June has arrived, and it’s time to welcome a new guest to the Writer’s World. Everyone say hello to Eleanor Konik.
A Little More About Eleanor:
Eleanor Konik was born and raised in a close-knit neighborhood just outside of Baltimore, where she is putting the final touches on her teaching certification. She spends her free time gardening and playing cards with coworkers. She also enjoys fishing, hiking, and visiting attractions around the city. Her blog showcases insights she’s gleaned while researching THE LAST COLLARED MAGE, a fantasy mashup of Rome’s greatest defeats.
How much research do you do?
Oh man. Tons. I think it’s really important that my world be internally consistent, which means tracking down what sorts of circumstances create different cultures. I like to understand things like the interplay of geography and diet with politics and religion, so I spend a lot of time tracking down maps and records. It’s fun, though, and gives me a lot of great fodder for my blog.
If you could go anywhere in the world for research, where would you go?
I would love to visit Teutoberg Forest in Germany. I’m actually really hoping to do a cruise of the Rhine for my honeymoon. It would be amazing to see such a cinematic location in person, since it plays such a major part in my book. I love the water — grew up on the Chesapeake Bay — so I would definitely rather see the border by boat instead of hike it, but to see the forest that defined so much of European history, where the Romans were handed their greatest defeat. They lost a quarter of their army, you know? That’s incredible.
It’s sort of amazing how much trouble the Germans caused for Rome, over the centuries.
What’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever done?
Oh boy. Most of my hobbies are pretty challenging. I’d have to say playing bridge. For a card game, it’s very complex, and I’m not naturally good with numbers. Between having to remember all of the bidding conventions, counting trump, anticipating what my partner really means, and guessing how the cards will fall… it’s pretty tough.
Still, I’m glad I learned. It makes me feel so adult. More so than chess, I think, because there’s usually a “right answer” in chess. I don’t think I could beat a computer at chess — but bridge is still a very human game.
What is your favourite quote?
A lot of my favorite quotes come from Robert Heinlein. I actually bought an illustrated copy of The Notebooks of Lazarus Long when I was younger — it’s just a collection of quotes from the book, a sort of meta in-joke from Time Enough For Love. A lot of quotes from that book have stuck with me, but one in particular: “How do you argue with a woman who won’t?” It reminds me that it takes two people to have an argument, and as a teacher, the last thing I want to do is be in an argument.
Which writers would you say taught you the most?
Other than Heinlein?
I often say that the Chronicles of Verraine is basically The Saga of Recluse meets The Codex Alera, so it’s fitting that my biggest inspirations are Jim Butcher and L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
Jim Butcher was the author who made structure really “click” for me. He said once in an INTERVIEW that he wrote the first book of his series in a class, where he was horrified by the incredibly formulaic method the teacher taught. When he wrote his first book, it was with the intention of proving her wrong — instead, he wound up with Storm Front which went on to spawn a 15+ book series, a role playing game I adore, a comic series, and a television show.
He started the Codex Alera with a pitch, which I’ve come to believe is the best method for me. Someone thought he was joking when he said he could turn even the silliest idea into a great book, and gave him “Pokemon meets StarCraft.” Butcher added in the Lost Roman Legion for good measure and created a series I adore. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.
If Butcher is my inspiration when it comes to the craft of writing, then Modesitt is the author whose content most speaks to me. I’ve always found Modesitt’s work to be very thoughtful and intelligent, with themes that really make me think and examine my own biases and morality. He asks hard questions in his work, and does an amazing job of presenting issues from multiple perspectives — and eras.
Modesitt is one of the rare authors whose worldbuilding procedes backwards. Often the first book in a series by Modesitt is the last book in the chronological order of that world. He does a lot of what I call longitudal worldbuilding — which is to say that he writes books at vastly different time periods for a given world. It gave me a lot of insight into how societies develop, and taught me a lot of tricks about how to whet someone’s curiosity.
If you could live in any fictional society, which would it be?
I think it would be really interesting to live in the world of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Trilogy — Kaeleer, the “Shadow Realm,” straddles the line between the Darkness and the Light. I think it’s a very honest world, where might makes right, men are violent, and women are nurturing… but also capable of being more violent. I think the genders have fundamentally equal power in the macro-sense, but on a micro level it’s very different and very unique. The social classes exist for reasons that make sense. In a way, I think it’s a very exaggerated version of our own world, but in a way where a lot of the hurtful parts have been lanced.
I used to write BJT fanfiction, and I spent a lot of time working out the logical ramifications of different laws and magical quirks that were mentioned in the series in passing. It’s a fascinating world that has a great many unique elements that don’t seem like they should work, but at the core of it, I think it’s as real and as flawed and as functional as anything else I’ve ever read, but a lot more interesting because it takes so very many risks.