Exclusive Interview: “Obsidian” Author Sarah J. Daley

 

Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands. It’s why Shade Nox, the main character of Sarah J. Daley’s new fantasy novel Obsidian (paperback, Kindle) is the hero of that story…and the center of the bad guy’s attention. In the following email interview, Daley explains why she put Shade in that position, as well as what inspired and influenced this epic tale.

Sarah Daley Obsidian

To start, what is Obsidian about, and what kind of world is it set in?

The story follows Shade Nox, the only witch in a land of wizards, who must use the power in her blood to shield her clan from impending doom as the demon-blighted Wastes they call home tilt toward disaster. In a land broken by an ancient war, most of Malavita’s citizens live beneath the shelter of magical shields called Veils, but Shade’s people are not welcome in the Veils. Using forbidden and dangerous magic, Shade will raise one for them — if she can evade her enemies long enough to accomplish the nearly impossible task.

And if I may be cheeky for a moment, is there a reason it’s called Obsidian as opposed to Pumice or Quartz or Melted Cheese?

Not only is Shade the only witch in Malavita, but she is also the only bloodwizard who has mastered Obsidian blades. Most bloodwizards wouldn’t dare wield such a volatile material, choosing amethyst, garnet, emerald, or any number of other gemstones, but Shade has always gone her own way. Her black blades are powerful, dangerous, and unpredictable. Just like Shade.

On a more serious note, the Veils that Shade wants to raise to protect her people are controlled by The Brotherhood, and they’re not okay with a woman raising one. Did you set out to write a fantasy tale with a bit of feminism or did you start writing this story and realized it needed it?

The idea for this story started with a character: A woman, tall, strong, and covered in tattoos. She carried blades at her hips like a gunslinger and refused to conform to the world around her, to the expectations and restrictions placed upon women. The story grew from there, but it was always going to be centered around a strong, female protagonist. Mostly because I was tired of reading fantasy stories where men were always the heroes, or the most powerful. Even stories I adored managed to relegate the female characters to supporting roles. Even when they were strong, it seemed like it was always for the benefit of a male main character. For once, I wanted the girl to kick ass, not just be in love with the man who was destined to save the world. Of course, there have been lots of books written with strong, female protagonists who do kick ass, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few more. So, basically, yes, this story was always feminist at heart.

It sounds like Obsidian is an epic fantasy tale. Is that how you’d describe it?

I’m not sure I consider Obsidian epic fantasy, mostly because it doesn’t involve kings or queens or battles between huge armies. It’s definitely fantasy for its magic system and non-technological setting, but I’ve had a hard time deciding what subgenre of fantasy it might belong to. To me, it’s a personal story about one woman’s quest to help her people and her journey along the way. Her tests and trials. Honestly, I’m pretty bad about categorizing fantasy. Maybe adventure fantasy? Sword and sorcery? I mean, one character does have a sword.

Obsidian is your first novel. But I’m guessing it’s not the first thing you’ve written. Are there any writers, or maybe specific stories, that had a particularly big influence on Obsidian but not on anything else you’ve written?

Oddly, one of the biggest influences on this novel, and its setting and politics and religion, is The Godfather — though the novel by Mario Puzo more than the movie. For a while, I became obsessed with the mafia and Sicily. The history of that tiny island is fascinating. So many different nations have claimed it for its strategic location and its resources (it was the “breadbasket” of Rome). It was exploited and conquered and occupied over and over, but its people endured. Because corruption was so rampant, the people looked to others for justice which helped give rise to the mafia. My Capomaji and their Corsaro soldiers fill that role in Obsidian, though they aren’t the heroes in my story. Standing up against corruption and oppression is one of the themes of my book.

How about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Did any of those kinds of things have a big influence on Obsidian?

