Interview with Anna Stephens (GODBLIND)
Anna is a UK-based author of gritty epic fantasy. Her debut novel, Godblind, was published through Harper Voyager in June 2017, with the sequels Darksoul published 2018 and Bloodchild 2019.
Anna has a BA (Hons) in Literature from the Open University and has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. She much prefers the worlds she makes up to the real thing, even if most of her characters meet sticky ends.
Anna lives with her husband, a huge book, music and movie collection, and no pets. She intends to remedy this lack of furry friends as soon as fame and fortune strike.
You can help her realise her twin dreams of being an author and a proud dog-walker by buying her book. Thanks.
Hi Anna, welcome back to the Hive! Thank you so much for joining us for Women in SFF.
Let’s dive straight in. You are reborn in a world of magic, wyverns and–dare we say it?—mazes. You have, however, retained your knowledge of the modern world, and have enough encyclopedias in your head to transform society – will you do it, for the betterment of all? Or…Will you embrace your inner villain and use the knowledge for nefarious purposes?
*Rubs hands together* I would obviously work for the betterment of humanity – or what I think is the betterment of humanity, anyway. Conservatives, look away now.
Things to dismantle: the frickin patriarchy. Racism. LGBT+ phobia. Fossil fuels. Throwaway society. The idea that having more money than you can spend is a good idea. The idea that success is marked by people being worse off and more miserable than you.
Things to build: an inclusive, queernorm society. Community. Generosity for its own sake, rather than performance. Giving more prioritisation to the arts and normalising taking joy in them.
And then, I would give everyone the option to either have wings, a la Crowley and Aziraphale from Good Omens, or a second, tiny pair of raccoon hands for carrying extra stuff like snacks.
All Hail Queen Anna!
Are your feet on the path or are you a child of light? You can’t say a bit of both cheater
Have you actually met me? The answer is I’m so sickeningly a child of light it’s depressing. I just want to be evil sometimes, you know? Just to see what it’s like – without causing any harm to people, businesses, property or animals. Cut me and I bleed lawful good. It’s probably why I always write a fair number of villains into my work. There’s never just one Big Bad, but multiple Medium-sized Bads and a couple of Smol Naughties. I get to live vicariously through their petty cruelties and glorious self-interest and dizzying greed.
The Stone Knife, book one of your new series (!) is due later this year (and is available for preorder – get on it guys!) – what can you tell us about it?
Yay! New book! New series! Super cool series title. Honestly, I’m very excited about having a series title, and forgive me for bragging, but I’m very proud of it and I thought it up all on my own. It’s ‘The Songs of the Drowned’. I know, right? Wow.
Fair play that is an intriguing series title!
What can I tell you about The Stone Knife? First off is that it’s almost definitely not going to be published in November now, due to *gestures at 2020*. It’s looking at being March 2021 instead, and while that’s a bit disappointing, in light of *gestures at 2020* it’s very small potatoes. It is still available for pre-order though, so don’t let that deter you.
Otherwise, it’s set in the brand new world of Ixachipan and follows characters from different tribes as the Empire of Songs continues to expand its borders in its endless, insatiable quest for slaves and wealth. The narrative follows courtesans, spies, warriors and shamans on both sides of the conflict as war comes to the jungles of Yalotlan and Tokoban, forcing the people to deal with this second, more mundane threat on top of the ever-present danger of the Drowned.
It’s an exploration of both the horrors of empire and colonisation and the dark allure of conformity in return for power. With added monsters of a nasty variety. And various forms of magic and ancestor-worship.
And if that’s not enough (and if it isn’t, what’s wrong with you?) then Aurealis award-winning author Sam Hawke said, and I quote,
“The Drowned are the creepiest villains I’ve read in ages and I just loved how completely different and fresh the setting felt. But my GOD woman you are so meeeeean, that whole last quarter was fucking brutal.”
Also, buy her Hollow Empire when it comes out in November, because it is spectacular.
You’ve been tweeting about your adventures running a DnD campaign… how’s that been going for you?
I mean, well, it’d be easier if I didn’t have the dumbest adventuring party ever to disgrace DnD, probably. Seriously, they’re just … dumb.
No, they’re not (they are though).
In all honesty, it’s great fun and I really love it, though there’s still a lot to get my head around. I’ve run five or six sessions now, and it was only supposed to be a three-session max mini campaign, but we sort of extended it. I’m trying desperately to keep the main goal in mind while throwing enough unexpected stuff at them to keep them entertained and give them plenty of opportunity to go off at a tangent. Which might be my problem, actually. I could literally give them a straight tunnel, smooth walls and floor, no side-turnings, no monsters, and it’d take them three hours to get to the end and one of them would probably be unconscious when they got there. See? Dumb.
I do need to keep working on my combat encounters and traps and tricks, though, to spice things up. They’ve been getting through far too many encounters without losing any hit points, while my monsters are routinely blasted into pieces and then have their fingers, toes, and worldly possessions stolen by a variety of distressing and aggravating entities.
The Mireces have captured Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji. Lanta looms over them with her hammer gripped in readiness. You and Trickster can only rescue one – who do you rescue and why is it Wei Wuxian?
Can I swear here? Because I’m going to. Fuck. Off.
I will kill Lanta and drag her corpse to hell before I let either of my precious cinnamon roll babies die. There is no negotiation in this matter.
I would thank you for including a The Untamed/Chen QingLing question in here if it wasn’t so utterly impossible to answer. Instead, I shall go away and sob while plotting my bloody vengeance.
