Interview with Devin Madson (WE RIDE THE STORM)
Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Australia. After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.
If you missed our recent interview with Devin, where she told Cam Johnston all about her writing process and We Ride the Storm, you can find that HERE
Hi Devin and welcome back to the Hive! Thanks for joining us for our Women in SFF feature!
So, severed heads eh. It’s certainly become your ‘thing.’ After that initial line [link to cam’s interview for reference] that sparked off the series for you, what kind of research did you have to delve into? What’s the worst thing in your search history?
I did have to look up how one actually would cut off a head, which isn’t an easy thing to find so I did a lot of looking at bits of anatomy and length of time it takes for blood to congeal. It was… interesting. Worst thing in my search history over the years is probably “what does burning flesh smell like?” or maybe the time I spent researching dog baiting FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON because I didn’t end up using it for anything despite all the tears I shed over it. Urgh. I would always prefer to kill people than dogs.
Cassandra (best character ever!) is known for her stabby stabby, distrusting, and introvert nature — but which fictional female character would she be BFF with and why?
The idea of Cassandra having a BFF is… stunning. But maybe someone like Noon from The Ninth Rain, because she has a similar experience of being an outcast, considered a freak, of hating a world that decided to hate her. To give her no chance to be anyone else. They also don’t really understand all about themselves, and are angry women in their own way. I think they would get along very well.
Can we talk about #TeamKiill? Which Levanti god did you sing to, to get a marketing team that turned a typo into a must-have limited edition?!
Ha! Ohh my poor UK editor, emailing me so apologetic even though it wasn’t their fault that it happened at the typesetters. As wonderful as my marketing team are, this one was actually the idea of some author friends I went ‘oh woe is meeeeeee’ at. After condolences on the cringeworthy annoyance, they said well… you could lean into it? And I don’t half-ass things so I leaned really far and went very silly with it.
Since this is our Women in SFF month, who were the women in SFF (or beyond) that influenced or inspired you? (Authors and/or characters!)
Ahhhhh Kate Elliott. I hang on every word she says, especially about world building. Having met her, she’s also super generous with her time and I strive to have the time for everyone in the industry that she does, and to one day be able to speak about creative processes with the same confidence and clarity as she does.
Also NK Jemisen, not only for her remarkable storytelling and skill with language, but for the way she is unapologetically, comfortably and fiercely herself in her work and her professional social spaces, which is something I know takes a lot of energy and self-belief and I hope one day to be able to achieve.
And outside of SFF a lot of my storytelling and character work is influenced by Georgette Heyer. I read her regency romances over and over in my formative years and now I can see the effect on the way I write, even though I write epic fantasy, which I find really interesting.
You come upon a creature of alien beauty, entangled by the willowy roots of an ancient oak. It begs of you release, telling you it’s been trapped as punishment for its arrogance. It tells you that it will be in your debt if only you cut it free with its weapon, a sword whose blade is buried half-way into the ground but a few feet away from the oak. What do you do?
Despite the characters I write, I have a background in valuing kindness over sensible choices. You should watch me play video games, I always choose the good route and try to offset it with a bit of sarcasm if the dialogue options are available. So I would totally make some snarky comments, assess them a bit, but honestly I’m likely to just free them. I’d probably hold onto the sword for a while though to be sure they don’t turn around and attack me.
Miko, Rah, Cassandra – which would you snog, marry, kill?
AHHH! What a question. Starting with who I would marry… Cass would be a terrible wife, so she’s out. Rah is my sweet, respectful cinnamon roll and would be a pretty safe bet. Miko would be intense and ambitious, and that’s exciting. I think I have to go with Rah though because he can do things like… build a fire and hunt and stuff and I think that is going to be Required Knowledge in the world soon. So marry Rah, snog Miko (because Cass does NOTHING with true enthusiasm) and as much as I adore her and as much as she’s so much of my attitude I’m going to have to kill Cassandra. Which… probably means I’m actually the one that’s dead now… oops.
Were your inspirations for the Levanti historical based or fictional?
Entirely fictional. I didn’t even know when I started that I was writing nomadic horse people, they just appeared (huzzah pantsing!). So they weren’t even deliberate let alone based on any particular historical people. I can’t claim they are entirely new and made up out of my head though, because our media is full of nomadic horse cultures so I’ve merely pulled what works for the story and added my own touches, considering how they would function in their climate and how a society based on equality and non-hereditary power structures would be different from ours.
Pitch We Ride the Storm using only Aussie slang. Please.
A sheila with a bunch of drongo rellies is devo when her plans are cactus and cracks the shits. ‘Ken oath!
A bloke oughta chuck a u-ie but is a total galah and gets rooted. Ends up mad as a cut snake.
Another sheila has Buckley’s chance, but she’s cunning as a dunny rat and knocks back kicking the bucket.
It totally goes off! No wuckas!
That is amazing Devin, thank you.
If you could sever the head of any fictional character in any book, which would you choose and why?
The Cat in the Hat. Sorry to all your childhoods. I’ve read the damn book to my kids so many times and I still hate him. Stab stab chop chop there goes that cat in the hat.
All jokes aside, what terrifying and deadly Australian creature are you really underneath that skin suit?
I keep pretending I’m a lizard under this skin because it’s non-threatening, but really if you get right to the furious core of me, I’m a cassowary. Giant dinosaur bird that can jump really high with deadly slashing claws. Runs fast. Can swim. Totally not going to stop hunting you. *Intense stare*
What are your favourite mythological creatures? What would you ride gloriously into battle upon?
Dragons! Yet somehow… I’ve never written about them! (YET…) I used to have every book about dragons I could find and wanted so desperately for them to be real. I’m not much of a fighter (ok not a fighter at all in any way) so I would have to ride into battle on a dragon too, because they can just eat/crisp/claw all the enemies.
If your books were to have a crossover with another series, Avengers style, whose fictional world would you like to see your characters try to deal with?
Something wild. Like… throw them into Becky Chambers’ Wayfarer series and watch them stare around at the spaceships and the planets and the alien races and see how they adapt. I mean, imagine stubborn, determined-not-to-change Rah trying to chop off the heads of dead aliens omg.
Wow Devin we… we did not expect you to just chuck your characters in space!
Thank you so much for joining us today!