If you haven’t read Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules, you are missing out. It was by far one of the BEST books of 2015, with an unbelievably awesome AI villain (trust me, you will fall in love with him) who is trying to use fear and nuclear weapons to “save the world” and a BA heroine who is destined to die. If there were ever a sci-fi dystopian you don’t want to miss, it’s this one.
So, to celebrate the release of The Swan Riders – book two in the Prisoners of Peace series – I want to share this interview with Erin Bow with all of you. I hope it’ll spur you into exploring this amazing series and encourage you to put Bow on your auto-buy author list.
The Scorpion Rules was truly electrifying – I laughed and cried and held my breath so much it hurt. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind the story?
I really don’t know where I get my ideas — they seem to come from everywhere at once. The Scorpion Rules is no exception. It comes from an Aztec book that I lost when my computer was stolen — the figure of the child raised to be a willing human sacrifice was too compelling to let go when I abandoned the book. It comes from a short story I began about a girls’ school where everyone had to wear masks, but two girls fell in love anyway. It comes from my own childhood watching the nuclear bombers fly over Omaha and dreaming about the end of the world. It comes from reading The World Without Us. It just kind of comes.
Greta tells it like it is, which was truly refreshing for a YA heroine. In an alternate world, what other YA protagonists do you think she’d be friends with? (Personally I think she’d end up starting a fight with Katniss, and be BFFs with Hermione in a second).
I think Greta Stuart and Julie Beaufort-Stuart (Code Name: Verity) are probably long lost royal cousins, outsmarting surveillance, inverting systems, and doing their duty no matter what. I also second that vote for Hermione.
TALIS is perhaps my favorite villain of all time because you just can’t help but love him! What inspired his voice for you?
I wish I knew, because if I knew, I could include someone like him in every book. He’s so much fun to write for. But the truth is Talis wasn’t even in the early drafts, and I was as surprised as anyone else when he showed up on a HORSE. I remember sending that chapter to my beta’s with the note: “I have created an evil version of The Doctor; enjoy him before I have to change him.” But I didn’t change him, not much. He just came that way.
In general, I like villains who can be read as heroes who have gone wrong.
You’ve written several books, including the YA novels Sorrow’s Knot and Plain Kate, which of your characters do you feel you have the most in common with?
Greta herself is as close to a self-portrait as I’d ever care to put on the page. I’m her without the awesome parts. Or the hair.
The Swan Riders holds even more dangers for Greta and Talis – Which chapter is your favorite of the book and which was the hardest to write?
There’s a stretch in the middle where the AI narrator has drifted a long way off from human. (I’m thinking of the chapter entitled “I remember airplanes,” for example.) That was tricky to pull off. There’s a lot going on emotionally for all the other characters, and the narrator just plain misses most of it. It was hard to show the reader what was happening when the narrator was so oblivious. And it was even harder to keep the reader on the narrator’s side.
As for my favorite: Evie is a minor character but she’s my little demented darling. I love it every time she shows up.
Will there be more books in the Prisoners of Peace series?
Not right away. I dreamt up two; I wrote two; I sold two. Talis’s world is big, and if lots of readers wanted to spend more time there, I’d be glad to spend more time myself. But there are two other quite different books I want to finish first.
On Goodreads you’ve written a hilarious list of 10 Things to know about you. If you had to list one more fact on that list, what would it be?
I am working a set of of poems that riff on Catullus, the most X-rated of the early Roman lyricists. I can conjugate tricky verb forms for completely unmentionable acts. It’s my party trick.
What’s coming up next for you?
It’s a secret — sorry! Unless you want to hear more about the Catullus?
What is currently on your reading list?
I just finished an ARC of Diabolic, a swallow-you-whole-world-builder of a science fiction story that’s coming out this fall. I have just picked up And I Darken and Saving Montgomery Sole, and I’m truly looking forward to both.