With The Cerulean Queen (paperback, Kindle), writer Sarah Kozloff is concluding The Nine Realms quartet she launched this past January with A Queen In Hiding, and then continued in February and March with The Queen Of Raiders and A Broken Queen, respectfully. In the following email interview, she discusses both this series and this final book, as well as what she thinks you should read when you’re done with this saga.
Photo Credit: Robert Lechterman
For people who haven’t read any of these books, what is The Nine Realms series about and what kind of world is it set in?
The Nine Realms is a second world fantasy, set in a place the inhabitants call Ennea Mon, “The World Of The Nine.” The setting is pre-modern (no electricity). It’s about the efforts the princess Cerulia to win back her throne from usurpers but that’s only one of the many storylines.
And then for people who have, what is The Cerulean Queen about?
This book picks up the morning when Cerulia sneaks into the Throne Room to throw off all her disguises.
Now, in the previous interview we did about the first book, A Queen In Hiding [which you can read here], you said that novel was an epic fantasy story, but that later volumes drew from other genres as well. How then would you describe The Cerulean Queen, genre-wise?
Sometimes I think it’s a musical! There’s lots of singing and dancing and a fair amount of romance and joy.
So are there any writers, or maybe specific stories, that had a big influence on The Cerulean Queen but not on the other books of The Nine Realms?
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, and video games? Did any of them have a big impact on The Cerulean Queen?
There’s one scene in The Free States that is ripped from the film of To Kill A Mockingbird.
In the same earlier interview, you said that the impetus for this series was when, in 2013, you realized The Lord Of The Rings movies didn’t pass the Bechdel Test. Did those movies, or The Hobbit ones, have any other influence on The Cerulean Queen and the other books in The Nine Realms?
The movies and the books of The Lord Of The Ring had such a general influence on me: they informed my idea of what epic fantasy feels like, but I can’t point to a specific scene.
As we’ve been discussing, The Cerulean Queen is the fourth and final book of The Nine Realms. Some writers expand upon their sagas with side stories or short stories or even sequel series. Is this your plan as well
I’ve toyed with the idea of a prequel, taking the song and statue of Queen Carmena the Perseverant as my inspiration. But I have set that manuscript aside and instead finished a more contemporary speculative novel. No one should hold their breath for more about The Nine Realms.
You and your publisher, Tor, were very upfront when A Queen In Hiding came out in January that the other three books in The Nine Realms saga would be out in February, March, and April. Aside from reassuring people who feel burned by other fantasy sagas that still aren’t finished — George! — this undoubtedly prompted some people to wait so they could read all four in a row. But do you think this is the best way to enjoy this story?
I don’t know about you, but I love to binge-watch TV series. By binge, I don’t mean that I watch them all in one day, but that every night I watch an episode or two and I keep going through as many seasons as have been produced. I find that immersing myself in the world without interruption makes the story much richer. I recall things from season one; I notice how the characters are developing. Each night I slip into the story like an old friend, without hesitation or the resistance I sometimes feel when I start something new. When I reach the end of the series, I feel bereft — as if I’ve been ejected from home — because I’m so comfortable in that fictional world.
I’ll take that as a “yes” then. Of course, one of the reasons all four books of The Nine Realms came out so quickly is that, as you said in our previous interview, “I wrote all four books before I approached an agent.” But you also said that this was, “an incredible boon” because “in revising I was able to go back and forth between manuscripts.” Are you thinking that this is what you’ll do going forward?
If I were to write a series again, yes, I would write the whole thing before publishing the first volume. It was just so freeing to be able to go back and fix things.
You also said there had been some interest in adapting The Nine Realms series into a movie, TV show, or video game. Has anything changed in that regard since we previous spoke in mid-January?
Nothing concrete. But you’ll notice I’m not taking that statement back.
I noticed. Do you still want it to be a four season TV series starring Emma Thompson as Destra?
If wishes were horses…
Lastly, with the release of The Cerulean Queen, people are probably going to read all four of The Nine Realms books fairly close together, if not back-to-back. So, as a pallet cleanser, what book that has absolutely, positively, no fantasy in it, and is actually short and a super quick read, would you suggest people read and why that one?
That’s an interesting question! Something non-fiction. Ronan Farrow’s Catch And Kill? Though that’s not actually so short.
You’re making me think of the British Film Institutes’ series BFI Film Classics and BFI Modern Classics. These are pocket-sized little books (about as thin as a cell phone) about one movie; how it got made, how it was received, its major themes, etc. Readers could do a lot worse than look up the series and choose their favorite movie and learn all its secrets.