and politesse.
(2) Surprise dragons
Dragons are my favourite magical creature. Asian dragons are superior, in my opinion, but Western dragons are cool as well. I like the latter best when they are doing something amusingly inconsistent with their ferocious reputation for hoarding treasures, setting villages on fire and eating maidens – so I put a couple of dragon cameos in the book.
(3) Mouthy women
I find women interesting and I think their perspective is valuable, which may sound like an uninteresting "well yeah duh" thing to say – but if you check out a standard table of fantasy novels at a bookshop, odds are the majority of them won't contain much evidence that their authors agree.
(I'm not saying the authors don't agree. It's just that if you develop as a writer in a society that systematically devalues women's perspectives, as ours does, it can take a lot of work to deprogram yourself and figure out how to write stories that push back against that.)
Pushing back isn't my main reason for putting mouthy women in Sorcerer to the Crown, though. Rather, it's because I am lazy and they basically write themselves. If you make sure your characters have very clear opinions about things that saves you a ton of work because then they go off and say and do things with minimal interference from you.
(4) Awkward social situations
Some people really enjoy action movies and can't wait to see helicopters spiralling out of the sky while cars explode in a symphony of violence below. I tend to fall asleep during action scenes (books are better than films because you can flip through them), but I love a good awkward social situation. Wodehouse excelled at setting these up and squeezing every possible laugh out of them, so I stole at least one absurd set-up from him, as well as a couple of other things. But you'll have to read the book to find out what those are!