What cultures, stories, or other influences did you draw from for The Assassin's Curse/The Pirate's Wish and The Wizard's Promise/The Nobleman's Revenge?
I pull inspiration from all over! With The Wizard’s Promise, I knew I wanted to explore another part of the world of TAC, called the ice-islands. One of my biggest influences for this book was a collection of images I saw in a recent issue of National Geographic. They depicted costumes from European pagan festivals, and they were at once surreal, frightening, and beautiful. In many ways, those pictures helped shape the feel of the second duology.
Why duologies instead of trilogies?
The first duology was a lucky accident. Originally, The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish were one long book, about 140k words. That’s too long for a YA novel (which tend to run about 80k), so my publisher gave me the option to split the book in two. I’m actually really pleased with the result—there was a natural split in the book anyway, and I love the uniqueness of having a set of duologies rather than a trilogy. In fact, duologies are rare enough that my spell checker never even recognizes the word! Plus, I like that I didn’t have to force the story into a structure that wasn’t natural to it.
How do these two series connect?
They’re set in the same world, although different parts of it. The Assassin’s Curse takes place on a continent to the south, whereas The Wizard’s Promise takes place up north, around what we’d call the Arctic circle. It’s also set a few years after the events of The Assassin’s Curse, and the main character, Hanna, is the daughter of a pirate who served aboard Ananna’s ship. Hanna is even named after Ananna and has grown up hearing stories about her and dreams of having the sort of adventures Ananna and her mother used to have.
The Wizard's Promise is largely set at sea, and your first duology stars a pirate--who are some of your favorite pirates in history and literature?
For fictional pirates, I have to choose Captain Jack Sparrow. Pirates had pretty much ceased being a thing before those movies were released, and now Jack Sparrow has influenced our concept of pirates as much as Long John Silver and Captain Hook.
For real-life pirates, I’m definitely going to have go with Ching Shih. She was a Chinese pirate during the early part of the nineteenth century, and she was wildly powerful—she didn’t control just one boat, but an entire fleet. She started off as a prostitute and then, when she was kidnapped by pirates, turned to piracy herself, maneuvering to power after her husband Zheng Yi, a notorious pirate himself, died.
Did you create the magic system first and then come up with the people who practice it, or did the magic style emerge from the cultures?
A little of both, actually. The magic system in the book evolved out of some worldbuilding I had done years ago for a completely different fantasy novel. With The Assassin’s Curse, I dove right into the story, figuring I could worldbuild as I wrote. In that way, the magic grew out of the characters and what I wanted to do with them. I liked the idea of doing an elemental magic system, but one that wasn’t rigidly defined. However, during the revision stage, I needed to codify the magic system a bit more, and that was when I pulled from some of my old worldbuilding ideas.