Exclusive Interview: “Sword Of Fire” Author Katharine Kerr
Sword Of Fire (hardcover, Kindle) is the first book in fantasy writer Katharine Kerr’s new trilogy, The Justice War. But it’s also the latest tale of hers to be set in the fictional realm of Deverry. In the following email interview about Sword, Kerr not only explains what inspired and influenced this story and the trilogy, but also how this tale connects to the rest of her Deverry novels.
Sword Of Fire is the latest book of yours to be set in the realm of Deverry. For people unfamiliar with these books, what kind of place is Deverry?
First off, it’s imaginary. The world is Annwn, Welsh for “nowhere,” but Deverry is most definitely not Wales or Britain. The postulate is that a group of Gauls fled the encroaching Romans and, with the help of powerful magic, founded a new country. The kingdom has grown over the last 1500 years until it’s about the size of France.
So then is Deverry kind of like what Middle-earth was to Tolkien and what Corona is to R.A. Salvatore?
I’ve drawn on some of the same Northern European folklore as Tolkien, but I have definitely put my own spin on the lore. For example, the elvish race is not immortal, not impossibly noble or good, either, but a long-lived sub-species of our genus. Women, as some Celtic traditions would have it, have much more power and standing than they do in Tolkien’s world.
I’ve not read Salvatore, so I can’t comment there.
And then what is Sword Of Fire about?
The transition from the Dark Age and medieval societies of the earlier books to an “early modern” culture – the common people are demanding rights and freedoms.
The previous books of Deverry were Celtic fantasy novels. Is Sword Of Fire as well?
Celtic fantasy is certainly accurate, given the underlying culture of the Deverrians, but after 1500 years in their new homeland, their cultures and traditions have of course changed thanks to normal development and contact with other cultures.
Sword Of Fire is the first book of a trilogy you’re calling The Justice War. How does The Justice War, and thus Sword Of Fire, connect both narratively and chronologically to the other Deverry novels, especially 2009’s The Silver Mage, which was the fourth book of the fourth act, The Silver Wyrmm, and the last book of Deverry you put out?
It takes place some 300 years after The Silver Mage finishes. It shows familiar places, like Aberwyn and mysterious island of Haen Marn, which have changed a great deal in that space of time.
So do you think someone could read Sword Of Fire without having read any of the other books?
Yes, I hope they can. I’ve tucked in some world-building here and there, and it certainly doesn’t follow directly on: new characters, new themes, new technologies. I worked at making it a faster paced, more direct narrative, too.
In the same vein, do you think Sword Of Fire is the best place to start this series?
I’m not sure how to define “best.” I’d like to think that new readers would find it enjoyable enough to go back to Daggerspell [the first Deverry novel] and try that, but they could also just read the rest of The Justice War once I finish it.
Are there any writers or specific stories that had a big influence on Sword Of Fire but not on anything else you’ve written?
Celtic folklore and Tolkien of course — epic fantasy writers who claim they’re not influenced by Tolkien are kidding themselves. Without his books this particular genre would not exist.
How about movies, TV shows, and games; did any of them have a big influence on either what you wrote in Sword Of Fire or how you wrote it? Because, as you say on your website [deverry.com], your addiction to fantasy started with tabletop role-playing games.
Oddly enough, I rarely watch TV or go to movies. The last movie I watched in a theatre was Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
I love gaming, not that I’ve had much time for it lately, but its influence has been mostly of the negative kind. That is, I’ve done my best to avoid the cliches and rigid rules that are necessary for game play. I don’t have a “magic system,” for instance; none of that “blast the orcs” kind of spell.
Now, as we mentioned earlier, Sword Of Fire is the first book of The Justice War trilogy. Do you know yet what the other books will be called and when they might be out?
I have to finish them, and I’m behind schedule thanks to a very difficult time in my life. However, A Dagger In Air should be out in a year or so, and The Iron Mace a year after that.
As you know, there will be people who’ll hold off on reading Sword Of Fire until those other two books come out, and some will then read all three in a row. But is there any reason why you think people shouldn’t wait?
I think that depends on the reader’s personal style. Sword Of Fire definitely reaches a conclusion, however. You can read it, see that more will come, but still feel you’ve been told a complete story.
Earlier I asked if Sword Of Fire had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But has there been any interest in adapting it, or any of the Deverry stories, into a movie, show, or game?
I only wish! The Deverry cycle would make good TV, I think, because the books fall into definite episodes, several per volume. But it’s long, unusual, and has a very unusual structure. In the older books, reincarnation is an important theme, and the episodes switch back and forth between the past and a “present.” So far my agents have had no luck selling it.
If Sword Of Fire or the Deverry series was going to be adapted into a TV series, who would you like to see them cast in the main roles?
I’ve got no idea about casting because I honestly don’t see enough of the current shows to know one actor from another. Yes, I know that’s weird.
Not really. And not that uncommon. So, what if someone wanted to make it into a game?
I’d do it as an RPG system, though the magic in the books would present some problems there.
Finally, if someone enjoys Sword Of Fire, they’ll probably go back and read the rest of the Deverry saga, if they haven’t already. But once they do that, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that one?
People who like science fiction are generally fond of Polar City Blues. Those who prefer urban fantasy would probably like License To Ensorcell.
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