Category Archives: Article

Thanks, Cristopher Paolini! (Or how Eragon led to Risuko)

 When Cristopher Paolini’s epic dragon-rider fantasy novel Eragon came out, I had just conceived of the book that would become Risuko.

And Eragon depressed the heck out of me. Continue reading Thanks, Cristopher Paolini! (Or how Eragon led to Risuko)

How Accurate Should Historical Fiction Be?

I got into a conversation recently about whether historical fiction should be “prohibited” if it wasn’t “accurate.” (The discussion started over swearing in historical novels, but spread out from there.)

As a historical novelist… yeah. No.

I think that, of course, historical fiction should be as true to its time and place as it can be. But writing a story set in another time with 100% accuracy isn’t for historical novels — it’s for textbooks. (And even then, it isn’t possible, since so much of history remains up for debate.)

In fact, writing fully accurate historical fiction isn’t always possible. Or even advisable. So I’m glad there aren’t any HistFic cops out there to beat down my door.

There’s a lot that’s almost impossible to find out about life in former times. Dates, names, and outcomes of big battles, marriages, deaths — the important, history-making events of the ruling classes — are easy to learn. What people in a particular part of rural Japan would have had for breakfast in May, 1571? Not so easy.

And even those battles and things don’t always cooperate to allow you to tell the best possible story.

In Bright Eyes, my latest Seasons of the Sword novel, one of the historical characters had changed his name by the time in which the book is set. But if I used the correct name, it was going to be too much like that of another historical character, and I was worried that similarity would confuse readers. Also, the new name was a very famous one — and I didn’t want to give away what happened to him later to the historically literate. (Mind, if they’re real Japanese history buffs, they already know. But why make it easy, right? 😉)

Historical fiction isn’t pretending to be historical fact. It’s just doing it’s best to weave a consistent tale within a long-ago setting. Like fantasy or science fiction, it’s trying to tell a good story — only someone’s already done the world building.

How old are Risuko and the others?

I’ve been asked many times how old Risuko and the other girls are in the Seasons of the Sword books.

Since these are young adult novels, it’s a good question. It’s one, however, I specifically chose not to answer in the text of the books. Before I answer, I need you to know that my answer will include some spoilers for Risuko. Just so you’re not surprised. Continue reading How old are Risuko and the others?

Gender, Risuko, and Granny Weatherwax

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about gender.

Woman Combing Her Hair by Goyo Hashiguchi, c. 1920
Woman Combing Her Hair by Goyo Hashiguchi, c. 1920

I’ve been thinking about gender because I’m writing a series of books in which it plays an important role. But it’s also on my mind because it’s very much a part of the global conversation these days. Issues of women’s rights in general and transsexual men and women’s rights in particular flare regularly in my morning news feed. My wife is teaching an online class in theater and gender that looks at these subjects in depth. The subjects comes up frequently in my conversations with my daughters and with my friends.

Sex=Gender

I’m just old enough that when I was young we didn’t make any distinction between sex (as defined by one’s physical appearance) and gender (one’s identification and behavior). Certain toys were girl toys and others were boy toys. Some boys were girly and some girls were tomboys. When I reached high school, we were taught that people with XX chromosomes were female while people with XY chromosomes were male.

That’s just the way it was.

Continue reading Gender, Risuko, and Granny Weatherwax

Is “Gritty” Realistic?

In response to a recent post about Ursula K. Le Guin, I was challenged on some of what I’d had to say about George R.R. Martin’s writing — specifically, I was told that Martin’s gritty, brutal fantasy was somehow more realistic than Le Guin’s.

Well, to each their own. If you love A Song of Ice and Fire, then great.

I don’t love the series, though I can see the books’ virtues and appeal. But I object to the idea that gritty somehow equals realistic.

When I started reading Game of Thrones, my youngest was seven years old. I got about seventy pages in when (spoiler)… Continue reading Is “Gritty” Realistic?

Character Mutiny, Pt. II — The Author Strikes Back

Here’s the story of how I crushed a character mutiny and finished a book.

Back when Risuko first came out, I was hard at work on the sequel, Bright Eyes. I was cruising along, with every expectation that I’d have the book ready for publication in 2018.

Then one of my characters mutinied.

I was about to kill her off (spectacularly, I thought) in order to move the plot forward. As I began to write the scene, however, I realized that I hadn’t set up the death or the character well.

In my mind, she sat there, yelling at me, telling me the scene sucked. And the way I had written her character sucked. And because they sucked, the whole book to that point sucked. Massively.

She wasn’t very polite about it.

I realized, to my horror, that she was right. Continue reading Character Mutiny, Pt. II — The Author Strikes Back

Writing from another point of view

Can a man write from a woman’s point of view?

Gosh, I sure hope so! I am, after all, currently writing a series of books from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old girl.

Now, she’s also Japanese, living in Japan.

In the sixteenth century.

I’m an American man living in twenty-first-century California.

Continue reading Writing from another point of view

Ursula K Le Guin — Grandmaster

As an author of young adult books, I’ve been asked many times about the authors who had the greatest impact on me. I’ll often start by mentioning Maurice Sendak, which people assume is a joke, but isn’t.

Next, I’ll mention Ursula K. Le Guin, the late author of science fiction and fantasy.

Continue reading Ursula K Le Guin — Grandmaster

Character Mutiny: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Bright Eyes

ETA: BRIGHT EYES LIVES!

So, hi.

I owe you an apology.

I had promised — and confidently expected — to finish and release Bright Eyes, book #2 in the Seasons of the Sword series, in 2018.

What happened? Continue reading Character Mutiny: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Bright Eyes

What’s with Kee Sun’s accent?

Kee Sun is one of my favorite characters, and I’m not alone. I get asked about the Korean cook a lot — especially about his accent. I recently was asked a question over on Goodreads:

Hi David – enjoyed Risuko and will be adding my review soon. Curious about the Korean cook and the odd way he speaks. Is that on purpose to indicate he might have some type of accent? Also, is there any particular reason for him not being Japanese? Perhaps I missed something 🙂 — Steve

Great question! Continue reading What’s with Kee Sun’s accent?