Exclusive Interview: “The Brides Of High Hill” Author Nghi Vo


In her ongoing series The Singing Hills Cycle, author Nghi Vo has sent the Cleric Chih on some engaging, and often cozy, fantasy adventures.

But as Vo explains in the following email interview about the newest novella in this series, The Bridges Of High Hill (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), this time around, Chih is kind of screwed.

Nghi Vo The Brides Of High Hill The Singing Hills Cycle

Photo Credit: © 2021 C.J. Foeckler


For people who haven’t read any of the other books, or the interviews we did about Into The Riverlands or Mammoths At The Gates, who is Chih, what do they do, and what kind of a world are the Singing Hills Cycle novellas set in?

Cleric Chih is a member is of the Singing Hills abbey, an organization dedicated to the honest cataloging of the world. Chih has one of my dream jobs, which is to wander the world collecting stories, and to ignore people who tell them that clerics shouldn’t eat meat.

The world that Chih inhabits is a fantasy Southeast Asia, flavored by xianxia television shows, my interest in history, and whatever spare bits of weirdness I’m reading at the moment.

And then what is The Brides Of High Hill about, and when does it take place in relation to the previous book, Mammoths At The Gates?

The Brides Of High Hill is Cleric Chih getting into some very bad trouble and not realizing it until it’s almost too late. There’s mysterious manors, blushing brides, supposedly mad sons, and one rather murderous teapot — in other words, it’s very much a gothic!

The Brides Of High Hill takes place sometime before the events of Mammoths At The Gates, though like every book in the series, it can be read as a standalone.

Where did you get the idea for The Brides Of High Hill?

I wanted to write a book about lies and misdirection and trickery, and then I took a look at gothics, which are sort of built on lies, those told to the characters and those told to the audience. It’s the lie of picking up a white pebble and finding out its a newly-dead worm, maybe, and that’s where I started from.

And is there a reason why it involves a bride at her wedding as opposed to, say, a guy at his, or some other kind of major life event? Like whatever a quinceañera is called in this realm.

The world of Singing Hills has so many coming of age stories, you don’t even know! Chih’s heard of one where…anyway.

Weddings are these social passages from one world to another, and historically, they’re seen as vulnerable times for the people involved, especially for the women. Things like leaving a parent’s house, undertaking new responsibilities, stepping into a new and potentially hostile place, those all seemed like great things to explore.

So, what are some of the things — literary and not — that influenced The Brides Of High Hill?

Hmm! The movie Crimson Peak had a hand in this one, as did the old French Bluebeard tales. I remember watching some Conrad Veidt stuff that I think went into it. I also really enjoyed Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and T. Kingfisher’s What Moves The Dead.

Now, along with The Brides Of High Hill, you have another novella coming out October 1st called The City In Glass. What is that book about, and what kind of a world is it set in?

The City In Glass is the story of a demon who loves a city, the angel that destroys it, and how the three of them, demon, city and angel, get through the next three hundred years. It’s about loss and survival and the loneliness of grief. It’s mostly above love. I have a lot of hopes and fears for this one.

The world is vaguely Mediterranean circa the early Renaissance, but you know. There are angels and demons and magic all around. As with just about everything I write, it’s poor idea to expect me to stick with the truth when fantasy (and maybe lies?) are so much more fun.

So, did you write The City In Glass and The Brides Of High Hill at the same time or concurrently? I ask because I’m curious how they may have influenced each other?

Actually, no. The Singing Hills books are mostly written the year before they’re published. The City In Glass, on the other had, is going to be about four years old by the time it goes to print. City was the first book I wrote during the pandemic.

Going back to The Brides Of High Hill, as you mentioned earlier, and we discussed in the Into The Riverlands interview, you consider the Singing Hills Cycle novellas to be stand-alone stories. Does that mean someone could come into this series through Brides?

Yup, Brides is absolutely a stand-alone. It’s nice if you know that Chih is a storytelling cleric who often but not always has with them a memory spirit in the shape of a hoopoe named Almost Brilliant. Beyond that, hop on in! We have a gorgeous cover by Alyssa Winans and the immensely talented Cindy Kay narrating the audiobook.

More importantly, do you think this would be a good one to start with?

This would be a great one to start with. I knew what the Singing Hills books were going to be more or less the minute Ruoxi Chen [her original editor] asked me if The Empress Of Salt And Fortune could be a series. I feel like with Brides, I’m really confident in that thesis, and Brides works well as an entry to the series. If you like Brides, you’ll like the rest.

So, is there anything else you think people should know about The Brides Of High Hill and the Singing Hills Cycle?

Hmmm, they should know that I hope they like my monstrous little gothic child, and that if they read it, they should keep an eye on who is saying what and where Chih is getting their information from.

Nghi Vo The Brides Of High Hill The Singing Hills Cycle

Finally, if someone enjoys The Brides Of High Hill, but it’s the first book of the Singing Hills Cycle they’ve read, which of the other ones would you suggest they read next?

How about The Empress of Salt And Fortune, because it gets perhaps most directly into the stories we’re told and the ones we tell, and When The Tiger Came Down The Mountain, which is also about monsters?



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