2014 Snapshot: Karen Miller

SnaphotLogo2014

Karen Miller was born in Vancouver, Canada, and now lives in Sydney, Australia. She’s been writing spec fic professionally since 2005, and since then has published 18 novels. Her first fantasy novel, The Innocent Mage, was the #1 UK bestselling fantasy debut novel in 2007. Empress of Mijak and The Riven Kingdom, the first two books of the Godspeaker Trilogy, were honour listed for the James Tiptree Jr award. She has also been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards twice and her first Star Wars novel, Wild Space, was short-listed for a Scribe award.  As K. E. Mills she writes the Rogue Agent series. To date, her total books sold exceed a million copies worldwide.  When she’s not in lockdown in front of her computer, Karen enjoys directing at her local theatre. Her recent productions include The Crucible and Moonlight and Magnolias.

1. Last time you were interviewed for Snapshot you spoke to Alisa regarding your then future work, The Falcon Throne, first in the Tarnished Crown series – and now it’s due out August 26th! (Australian release date, September for UK and USA). Could you tell us a little about the first book, and your current plans for the rest of the series?

FalconThroneThe Tarnished Crown series is an epic historical fantasy saga which deals with the price of power. As my wonderful editor put it for the first book’s tag line: Every crown is tarnished by the blood of ambition.

Book 1, The Falcon Throne, is about three struggling dynasties sharing a common past. In the duchy of Harcia, Aimery frets over what will become of his land and his people when he dies and his heir, Balfre, is made duke. His lack of trust in his older son is the catalyst for events that are destined to change his duchy – and the known world – for ever. To Harcia’s south, beyond the buffering stretch of land known as the Marches, lies the duchy of Clemen. Its duke, Harald, is not loved. Desperate to end his tyranny, his barons seek to overthrow him and place his bastard cousin Roric on the throne – and in doing so set Clemen on a dark path. And across the narrow Moat, in the Principality of Cassinia, the widowed duchess of Ardenn fights to protect the rights of her daughter, Catrain, who should follow in her father’s footsteps and rule their duchy like any son born. But the alliances she’s made in order to see that done will have lasting repercussions for every nation within her reach.

And so the opening gambits of the greater game are played …

Right now I’m doing the detailed story breakdown of book 2, and into part of book 3. I can’t, and don’t even try, to see too far ahead with any detail because the story tends to build organically and I don’t like to pre-empt the process. I do know the overall story direction, and the fates of most of the main characters, and I have snatches of clarity regarding upcoming events. My aim is to surprise, horrify and delight readers with this story – and maybe, hopefully, show that it’s not only men who can write the big politics and war sagas.

2. Are there any plot ideas you still have for previous books that you wish you could have explored, or hope to explore sometime in the future?

Actually, no. Like most writers, I have themes that I’m instinctively attracted to so my hope is that I can continue to explore them, untangle them, in new and interesting ways that mean I can avoid repeating myself – or just rehashing work by other writers. It’s actually quite tricky, since the more you write the more you run the risk of doing just that. But my fingers are crossed that it’s so far, so good!

3. Are you already thinking of your next series, or perhaps for short stories to release alongside your current series?

Not so much thinking of the next series — it remains to be seen if I’ll survive writing this one! — but Rogue Agentcertainly, I have an idea for something I’d like to tackle when Tarnished Crown is done. It’s something I’ve been playing around with in the back of my head for a couple of years, but Tarnished Crown took precedence. Then of course there’s the Rogue Agent series, which has had to tread water a bit. I have at least one more adventure with Gerald and co. to write — soon, I hope. I really miss those guys.

4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Tragically, my reading for the last long while has been almost exclusively of the research variety — medieval biographies and warfare and European history. However, I did read Glenda Larke’s new fantasy, The Lascar’s Dagger, and as always was impressed. I know it sounds cheesy because not only is Glenda a friend, she’s a fellow Orbit author, but nevertheless it’s true. I really enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to finding out how the rest of the story unfolds. Glenda has no competition when it comes to world-building. I’ve learned so much about creating evocative, otherworldly environments from reading her work. Lascar’s Dagger is a distinctly individual, unique tale that takes fairly obscure elements of our world history and fashions them into a rousing fantasy adventure.

5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

Really, no. Because I have zero control over any of that. I have a contract with Orbit, I’m writing the books covered by the contract to the very best of my ability, and that’s all I can think about. Once the contract is concluded, then I’ll see where we’re up to in the world of publishing. Maybe then I’ll change the way I do business. I don’t know. What I do know is that there’s every chance I’ll still be writing this series 5 years from now! It’s a huge undertaking, they’re big and complicated books, and I can’t rush them. So looking ahead for me is just a distraction. Fretting over business decisions I can’t affect is also a distraction, and emotionally counterproductive. It’s frustrating sometimes, for sure, and with the industry in such a state of flux it’s easy to get the wobblies. But all that does is knock me off course with the books I’m writing now, so I have to discipline myself to stay focused.

As for what I’ll be reading — well, I’m pretty sure I’ll still be reading the history books, but aside from that? New books by my favourite authors, I hope, and hopefully books by new writers who are destined to join my list of favourites. The only thing I am sure of is that I will be reading something. Because stories will never die.

~

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and archiving them at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: 

Review: The Falcon Throne by Karen Miller

FalconThroneSeries: The Tarnished Crown Quintet #1
Published by: Orbit
ISBN: 1841499595
ISBN 13: 9781841499598
Published: August 2014
Pages: 676
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

‘The Falcon Throne’ by Karen Miller is the first in The Tarnished Crown Quintet. Every crown is tarnished by the blood of ambition.

The Duke of Harcia is troubled by his heir, Balfe, who constantly proves that he is not up to the task of someday being Duke. There is a younger brother, Grefin, who would be excellent… but to make him heir will certainly turn Belfe against them all, for Belfe not only expects his rightful title to come forth, but also to someday be King.

Harald, Duke of the neighbouring Clemen, is stripped of his title by his lessors for a list of wrongs he has done them. His beloved son Liam, only a baby, is thought to have been killed that night, but thankfully was smuggled to safety by his wet nurse.

In a tale of distrust, long histories of conflict and ruin, games of intellect as the upper classes will stop at nothing to gain what they think is theirs and more, we have a start to a grand series that is true epic fantasy.

One of the strengths within this book is that the characters are shown both at their best and their worst – no character appear unscathed or painted as perfect. They all do wrong, and they all do right, and it’s left to the reader to decide whether they ultimately came balanced or good (or bad!) in the end.

The setting itself isn’t described overly vividly, which leaves it to the reader to fill the gaps (which I find makes for easier transition, rather than having to stumble over someone elses’ floor plans or scenic views). Thanks to the Game of Thrones television series, it’s easy to picture the stunning castles and landscapes that fit this novel perfectly. I’m obsessed with inner design, such as exposed stone work and tapestries, and the little mentions here and there of fabrics left me happy.

Overall this is a rich book that shall only expand as the series continues. At times it’s a little hard keeping a character’s allegiance straight (which probably only makes it even more realistic!) and there’s a handy dramatis personae of notable characters at the start to assist.

Lordly politics, hatred and mistrust for the closest members of family, witches scheming, and dozens of people plotting for their own success keep the pages in this book turning, unable to be put down. This is in the style of Joe Abercrombie and Steven Erikson.

The Falcon Throne is due out on the 26th of August 2014 in Australia – due out in September for the UK and US.