Robert Jackson Bennett has picked up a lot of steam in the world of SFF, snagging a handful of awards in the process. He also lives in one of the coolest cities on the planet, Austin, Texas, and has a golden voice that would make Don LaFontaine swoon. Lucky bastard.
His sixth book, City of Blades, releases from Broadway Books January 26th, 2016, and is the highly-anticipated sequel to City of Stairs. RJB was kind enough to field a few questions about this upcoming release.
SG: CITY OF BLADES introduces us to a new city, Voortyashtan. What differences between it and Bulikov can readers look forward to?
RJB: Bulikov was a city that, in the old days, was shared by all the Divinities - it was the capital city of the Continent, belonging to everyone and no one. For the new book, I thought it'd be fun to visit a site that had originally been the main city of one Divinity, and thus would have been shaped by that individual Divinity's characteristics and domains - and it seemed like a city founded upon war, death, and domination would be fascinating to see. So Voortyashtan, the city of the goddess Voortya, was the natural choice.
Voortyashtan is much more remote than Bulikov was, and much more savage and barren. It's a tough place, the sort of city you try very hard to avoid if you can manage it, and very hard to leave if you can't. But it's also interesting to see the juxtaposition going on: the city used to be glorious, but its glory was founded upon mass murder and slavery. The current citizens wish to pay fealty to that glory, perhaps recapture it - but there's an unspoken general knowledge that it's tainted. They're not quite sure how to move forward.
SG: Did you base these settings on any modern day cities?
RJB: Not modern day. Bulikov was partially inspired by medieval Constantinople. It's fascinating to read accounts by French knights and such who journeyed to the city, which was far, far more advanced and decadent than anything they'd ever witnessed. Though some people these days tend to think of the medieval era in terms of grandeur, to Constantinople, medieval Europe was essentially a land of ignorant country bumpkins.
Voortyashtan is mostly a military outpost at the beginning of CITY OF BLADES, built around a massive fort that Saypur constructed to keep an eye on the most dreaded of all the Continental cities. It's that aspect of a remote, beleaguered, and undermanned outpost that I found interesting. When you're all along together on the edge of the world, surrounded by unfriendly wilderness and unfriendlier locals, what do you do?
SG: This time, the story follows General Turyin Mulaghesh, who's been exiled to Voortyashtan. What inspired you to follow this foul-mouthed general?
RJB: Mulaghesh was something of an inspiration in CITY OF STAIRS. I had originally intended Mulaghesh to be a man, a sort of blustering old officer that Shara could dupe to her plans, not unlike Lestrade in Sherlock Holmes, but I found that dull - yet when I changed her to a competent, crudely practical, upper-middle aged woman that Shara needed to get on her side, suddenly her character came to life.
It made sense to make her the main character of the second book, because Shara's story is largely over at the end of CITY OF STAIRS. She's made up her mind about who she is and what she needs to do, and she sets out to do those things. And as Shara had always been skilled at being a puppetmaster behind the scenes of everything, her natural evolution was to step behind the scenes of the larger story, steering the actions of the other characters.
Mulaghesh, however, was going to be plunged into a state of doubt by the events of CITY OF STAIRS. As someone who's military through and through, someone whose outlook and character were forged during the hard days of Continental conquest, Mulaghesh - and Saypur itself - is now being asked a lot of questions about the future. Does she want to keep being an old warrior? Can she ever come to terms with what she's done in the past? And if she does want to change, is change even possible at this point? And of course, she has to figure all this out in a city heavy with brutal, martial history.
SG: Many readers loved Sigrud in CITY OF STAIRS. Any chance we'll see more of him?
RJB: Definitely. Sigrud's daughter is a main character in CITY OF BLADES, and the man himself shows up and stays on scene not too long into the story. He will also be the main character of the third book, CITY OF MIRACLES.
SG: CITY OF BLADES is your sixth published book. How many had you written before MR. SHIVERS, and what was your journey to getting published?
RJB: I wrote three books before I wrote MR. SHIVERS, and all of them were sort of an effort to find my voice as a writer. I was throwing things at the wall, and trying to see what would stick. In all honesty, I think I hadn't really found it by the time I wrote MR. SHIVERS, or maybe even the book after that, THE COMPANY MAN. I think I started to really figure out what I wanted to do by my third book, THE TROUPE.
As far as the journey to publication goes, the simple answer is - I got lucky. I think, really, luck is what it always comes down to, getting the right person to see the right stuff of yours at the right time. There are just ways you can make luck more likely: one is by persistence, trying over and over again, and the other is by adjusting what you're doing, changing your process or even what you're submitting. But at the end of the day, it's still chance and luck.
SG: Favorite moment from CITY OF BLADES you can share?
RJB: Probably when Mulaghesh fires an extremely large minigun, discharging several hundred pounds of hot lead over about thirty seconds.
SG: Favorite fantasy archetype?
RJB: Oh, ancient buried horror, certainly.
City of Blades
A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.
A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.
Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.
So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.
At least, it makes the perfect cover story.
The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world--or destroy it.
The trouble is that this old soldier isn't sure she's still got what it takes to be the hero.
(From Robert's website)