Exclusive Interview: “The Bound Worlds” Author Megan E. O’Keefe


In most trilogies, the Big Bad is usually defeated in the third and final installment, while its impact is often left as an afterthought.

But in Megan E. O’Keefe’s The Devoured Worlds series, the central antagonist was [SPOILER ALERT] beaten in the second book, The Fractured Dark, which meant she could really delve into what happened next in the last book, The Bound Worlds (paperback, Kindle, audiobook).

In the following email interview, O’Keefe explains why she altered the trilogy formula, as well as what else inspired and influenced this horror- and dystopian-infused sci-fi space opera story.

Megan E OKeefe The Bound Worlds The Devoured Worlds

For people who didn’t read the first two books, The Blighted Stars and The Fractured Dark, or the interview we did about Stars, what is The Devoured Worlds series about, and what kind of a world is it set in?

I think my publisher’s blurb for The Blighted Stars does a pretty good job of a spoiler-free overview:

Stranded on a dead planet with her mortal enemy, a spy must survive and uncover a conspiracy in the first book of an epic space opera trilogy by an award‑winning author.

She’s a revolutionary. Humanity is running out of options. Habitable planets are being destroyed as quickly as they’re found and Naira Sharp thinks she knows the reason why. The all-powerful Mercator family has been controlling the exploration of the universe for decades, and exploiting any materials they find along the way under the guise of helping humanity’s expansion. But Naira knows the truth, and she plans to bring the whole family down from the inside.

He’s the heir to the dynasty. Tarquin Mercator never wanted to run a galaxy-spanning business empire. He just wanted to study rocks and read books. But Tarquin’s father has tasked him with monitoring the settlement of a new planet, and he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter.

Disguised as Tarquin’s new bodyguard, Naira plans to destroy the settlement ship before they make land. But neither of them expects to end up stranded on a dead planet. To survive and keep her secret, Naira will have to join forces with the man she’s sworn to hate. And together they will uncover a plot that’s bigger than both of them.

And then, for people who have read The Blighted Stars and The Fractured Dark, and thus can ignore me writing SPOILER ALERT, what is The Bound Worlds about, and when does it take place in relation to Dark?

The Bound Worlds takes place within a few years of The Fractured Dark.

Naira and Tarquin have defeated Acaelus, and now have not only complete control of Mercator corporate holdings, but access to one of the scarce living worlds left in the universe.

Naira is recently disabled, and wrestles with what it means to be a warrior who has become a figurehead incapable of fighting in the ways she was accustomed. Tarquin has to reckon with what it takes to be a leader of a system that is, at its core, fundamentally corrupt.

Megan E OKeefe The Bound Worlds The Devoured Worlds

When in the process of writing The Blighted Stars and The Fractured Dark did you come up with the idea for The Bound Worlds, and what inspired the specific plot of this third book?

From the very beginning I wanted to compress the trilogy format so that the Big Bad isn’t defeated in the climax of the third book, but the second, and then use the third book to explore questions that often get sidelined into epilogue in adventure stories.

The Bound Worlds is fundamentally about the systemic issues that arise to support corrupt figureheads. Meaning well — wanting to do good, to do the right thing — isn’t often enough, when the system you’re working within is built on a framework of exploitation.

You’ve cut the head off the snake, now what do you do with its decaying corpse?

The Blighted Stars and The Fractured Dark are sci-fi space opera stories; I’m guessing The Bound Worlds is as well. But as you said in the Stars interview, “I rarely color completely within the lines.” Does this mean there are other genres at work in Bound?

The Bound Worlds has strong aspects of both horror and dystopia present throughout the story. It takes place, for the most part, back on a planet and in relative isolation — but while this planet is living and vital, and the settlement appears equitable, corruption is never far beneath the surface.

The Bound Worlds is obviously not your first book. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Bound but not on anything else you’ve written, and especially not The Blighted Stars or The Fractured Dark?

I can’t think of anything that would have influenced only The Bound Worlds — influence is nebulous, to me, and spreads its roots through everything I make.

There was one line I kept coming back to, though, while writing Bound, that might have had an outsized atmospheric influence. “The surface of this land is made by nature to decay.” By James Hutton, the “father” of modern geology.

What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? You mentioned Final Fantasy VIII in The Devoured Worlds interview…

Final Fantasy VIII, naturally, has influence over the whole trilogy.

As for other non-literary influences, I can’t think of any other direct links. I suppose I listened to a lot of the Geology Flannelcast podcast while I was writing them.

Megan E OKeefe The Bound Worlds The Devoured Worlds

As we’ve been discussing, The Bound Worlds is the third and final novel of The Devoured Worlds series. It’s also the third time you’ve concluded a trilogy; you previously wrote The Scorched Continent trilogy and The Protectorate Series trilogy. Do you think you learned anything writing the third books of those trilogies that made writing Bound easier? Or made the story better?

Absolutely. Creating is always a learning process, and while each story presents its own challenges, having experience tackling previous, similar challenges gives you a wider toolkit to work with when it comes time to learn how to write your next story. Art is a process that’s always building upon itself.

With The Bound Worlds completing The Devoured Worlds series, there are undoubtedly people who’ll consider reading all three books back-to-back. But is there any reason why you think people shouldn’t do that? Or that they should?

I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t, except that you might want a lighter palate cleanser in-between. I wrote them back-to-back, and have reread them that way many times for editing purposes, so I’m of course biased in saying I do think they work best when read as a whole story.

Now, normally this would be the point in this interview where I’d ask if you think your novel could work as a movie, TV show, or game. But given that you make video games, have you thought about trying to adapt The Devoured Worlds series into a game? Or do you think it could work as a game, but not a game you’d want to make?

I think it’d have to be an atmospheric survival horror game. Something story-driven, more psychological than jump-scare horror, with an emphasis on a crafting / base building core gameplay loop to play into the themes of building community even when the world is ending.

As for who should make it, I can’t say — someone who loves it, I’d hope. If my schedule ever relaxes a bit I may give it a shot, myself.

Megan E OKeefe The Bound Worlds The Devoured Worlds

Finally, if someone enjoys The Bound Worlds and the rest of The Devoured Worlds trilogy, and it’s the first trilogy of yours they’ve read, which of the other two would you suggest they read next and why that one and not the other one?

The Protectorate series, beginning with Velocity Weapon. They share similar themes, science fictional settings, unreliable narrators, and emergent intelligences.



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