Saturday, December 1, 2012


Gwen Perkins, author of the sword-and-sorcery novel The Jealousy Glass (sequel to The Universal Mirror), answers questions about her characters, world, and series as a whole. Visit her website, Follow her on Twitter, Like her on Facebook, or Find her on Google+.

The Jealousy Glass deals with the fallout from your first Artifacts of Empire novel, The Universal Mirror. When you wrote The Universal Mirror, did you already have The Jealousy Glass in mind? How did you go about planning your sequel?

When I wrote The Universal Mirror, I wasn't sure whether or not it would do well enough for my publisher to consider other books in the series.  Mirror itself is actually a midpoint in what I consider the whole story of Cercia—my original planned series began in my own mind with the origins of Cercian atheism and how that came about. 

The Jealousy Glass is part of a different story that hints at that history but also builds on some of the themes in Mirror.  I knew that, as with the first book, I wanted to try writing about ideas that affect me today but to do so using a fantasy environment as my backdrop.  A number of historic themes also were woven into the narrative, something that I love to do—even things like the plants that are referred to in the book have some mythological or historic symbolism.  Each novel set in the Artifacts-verse builds on the others but, I hope, creates more possibility for future stories, not only my own but those that readers may dream about on their own.

The Jealousy Glass takes the reader away from the island of Cercia, where the first book was set, and introduces them to the Empire of Anjdur. Why this change in location?

There's a couple of reasons for this.  The first was that because of the ending of Mirror, I felt that readers really expected to see Asahel and Felix travel off the continent.  After all, they'd managed to break the prohibitions against leaving—it would have seemed a little odd to just keep them at home after that.

I also wanted to provide a look at other cultures on Cercia's Earth.  There are a number of things that I don't like about Cercian culture that provide a great deal of conflict for my characters and that no revolution was going to fix within a couple of years—their behavior toward women, the poor, and outsiders, notably.  Additionally, I didn't explore areas of magic and religion as much as I felt I could have—taking the characters to a place where they were strangers was a way for me to show them in contrast to a very different worldview.  I have plans for characters to return to Cercia after their experiences on Anjdur.  The journey that they have undertaken will allow them to see some of the problems within their own isolated nation more clearly.

Why did you choose to leave Quentin, one of the main characters in the first book, on the island while sending Asahel and Felix on their journey?

Oh, I'm not done with him yet.  One of the things that I do while writing my novels is plot in my head what's happening in other places beyond those we see onscreen.  While I won't say too much, Quentin and Catharine are involved in events in Cercia that have just as much import to Asahel and Felix as what's happening in Anjdur during Glass.

In The Jealousy Glass, the good-hearted merchant Asahel must move out of his comfort zone and act as a diplomat on behalf of Cercia. How did this change in circumstances affect your portrayal of him as a character?

Asahel's arc in the Artifacts of Empire series is that of slow growth.  He's someone who's always been passive and often dominated by other people.  That made him ideal to someone like Quentin to send  overseas to represent Cercian interests—from Quent's point of view, Asahel was certainly going to act as he was told to act by the Cercians but was moral enough not to turn sides. 

As time goes on, Asahel is beginning to develop a character of his own outside of his dependence on his best friend.  You see a hint of it in Mirror, he grows a little stronger still in Glass, and this will continue in further books.  Learning independence is a slow and difficult process, however, and I'm trying to retain that in these stories as much as I can.

The character Felix, who had a supporting role in the first book, is one of the main point-of-view characters in The Jealousy Glass. What was it like developing his character?

It was surprisingly easy.  Part of that may be that, of all my characters, the one that I've gotten the most feedback on is Felix.  Readers tend to love or dislike him, more so than my other characters.  While I don't want to say too much and spoil book 2, I have a suspicion that this may be even more true for that novel.

The tricky part about taking a minor character in this position and turning him into a point-of-view character is the constant fear that he'll be "ruined."  I'll be the first to admit that I'm a little nervous about how my readers will feel now that I've put him centerstage.  Time will tell.

One of the most fascinating characters in The Jealousy Glass is the atheist cleric (!) Nicolas, who clashes with the staunchly religious citizens of Anjdur. Why did you choose to include this religious element in your novel?

In the first book, The Universal Mirror, while it's not the central point of the story, it's made clear that the Cercians are a nation of atheists, something that I think is a little unusual in a fantasy setting.  I've received a lot of questions about that and I wanted to develop the concepts more so that others could see what my perception of Cercian atheism was. 

It's interesting to me how strongly people reacted to Nicolas in the beta reading phase of my novel and I think that alone was proof to me that it was a place I wanted to go.  The concept of an atheist cleric resounded with some people whereas others were not comfortable with it or didn't find that it worked for them.

As I considered atheism in Cercia, I had to think about what exactly religion has meant to me and to people that I have known.  It can be a very important thing in people's lives—it provides a source of community, of inspiration, and of comfort.  Just removing that aspect of life doesn't mean that people don't still need the values and ideas that religion provides.  The Cercians did once have religious institutions—I could not see any culture completely abolishing so many of the important concepts that faith gives us.  For that reason, I developed the clerics to fulfill the social needs that the Cercian destruction of their churches created.  Now, because of the odd relationship between Cercians and their dead God, clerics don't really have an easy time of it.  Nor do they have the same level of respect that a monk would have in medieval Europe, for instance.  (These are themes that will be explored more in The Oracle Bones, the third novel.) 

Just because a person doesn't believe in God doesn't mean that they don't have a sense of morality or the same basic human needs and values that a person raised with a religious background would.  This is a valuable thing to consider, I feel, whether or not a reader agrees with me on this.  I hope that this novel can create some conversation between those who read the story about some of these concepts within it.

Would you rather be born a native of Cercia or Anjdur, and why?

Empress Irena
Definitely Anjdur.  In some ways, both Cercia and Anjdur are extremely restrictive and harsh environments but I think that there is more opportunity within Anjdur.  Women hold a definite place of authority within the Empire (and always have) while the environment is slightly more welcoming to outsiders, provided they fit in quietly.  All that said, that applies more to the reign of the Empress Irena.  I'm not quite so sure I would have liked to have lived under the thumb of her sister Sophia.

Tell us about a typical writing day for you. Do you do your best work at the crack of dawn? In a coffee shop? Surrounded by caffeine?

Typically, I write best lying in bed with a cup of coffee next to me and a big notebook to scribble in.  Most of my first drafts are written longhand and typed into a computer after the fact.

The Jealousy Glass ends on a cliffhanger. What teasers can you give us for the third book in the Artifacts of Empire series?

The third book focuses on the war within the walls of Anjdur even as invaders attempt to storm the city of Aulis from outside.  There will be unexpected revelations, ghosts from the past that will return to haunt some of our heroes, and… not everyone will make it out alive.

The Jealousy Glass is available at:  Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book)

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