You bang on about swords a lot We love hearing about your adventures in HEMA! What’s been your worst injury?
I feel personally attacked by this question. Which is actually very similar to how I feel at every HEMA session.
Um, I’d say easily my worst injury was a possible/probable cracked cheekbone last year, when I borrowed someone’s steel (sword) for a bout and it was too tall for me and the crossguard was too long and when coming out of posta di donna I managed to hook it under my own mask and pull it half off my head just as my opponent smacked me in the same side of the face. That really hurt. Wanna picture? The black eye went down after about three weeks, but it still hurt to poke my cheekbone for about three months after, which is why I think there was probably a hairline crack.
All good now though! Plus I have my own steel, so no more borrowing too big ones. So yeah, all you fantasy writers, bear that in mind – when you see characters just pick up swords off the battlefield or out of a rack, be mindful that unless they were bulk-made to the same measurements, like in the Roman Empire, everyone’s weapon is custom made for their size. What fits you could be too long or short for someone else.
If you had unlimited time and a great mentor, and could choose any weapon at all, which martial art or fighting style would you take up?
That is a genuinely difficult question. My first love was and always will be Shotokan Karate, so I would very likely move to Japan and train under Kanazawa Nobuaki sensei at the SKIF headquarters dojo. I had the privilege of training with him a couple of times in the early 2000s when he came over to Britain with his father, Kanazawa Hirokazu sensei, who founded SKIF. They were astonishingly talented, and incredibly humble men, and it was a privilege to train under both of them. Also, Kanazawa sensei (the elder) was in his … seventies the last time I trained with him and, yes, he could still do the splits. Unbelievable.
If you could travel into any fictional world, where else would you travel after you’d been to The Untamed and Ebora?
Hahaha, stop getting in my head you freaks. There’s nothing wrong with mythical, magical China or a world full of giant bugs.
It would definitely have to be Discworld. Ankh-Morpork for sure, but I’d really like to visit the Ramtop Mountains and Uberwald as well. And Death’s domain, to have a look at my hourglass and pour a LOT more sand into the top bulb without him noticing. I might even do my best to go against my lawful good nature and commit a small crime in the hopes of meeting His Grace Commander Sir Samuel Vimes.
Ooh ooh can I come?
What’s your Krikite animal guide? What would ours be? I can see Nils with a fluffy and playful, yet incredibly hard-working, Siberian Husky.
Ooh great question!
I would be … probably something small with sharp teeth.
Like a fluffy kitten?
Obviously, clearly, I want to say a fox, but I’m almost certainly not. Maybe a badger? They’re short-sighted like me and these days I have a similar white stripe in my hair. Eat pretty much anything. Lazy… yep, badger.
Okay, this is going to be a quick-fire round of the main hivers, because I don’t feel like I know the others well enough to assign them spirit animals.
Laura – parrot
Mike – German Shepherd
Bethan – guinea pig
You asked. This is your own fault. Don’t @ me.
What magical creature would you ride into battle war-beast style?
A hot vampire. Probably Alucard from Castlevania (the TV show). Bear with me – vicious, can fly, super-strength, can turn into mist or rats and take their clothes with them, so can clearly take me too (er, you understand), live for bloodshed, generally look good in whatever they choose to wear, bloodstained or not. The perfect fashion accessory.
Are you reading anything good at the moment?
I am! I am currently reading The Councilor by EJ Beaton, which comes out next spring through DAW. It follows a drug-addicted scholar who is thrust into the limelight upon the Iron Queen’s assassination and is the one forced to choose her successor to rule Elira. I’ve only just started it, but it’s very, very good.
I’ve been blessed with a few ARCs recently, or pre-ARCs even, so I’m also going to mention:
Hollow Empire, Sam Hawke (book 2 of the Poison Wars)
She Who Became the Sun, Shelley Parker-Chan (this is a gorgeous historical fantasy set around the founding of Ming Dynasty in China in the 14th century)
The Jasmine Throne, Tasha Suri (oh my god! Monsters and magic, and sacred waters, and disaster lesbians, and a prince who does not wear enough clothes, and warfare, and plague!)
Not at all jealous…
Talk us through your dream cast for Godblind for when it gets optioned by Netflix.
*opens Word document where this is saved and just copies and pastes*
This isn’t exhaustive, but is probably far more than you were expecting. I … might have spent some time thinking about this.
For Crys and Ash, it’s really, really important to me that LGBT actors play LGBT characters, and I think Luke Evans would really nail Crys’s mercurial personality. Tessa Thompson and Hannah John-Kamen for Tara and Dalli, because I think they’d spark off each other so well. Michelle Gomez as Lanta because her portrayal of Missy was the greatest version of The Master (Doctor Who) since Roger Delgado. And Tom Hiddleston for Galtas, because everyone would be all “noooooo, he’s too pretty to be so evil” and that’s the whole point! Surprise, bitches!
- Luke Evans – Crys
- Wilson Cruz – Ash [omg YES]
- Diego Luna – Dom
- Tessa Thompson – Tara
- Hannah John-Kamen – Dalli
- Michelle Gomez – Lanta
- Idris Elba – Durdil
- Chadwick Boseman – Mace
- Rose Leslie – Rillirin
- Shazad Latif – Vaunt
- Tom Hiddleston – Galtas
- Alexander Dreymon – Corvus
- Wang HaoXuan – Rivil
That is such an excellent cast Anna! Here’s hoping the Powers That Be are reading.
Thank you so much for joining us today, and your wonderful support for our #WomenInSFF feature.