Ten years ago, after writing A Beautiful Friendship, the first book in his Star Kingdom series — a young adult spin-off of his long-running Honor Harrington sci-fi series — writer David Weber turned to friend and fellow scribe Jane Lindskold to collaborate on the second book, 2012’s Fire Season. And clearly she did a good job because the two have just released the fourth Star Kingdom novel, A New Clan (hardcover, Kindle). In the following email interview, Lindskold discusses what inspired and influenced this story, as well as why, despite being the fourth book in a sub-series that itself has dozens of novels, A New Clan may be a good place to start this saga.
For people unfamiliar with it, what is the Star Kingdom series about, and when and where do these books take place?
The Star Kingdom series is a prequel to Weber’s Honor Harrington books. It centers around Stephanie Harrington and her extended circle of friends. Stephanie was the original “treecat discoverer,” and is dedicated to their preservation and safety.
And then for people who have read them, what is A New Clan about, and how does it connect to the previous book, Treecat Wars?
A New Clan follows hard on the heels of Treecat Wars. It’s about a lot of things: the treecats’ own shifting sense of identity; drug use; romance; how good people can have very different point of views.
Who came up with the idea for A New Clan?
Let me give you a little background. Weber and I have been friends since he had one and a half novels published, and I had one short story. “Weber” is less me calling him by his surname than a nickname. At the time he entered my life, I had too many other “Davids” and he was special even then.
We honestly collaborate on these books. Weber is definitely stuck with the job of making sure whatever ideas we come up with fit in the extensive Honorverse universe, but he gives me a lot of freedom to suggest plot elements.
For this one, I really wanted to get away from the “someone is after the treecats” that had been a major element in the prior three and take more of a look at the aspects of “frontier” that are so crucial. I had also really, really admired Weber’s short story “Heart Of Stone,” and felt the readership would join me in wanting to know more about Cordelia and Heartstone. However, the issue of the treecats and humans remains an element, just looked at in a different way.
The previous books in this series were all young adult sci-fi novels. Is it safe to assume A New Clan is as well?
Yes, but both Weber and I feel the only difference that should exist between YA and adult fiction is that in YA the overt violence and sex are dialed back. We don’t believe kids need to be talked down to or protected from reality or the consequences of one’s actions.
However, as the “kids” get older, the books move away from YA. At the end of this book, Stephanie will turn sixteen. Her long-time buddy, Karl, is already eighteen, working as an SFS Ranger, with all the restrictions and responsibilities that come with the job.
And are these the kind of young adult novels that only young adults will enjoy, or will old adults like them as well?
I can’t see why adult readers wouldn’t enjoy them. They’re a great window into aspects of the Star Kingdom that Weber can’t show in the more military-oriented Honorverse novels. They’re also the only Honorverse novels that go into detail about treecats at home.
Now, as we’ve been discussing, A New Clan is your third Star Kingdom novel, though it’s far from being your third book. Are there any writers or specific stories that had a particularly big influence on A New Clan but not on anything else you’ve written, and especially your previous Star Kingdom novels?
Not directly for me, no, except that I am firmly influenced by the best of Weber’s own work.
How about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Were any of those things an influence on A New Clan?
Hmm… Most of my viewing is anime, which, I guess you could say could be an influence. In anime, especially older anime, most of the characters, even kids, are more responsible and proactive (and less whiny) than their American counterparts. They are also more willing to work collaboratively, rather than being a supportive cast to a star. Even “single name” titles are about ensemble casts.
I’m also a long-time gamer, both tabletop RPG and computer, but I don’t see any direct influence except that being a gamer and a game master is ultimately about collaborative storytelling.
Now, along with co-writing A New Clan, you also recently put out two books in your fantasy series Over Where: Library Of The Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge. What is that series about, and when and where do those novels take place?
The series is contemporary portal fantasy. I wrote it because, even when I was a kid myself, I wondered why if other worlds were going to summon help from elsewhere, why did they bring over kids, often kids under the age of fifteen. There were a few exceptions, sure, but most those were military or grimdark, and neither of those were the short of story I was thinking about when I posed this question.
So, I decided to do a portal fantasy where those going through portal would be fifty and older, women (for no reason other than that’s who walked on stage when I was casting). I also wanted to explore the idea of what it would be like to be a mentor, rather than having one.
For this reason, Meg, Peg, and Teg are summoned “Over Where” (as Peg dubs it), by three young people (twentysomethings, basically) who have issues that are keeping them from moving on in their lives.
The story expands, as my novels tend to, beyond this initial design, and gets rather, what can I say without providing too much of a spoiler… How about cosmic?
And then what can you tell us about the Over Where series? Are these two a duology, the beginning of a larger series…?
Library Of The Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge are part one and part two of the story of Meg, Peg, and Teg mentoring Xerak, Grunwold, and Vereez.
However, I definitely want to do more with Over Where and am, in fact, about 50,000 words into a manuscript that takes my core characters (and a bunch more) back to the Library.
Earlier I asked if A New Clan had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think A New Clan could work as a movie, show, or game?
Yes. I think it’s tightly focused enough that it could make a good movie. For an Honorverse novel, it’s positively short.
And if someone wanted to make it into a movie or TV show, who would you want them to cast as Stephanie and the other main characters?
I’m not a great person to ask, because I watch so little live action that I don’t know who any actors are these days.
It would probably make a great anime, because anime is much more used to having non-human characters than most movies, and there’d be no need for awkward CGI interface.
So, is there anything else you think people interested in A New Clan should know about it?
These are great “gateway” books into the Honorverse for younger readers or for people who don’t like military sci-fi. Each novel pretty much manages to stand on its own, which is nice, too.
Finally, if someone enjoys A New Clan, which of your solo novels would you suggest they read next, and which of Weber’s novels would you suggest they read after that?
I think the Firekeeper Saga (starting with Through Wolf’s Eyes) would be a good fit, since even though they’re fantasy, they have a similar emphasis on political situations, as well as human and non-human points of view.
As for Weber… The original Path Of The Fury is a favorite of mine. I also like Oath Of Swords. These have some of the same tight focus as the Star Kingdom books, so I think would be great entry points to his work. The first several Honor Harrington books also work as stand-alones.