While there’s often been love stories in fantasy realms — see all the fucking they do in Game Of Thrones — most of them are fantasy tales with just a bit of lovin’ to break up all the fightin’ and the questin’. But as writer Anna Kashina explains in the following email interview about her new romantic fantasy novel Shadowblade (paperback, Kindle), her fantasy epic is as romantic as it is adventurous.
What is Shadowblade about?
Shadowblade is about a young girl, Naia, who strives to become an elite Jaihar warrior against very heavy odds. The book tells her story, from a young trainee, all the way to a high profile mission with very low odds of survival. It’s action packed, and has a strong romantic subplot.
Where did you get the idea for Shadowblade, and how did the story evolve as you wrote it?
Originally, I wanted to write about a young girl training to become an elite warrior, who has to break a lot of barriers and glass ceilings to get to her goal. I wanted this book to have a romance at its core. But initially I didn’t really think far beyond that.
When I completed this initial part, I realized that this was only one layer. I had to come back, several times, to work out all the underlying politics, and the politics behind this politics too. In the end, it took a number of plot twists and layers of intrigue to arrive at the finished novel. The original first chapter is now buried deeply in the book. And the story is so much better than before.
Shadowblade is an epic fantasy tale. But are there any other genres, subgenres, or combinations of them at work in this story as well? You mentioned romance…
Shadowblade has very strong elements of romance. Frankly, I initially thought I was writing a romance with fantasy elements, but quickly realized otherwise. So the fantasy and the romance are the two major ones, the rest are probably flavors: more swords than sorcery, some swashbuckling, some historical elements.
Now, Shadowblade is not your first novel. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that you feel were a big influence on Shadowblade but not on any of your previous work?
When I wrote my previous trilogy, The Majat Code [Blades Of The Old Empire, The Guild Of Assassins, and Assassin Queen], I wasn’t consciously thinking about romance, and was initially surprised when they were not only classified as romance, but also ended up winning some romance awards. In Shadowblade I did it consciously, so I relied on the work of some fantasy romance authors I admire, for inspiration. One is Jeffe Kennedy, all of her books are really very much up my alley. The other is Amy Raby, the author of the Hearts And Thrones series.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or video games; did any of them have an influence on Shadowblade?
One of the movies I really love is Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. Without many explicit parallels, I believe it to be a perfect work in its genre, all its elements flawlessly fitting together into a highly enjoyable piece. Shadowblade is different, but I was striving for the same perfection, and the same enjoyment.
For my sword scenes, I sometimes watch Kill Bill; very different, but with the same type of action, minus the gore.
There are no direct parallels, though. My book is very multicultural. Maybe, one day, it will set its own trend?
Prior to Shadowblade you wrote two books in The Spirits Of The Ancient Sands duology [The Princess Of Dhagabad and The Goddess Of Dance] and, as you mentioned, The Majat Code trilogy. Is Shadowblade part of a series as well?
Shadowblade is not currently contracted as a series. I wanted it this way because I wanted the flexibility with my next book. When I worked on The Majat Code trilogy, the second book was nearly completed by the time I signed the contract, so I definitely knew there would be at least two. Shadowblade sold much faster, so I didn’t have the time to line this up.
With Shadowblade, though, the doors are wide open. Even though the story in this book is completely wrapped up, it leaves the main characters in a place where their future can go in several directions. There are also more things to discover about their past. I believe part of this decision, though, will be based on Shadowblade’s popularity. If many people buy it, and they want to read more, I am definitely game.
If you write more books, are you thinking it would be a trilogy or just a series of stand-alone stories?
I believe, even in a series, each book should be a stand-alone. I hope George R.R. Martin is not reading this; I do enjoy his books, regardless! I would like to continue with the same characters in future stand-alone books, but at some point the story might wander to different characters and places, or maybe even to different time lines.
Earlier I asked if Shadowblade had been inspired by any movies, TV shows, or video games. But has there been any interest in adapting Shadowblade into a movie, show, or game?
The rights are still available.
And do you have a preference?
I believe Shadowblade would work well as a movie or a TV series because it is very visual, action-packed, and has exotic, beautiful, and vivid settings. I think of writing my books as “watching,” there are pictures behind the words, and I would love, some day, to see them on screen.
If Shadowblade was to be made into a movie or TV show, who would you like them to cast as the main characters?
Oohhh…I do love casting my characters for movies. I haven’t been watching a lot of new movies with my children being so young, so some of these may not be exactly the right age, but, say, a very young Natalie Portman [Jackie] as Naia? An older Sophie Marceau [The World Is Not Enough] as Mehtab? For Karrim, I would love someone with the physique and movement quality of Jet Li [The Forbidden Kingdom]. Another one could be young Johnny Depp [Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald]. And for Gassan, Sean Connery [Dr. No] in his fifties…? Wouldn’t it be nice if it could all happen exactly like this?
Finally, if someone enjoys Shadowblade, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next?
I would suggest The Majat Code. Shadowblade stemmed directly from my work on The Majat Code, and is targeted to the same type of readers. Of note, though, the romance in the first Majat Code book — Blades Of The Old Empire — is not very prominent, so the romance readers should bear with it because I think the story is worth it, but hold off their other expectations until book two, The Guild Of Assassins. That one was my first venture into romance, and I think it really seeded the idea of Shadowblade.