We are in the middle of the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour, one whole week devoted to celebrating the His Fair Assassin series and the release of the second book in the series, Dark Triumph.
Our treat for today is an interview with the creative mastermind and wordsmith behind the series, Ms. Robin LaFevers. This is actually my second interview with Ms. LaFevers, my first being after reading Grave Mercy for the first time. You can read the first interview here.
Robin L. LaFevers: Well, the entire narrative was built from her character out, so I would say quite a lot. I knew going in that her story would be dark, and part of what I wanted to do was recreate for the reader the same claustrophobic sense of drowning in darkness that Sybella was struggling with, so they could experience it right there along with her.
And because her story was so much more of a personal one with fewer ties to the political backdrop, I think it ended up narrowing the scope of the book, as well.
Probably the hardest part was trying to write from the POV of someone so filled with despair and self-loathing, yet at the same time still let the reader see there were things to like and admire about Sybella, things that would give the reader hope she could find her way out of that mess.
S: Going along with the increased maturity and darkness in Dark Triumph, the ages of your main characters aren't mentioned explicitly like they are in other novels. If we sat down to do the math, we'd be able to figure out approximately how old Ismae and Sybella are, but I have no clue about Duval and Beast. Was this a conscience choice on your part? And how old is everyone?
RLL: I wasn’t trying to keep it a secret, I just didn’t state it up front. Duval is 24. Ish. That’s talked about during a conversation between Ismae and the duchess when she describes how old Duval was when she was born and he became her protector.
Beast’s age is in the same area—23/24. Part of the thing that was hard about ages is that men really did court much younger women, just as part of their custom. Often a man wouldn’t wed until his 30’s, and he would become betrothed to a 14 or 16 year old. No one even blinked an eye at it, yet it greatly offends our modern sensibilities. So I was trying to straddle a line between being historically accurate and not having the age issue knock anyone out of the story.
Also, when I was Ismae’s age, I never found guys my own age attractive. I was always drawn to older men. My husband is five years older than I am, very close to the spread between Ismae and Duval.
[Shelver note: I may or may not have "awwww'd" at that last sentence.]
S: We meet a slew of new characters in Dark Triumph, including the previously unmentioned charbonnerie, a group of ostracized charcoal-burners living in the forests of Brittany. How did you come up with them? (I loved them, by the way, because I completely wasn't expecting them.)
RLL: Well, through research, of course!
I wanted to recreate some of the colorful characters that inhabited medieval Europe, and at the same time fill out more of the His Fair Assassin mythology that I had created. I spent a lot of time considering who Beast and Sybella would run into during their mad dash for escape, and who among those would be willing to help. I knew there were charcoal-burners who lived in the forest, but it wasn’t until I researched them that I learned that they had ties to political movements, possibly as far back as the Middle Ages. Once I had that spark, the rest came together fairly easily.
S: With the charbonnerie come their god who isn't one of the nine approved saints. If you had to pick one of the old gods to serve, either one of the saints or the charbonnerie's personal favorite, whom would you choose and why?
RLL: The Dark Mother, hands down. I don’t care if she isn’t part of the sanctioned Nine, I am a huge believer in her message of rebirth and hope out of the ashes of despair.
S: Any chance we'll get a His Fair Assassin novella? Maybe from an alternate character's point of view or of the girls' time at the convent?
RLL: Well, funny you should ask…We’re doing a pre-pub blog tour that involves a series of deleted scenes from the girls time at the convent.
Also, I must confess that I suspect there is a novella there about Sybella’s time at the convent. As soon as I finish up Annith’s story, I might revisit that.
I'd like to thank Ms. Robin for her time and her delightful answers. I, for one, would eagerly snap up any and all novellas from the His Fair Assassin universe, and I loved learning more about the characters!
Don't forget that the Attack of the Assassins! blog tour is still going full steam. Check out the entire schedule of events here and enter to win either Grave Mercy or Dark Triumph - your choice! The concurrent event for today is Girls in the Stacks' review of Dark Triumph. You definitely don't want to miss it.