Interview with Dan Koboldt (SILVER QUEENDOM)
Dan Koboldt is the author of the Gateways to Alissia trilogy (Harper Voyager) and the Build-A-Dragon Sequence (Baen), the editor of Putting the Science in Fiction and Putting the Fact in Fantasy (Writer’s Digest), and the creator of the sci-fi adventure serial The Triangle (Realm). As a genetics researcher, he has co-authored more than 100 publications in Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other scientific journals. Dan is also an avid deer hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in Ohio, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard.
Hi Dan and welcome to the Hive! Silver Queendom is out this week from Angry Robot – what can our readers expect?
It’s a fantasy heist story, so readers can expect something like Ocean’s Eleven but in a pre-industrial society with horses, crossbows, and that sort of thing. Plus, obviously, there’s a bit of magic. You can get an idea of what to expect from the official description, but less obvious is the fact that it’s a found-family story about a small group of misfits who come together and never fully get away from their individual pasts.
And if you had to describe it in only five words…?
Lighthearted, fast paced, smart, funny
Heist stories are always a fun subgenre, what made you want to write one?
I’m a huge fan of heists in general, including real-world versions. This story grew out of some early scenes I wrote for the main character, who’s the mastermind of this crew. Naturally, the best plot direction for a team of con artists is a big, life-altering score. But I also wanted to write something that had the characters pulling off small-time hustles where they help people and make enough coin to get by.
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch is an obvious comparison but did you have any other influences?
I can’t help being influenced by modern heist stories, like Ocean’s Eleven and the television series Leverage. On the fantasy side, I happen to be a fan of Terry Brooks, especially because his books are funny and hit all of the fantasy elements, but don’t take themselves too seriously.
Darin, Evie, Tom, Kat… they’re all larger than life characters. What came first for you, the characters or the heist?
Almost certainly the characters. Darin grew up in indentured servitude in the Jewel Empire, escaped and fled to the Old Queendom, but can’t quite escape what happened to him there. So he came from nothing, and learned to be a thief and con artist in order to survive. Evie has the opposite background. She grew up in a wealthy family and wanted for nothing for most of her childhood. Her father gambled away the family fortune, though, so she ended up just as poor. She’s a talented grifter herself, but her knowledge of how wealthy people live and think is really powerful. Then there’s Tom, who’s the crew’s hitter when he needs to be, and a quiet giant with a soft spot for animals the rest of the time. Kat is the newest member of the crew; Darin meets her in the middle of a heist and recognizes a kindred spirit. She has a habit of adopting orphans wherever she goes. It’s simultaneously a source of tension and irritation since Darin likes to keep a very low profile.
Despite all the action and fun, there are some big themes running through Silver Queendom; social injustice is a very important issue to the characters, and their actions and decisions are haunted by their pasts.
How did you manage the balancing act of creating immoral characters with strong morals?
Thank you for saying so. It’s always interesting to have people point out somewhat-obvious themes, especially when you worked them in by accident. So yes, social injustice was a totally planned and intentional theme! I love stories in which a character’s heritage and past influence how they see the world, no matter where life takes them. Most of my favorite works in the genre, from Dune to Harry Potter to Game of Thrones, have that element to them. In the case of my characters, they’re all basically outcasts who not only want to improve their own lots, but help others who aren’t as fortunate. And they all have no qualms about doing so by taking silver from people who have too much of it.
Turns out Darin is also a pretty big risk taker. How about you Dan, would you have taken on Zora’s job?
I’d argue that Darin is a calculated risk taker, but his choices are often limited. I’m a risk taker, too, but probably not at the same level (at least, not anymore). You could also argue that Darin’s motivated by revenge, and that’s absolutely true of me.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
Oh, that’s easy. A flying dragon. First, I love dragons in general, as exhibited by the fact that I’ve written books exploring the idea of creating dragons by genetic engineering (see Domesticating Dragons). Also, I love flying.
So what’s next? Please say there’ll be a sequel?
Believe it or not, I have a second book coming out in a couple of weeks. It’s called Deploying Dragons, and it’s the sequel to Domesticating Dragons. The first book was Build-A-Bear Workshop meets Jurassic Park. This new one, in which the main character develops dragons for military use, is like Jurassic Park meets Toy Soldiers.
As for Silver Queendom, I love the characters and the world, so I’d be thrilled to write more about them. It kind of depends on how the book does. If enough people buy it, borrow it, leave reviews, and tell their friends about it, then I might get to write a sequel. Only time will tell.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
Entertainment! One thing you’ll notice about my books is that they’re suited for the genre, but I try to keep them light and fun. The real world is dark enough, so I try to bring a little joy where I can.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Silver Queendom is out from Angry Robot on the 23rd August – you can get your copy HERE