Well, I really like big, over-the-top action movies with larger-than-life characters, superhero movies especially. I’m sure that influenced Shade’s awesomeness. I also love spaghetti westerns — gunslingers and plucky bands of heroes — and the original Japanese samurai movies they’re based on. Raiden Mad, extraordinary swordsman that he is, was definitely influenced by my love of Toshiro Mifune and his many roles. The lone swordsman / warrior with lethal skill is a trope I adore. There was a Japanese movie called The Sword Of Doom, which was incredible, and it’s always stuck with me for its fight scenes. The main character was a sociopath, but he was really good with a sword.

Goldie

 

And what about your hamster, the late, great Goldie. What influence did she, or her furry brethren, have on Obsidian?

Not much, I’m afraid, though Goldie was a sweet little pet. She was the third and last hamster we owned. The first was Hammie, who died in a tragic accident involving an unlocked cage and an open drain. Her death allowed me to tap some primal grief, let me tell ya. Our second furry beast was Yoshi. She died of natural causes, though lingered for a time with a horrific skin disease. Goldie went quick and peacefully. Now, we have a hamster graveyard in our backyard, and I think I’ve experienced enough hamster death to last a lifetime.

Now, as you know, fantasy novels are sometimes stand-alone stories and sometimes part of larger sagas. What is Obsidian?

Frankly, it’s written to be either. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, so if you read it, you won’t be waiting to find out who lived or died until a second book, but I feel it’s a rich world and there are plot threads which would easily carry through in further stories. There’s much more story to tell, in my humble opinion, and I plan to tell it. The second book is already written, in fact.

Cool. So, what can you tell us about this series?

I haven’t settled on a name for the series, though I have a few ideas, and right now I have in my mind that I’d like to see it become a trilogy. But you never know. Sometimes things grow in unexpected ways.

Upon hearing that Obsidian might be the first book of a trilogy, some people will decide to wait until all the books are out before reading any of them. Do you think people should wait?

From a story perspective, there’s no need to wait for the whole series if you want to read Obsidian. I intended it to be a stand-alone novel with series potential not just the first part in a three part (or four or five part) story.

Earlier we talked about the movies, TV shows, and games that influenced Obsidian. But I want to flip the script, as kids doesn’t say anymore, and ask you if you think Obsidian could work as a movie, show, or game?

I think it’s a golden age for fantasy stories to be adapted to TV or movies. Special effects are so advanced now, magic and strange settings and fantastical creatures come to life (instead of looking cheesy or fake). And people seem to really want these kinds of shows and movies.

Obsidian would make a great movie; it’s fast-paced and full of action sequences. The plot is pretty straight forward, and the world would make a dramatic cinematic setting. Plus, you’ve got tattooed bloodwizards running around in gladiator skirts, essentially, wielding blades made of gemstones. The visuals would be (hopefully) impressive. If I manage my desired trilogy, though, I believe a TV show would be a better medium. Any complex, extended series works best in an episodic format rather than a single movie.

So, if someone wanted to make Obsidian into a movie or show, who would you want them to cast as Shade and the other main characters?

I could see someone like Charlize Theron [Mad Max: Fury Road] playing Shade. Not only because she’s incredibly beautiful, she also manages to pull off believable action sequences. She just looks like someone who could kick anybody’s ass. Though [Captain Marvel‘s] Brie Larson (who I also adore, and who played an extremely powerful female protagonist already) would be great, as well, and much closer in age to Shade.

As to other main characters, Raiden would work well played by Manny Jacinto [The Good Place]. He’s got the boyish good looks and the body type and he’s a great actor. It’s fun to think about it.

So, is there anything else that people interested in Obsidian should know before deciding whether or not to buy it?

If you like fast-paced adventure fantasy that takes place in an atypical setting with a strong female protagonist, you should definitely buy a copy. It’s also a complete story, and you won’t have to wait another year or two to see how it ends.

Sarah Daley Obsidian

Finally, if someone enjoys Obsidian, what fantasy novel of someone else’s would you suggest they check out next?

I’m going to give a shout out to a fellow Angry Robot author and recommend Patricia A. Jackson’s Forging A Nightmare. It’s an urban fantasy rather than epic, but its awesome action sequences and nonstop pacing is something I tried to do with Obsidian.

 

 

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