With The Broken Heavens (paperback, Kindle), writer Kameron Hurley is concluding The Worldbreaker Saga trilogy she began in 2014 with The Mirror Empire and continued a year later with Empire Ascendant. In the following email interview, she not only talks about why writing this novel took longer than usual, and whether this is indeed the end of the story, but also about her two other new books: the sci-fi novel The Light Brigade and the short story collection Meet Me In The Future.
Let’s start with The Worldbreaker Saga. What is that trilogy about, and in what kind of world is it set?
The Worldbreaker Saga is a fantasy epic about the coming together of multiple parallel worlds during a celestial conjunction. They have to battle it out to determine which will survive before the heavens re-align.
And then what is The Broken Heavens about and, aside from being the third and final book of the trilogy, how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the second book, Empire Ascendant?
It’s difficult to talk about that without spoiling the other books. Suffice to say it brings the whole thing to an epic, bloody, and thrilling conclusion.
When in relation to writing Empire Ascendant and the first book of this sequence, The Mirror Empire, did you come up with the idea for The Broken Heavens and how did that idea change as you wrote this third novel?
I knew how I wanted to end the series as I was writing the first book, but the real world changed around me as I wrote. After a lot of introspection, I realized the ending I was gunning for was dark and lazy, and that there was a better ending out there — I just had to reconceptualize the entire work. That…took some time, and many drafts that got burned down and started over from scratch. Hence the five-year break between the publication of the second and third books. I probably wrote this book two and a half times during that period, as well as an entirely other book, The Light Brigade, and two short story collections.
As you said, The Broken Heavens, like The Mirror Empire and Empire Ascendant, is a fantasy tale, but that seems like it might be an oversimplification. Or am I wrong about that?
It’s an epic fantasy tale. Frankly, the simpler the better! I found that making up my own genre classifications made my books harder to sell. It’s far easier to find the closest bucket it fits into and talk about it that way. It’s epic fantasy with polyamorous matriarchies and sentient plants where parallel worlds battle it out for supremacy.
So was The Broken Heavens influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games?
It wasn’t until I’d finished the novel that I realized I had been writing The Dark Crystal. And certainly I was influenced by a whole host of media about parallel worlds. From Star Trek to Buffy, we seem to love creating and reading about “what might have been” in our own lives.
Moving on, you also recently released a sci-fi novel called The Light Brigade. What is that book about?
It’s a futuristic thriller about the nature of war, and follows a fresh recruit named Dietz who gets broken down into light and transported from battlefront to battlefront — then stars experiencing the war out of order.
You mentioned earlier that you wrote The Light Brigade and The Broken Heavens at the same time. How did writing The Light Brigade impact The Broken Heavens and vice versa?
There were a few reasons why The Light Brigade was finished before The Broken Heavens. My publisher for the series was in the middle of being sold, and could not buy a third book in The Worldbreaker Saga until all of that was sorted out. Because we weren’t sure when that would be, my agent recommended that I start working on The Stars Are Legion instead, as we already had a contract for that one and The Light Brigade, and I was just getting nowhere with The Broken Heavens. By the time The Stars Are Legion was done, we had sorted out the issue with The Broken Heavens, and had a contract for it, but I’d lost momentum. I tried to get back into it, but was distracted by the overall political climate, ups and downs and the publisher, and my work schedule (I’ve been working a full-time day job up until only very recently, when I was laid off. Few people realize I’m writing all of this work and holding down a day job). I wrote 90,000 words that weren’t very good, so my agent recommended I go ahead and dive into The Light Brigade, and we took The Broken Heavens out of the schedule.
I don’t know that the books influenced each other much textually, but I certainly felt a lot better about myself after finishing The Light Brigade. Not only was it one of my best novels to date, but it proved to me that I could finish a book again.
The Broken Heavens didn’t come much easier after that, but I had the confidence to keep pushing and rewriting and rewriting until it was done.
Along with The Broken Heavens and The Light Brigade, you also recently published a short story collection called Meet Me In The Future. Is there a theme or some kind of connecting device to this collection?
Nope! It’s a greatest hits of all of my stories from the last decade or so. I worked with my editor Jacob at Tachyon books, and he suggested which stories to keep in and in what order.
Going back to the Worldbreaker Saga, The Broken Heavens is the third book book of that trilogy. But is it the last book? I ask because you previously expanded your Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy [God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture] with some novellas you collected as Apocalypse Nyx.
I see The Worldbreaker Saga as complete with the three books finished. With the primary conflict resolved, I don’t have any real interest in exploring more in this particular world.
There are some people who are going to consider reading all three books of the Worldbreaker Saga back-to-back. Do you think this is a good idea?
Readers can enjoy them in any way they like.
I assume, since we haven’t heard any rumors about it, that there aren’t plans in place to adapt The Worldbreaker Saga into a movie or anything. But if that did happen, what would be your preference in terms of format?
It would be an amazing Game Of Thrones-type serial show. The great thing about a show adapted from the series is also that most of the actors would get to play several versions of their characters as the parallel worlds collide.
Finally, if someone really likes The Broken Heavens and the Worldbreaker Saga, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that?
Fantasy fans will love Meet Me In The Future, which has a whole glut of gooey fantastic tales like this.