We've all had that experience--you follow a complete stranger into another world, you fight against an oppressive, otherworldly government . . . no? Just me? Well, don't worry, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Foz Meadows, who wrote just the sort of thing you need in your life. AN ACCIDENT OF STARS releases from Angry Robot on August 2nd in the U.S. and ebook, and August 4th in the U.K.
SG- Where did you come up with the title--AN ACCIDENT OF STARS?
FM - I wanted something that combined the macro and micro aspects of the story: the idea of a multiverse is something huge and wonderful, but stumbling into it by mistake is terrifyingly personal. And thus An Accident of Stars, which is deliberately evocative of an embarrassment of riches, juxtaposing (to use a horribly high school English word) an intimate emotion with a bigger, more beautiful concept.
SG- What can you tell us about those creatures on the cover?
FM - They’re called roa, and they’re friendly – there are still horses in Kena, but in the cities, roa are more common. They’re also something I originally dreamt up as a kid – I used to draw pictures of them, and when I was writing the book, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to include such an old creation in a new story: a sort of homage to my younger self.
SG- Portal fantasy has been around for a while, going back to Alice in Wonderland and The Chronicles of Narnia. Where do you see the status of the subgenre and can we expect more from you in that vein?
FM - I think that, for a long time, portal fantasy has been viewed as either naff or childish, due largely to the traditional safeties it extends to the protagonists. Alice in Wonderland, Narnia and The Wizard of Oz, to give the obvious examples, are all what we’d term middle-grade stories if they were written now, and while we quite rightly consider them classics, accessible to and intended for whoever wants to read them, that more youthful, protected aspect of their storytelling has nonetheless defined how we think of the subgenre as a whole.
The darker elements in portal fantasies have largely come from fairy tales – the idea of a world inverted or an era stolen, a child lost in the woods or a goblin bride snatched at market. With An Accident of Stars, I wanted to tell a different kind of portal story, one where the consequences of the protagonist’s absence from Earth are present in the narrative. As a kid, it always bugged me that characters like Alice and Dorothy and Susan could visit these other worlds and never really question wanting to come home again, or that home would still mean the same thing to them when they got there. It felt cheap, somehow, as though everything they learned and felt in the other world was somehow erased by leaving it, and I wanted to write a story where that didn’t happen.
SG- Who is Saffron Coulter and how does she end up in the world of Kena?
FM - Saffron is a teenage girl who’s struggling to make sense of the distress she feels at school; someone so hungry for meaning that she accidentally follows a stranger into another world. As a character, she began as a comic self-insert I wrote in my teens, a girl who was rescued from maths class to go on adventures, though back then, I wasn’t self-reflective or inventive enough to make her a discreet entity.
That being so, it was fun to develop her in ways that my younger self would never have considered. Like me, she’s bisexual, compartmentalised and fed up with high school, but otherwise, she’s a work of pure fiction. Though I will say that the harassing incident she experiences in class at the start of the first chapter is closely based on my own teenage experiences. I’d like to think that girls in high school now don’t have to put up with that sort of bullshit on a regular basis, but by all accounts, it’s something that hasn’t changed, and my hope is that readers will recognise that, and related to it.
SG- AN ACCIDENT OF STARS could be compared to the work of fellow Angry Robot author, Kameron Hurley, and a few others. Who do you consider to be your influences?
FM - As a kid, one of my favourite films was Return to Oz, which starts out with Dorothy Gale, returned to Kansas from her first trip to Oz, being institutionalised for talking about what happened to her there. It had a big impact on my concept of what portal fantasies could do, and for all its flaws, I owe a lot to it. In terms of worldbuilding, I think Kameron and I are writing in parallel to each other, having grown up being inspired by a similar pool of inventive, feminist authors – in my case, Kate Elliott, Robin Hobb, Katharine Kerr and Tamora Pierce.
SG- Favorite scene from AN ACCIDENT OF STARS?
FM - I certainly have one, but I can’t really talk about it here because Spoilers!
SG- Favorite SFF archetype?
FM - One that’s cleverly subverted.
From the cover:
Book I of the Manifold Worlds from Hugo-nominated author Foz Meadows.
When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war.
There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex'Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.
Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.
Can one girl - an accidental worldwalker - really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?