It’s been a while (too long) since I’ve talked fantasy novels on this blog, but I’m excited to get back into it today to celebrate a new release from indie publisher, Turtleduck Press. I’ve featured a few Turtleduck Press novels over the past couple of years — not only are the team friends of mine, but they are also devoted to “out of the box” speculative fiction.
So today Siri Paulson joins me to talk a little about her new novel City of Hope and Ruin, co-authored with Kit Campbell, and released just last week.
City of Hope and Ruin ~ Kit Campbell and Siri Paulson
A city that is the whole world: Theosophy and her companions in the City militia do their best to protect the civilians from the monsters, but they keep crawling from the Rift and there’s nowhere to run. Theosophy knows she’ll die fighting. It’s the best kind of death she’s seen, and at least she can save lives in the meantime.
They say the Scarred carve you up while you’re still alive.
A village in the shadow of a forest: Refugees from the border whisper about the oncoming Scarred, but Briony can’t convince her brother to relocate his children to safety. Briony will do anything to protect them. She owes them that much, even if it means turning to forbidden magic.
When Theosophy and Briony accidentally make contact across the boundaries of their worlds, they realize that solutions might finally be within reach. A world beyond the City would give Theosophy’s people an escape, and the City’s warriors could help Briony protect her family from the Scarred. Each woman sees in the other a strength she lacks—and maybe something more.
All they need to do is find a way across the dimensions to each other before their enemies close in.
Here’s Siri responding to my questions…
What was the inspiration behind City of Hope and Ruin?
Our aim was to create a shared world that the four authors at Turtleduck Press (Kit and me, plus Erin Zarro and KD Sarge) can all play in. The initial inspiration was combining Kowloon Walled City, an incredibly dense and unregulated semi-modern urban environment, with the sort of “pocket universe” that you find in stories like Neverwhere (or think of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter). We wanted to create a place that had been magically sealed away, which of course led to the question: why? The rest of the story grew from there.
What kind of experience can readers expect?
It’s a dual-POV portal fantasy, except that both sides of the portal are secondary (fantasy) worlds. One side is more urban or even post-apocalyptic-feeling, and the other side is more traditional fantasy, but they both have some juicy worldbuilding surprises. Kit and I both love fantasy that’s heavy on character, and our early readers have told us that one of their favourite things about the book is the rich cast of characters.
What do you love most about this book?
Theosophy is the type of character who’s dear to my heart. At the beginning of the book, she’s a total cynic, hardened and closed-off. She’s given up on hope. By the end… well, you’ll just have to read it to find out! I’m also really pleased with how the worldbuilding turned out. It’s not just magic and magical creatures, although there’s that too; there’s a certain level of technology with hints that there used to be more, way back when. I love books that play with the boundaries of genre, and we definitely did that with ours. And I’m proud that we’ve written a fantasy novel starring two female characters of colour who fall for each other. That’s why we started Turtleduck Press in the first place — so we could write and publish the stories that might have fallen through the cracks of mainstream publishing.
How did the collaborative writing of the book come about and how did it work?
We knew that we wanted to set up a shared world. All four of us at Turtleduck Press are pantsers (seat-of-the-pants) writers to some extent, so we brainstormed together a bit, but the only way we could really dig into the world was to write a story about it and see what came out – ideally with more than one person’s input. Kit and I volunteered to go at it together, and the rest was history.
We decided early on that we were each going to take one side of the portal to explore. So there are two POVs in alternating chapters and they intersect regularly, but in between, each of them has their own subplots and side characters. That gave us a lot of autonomy.
Luckily we have a similar writing process. We established the main turning points and the climax we were writing towards pretty early, and then we did a rough outline of each quarter as we got to it. There was a lot of reading each other’s chapters and leaving notes to each other in the document and writing emails and video-chatting throughout the process. We had a lot of fun playing off each other’s worldbuilding and genre tropes/expectations and our respective character arcs.
What aspect of storytelling are you most passionate about?
Oooh, that’s a tough one. As you might guess from my previous answers, I really love the combination of a big character arc and fun worldbuilding in a fantasy or science fiction setting. Description is one of my favourite things to write — that’s why I love travel blogging. But the most satisfying part is writing a character who’s struggling to find her way or a community or a life that will let her be true to herself, and watching her face her fears and open up into who she is. That’s me writing courage to myself, and also hoping that the story will find a reader who needs it.
About Kit Campbell
It is a little known fact that Kit was raised in the wild by a marauding gang of octopuses. It wasn’t until she was 25 that she was discovered by a traveling National Geographic scientist and brought back to civilization. This is sometimes apparent in the way that she attempts to escape through tubes when startled.
Her transition to normalcy has been slow, but scientists predict that she will have mastered basics such as fork use sometime in the next year. More complex skills, such as proper grocery store etiquette, may be forever outside her reach.
About Siri Paulson
Siri Paulson writes all over the fantasy and science fiction spectrum, including (so far) secondary-world fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, Gothic, historical paranormal, and YA with spaceships. She is also the chief editor at Turtleduck Press. Siri grew up in Alberta, Canada, but now lives in an old house in Toronto. By day, she edits non-fiction for the government. Her other current passion is contra dance, a social/folk dance done to live Celtic and roots music. Her favourite places in the world are the Canadian Rocky Mountains and a little valley in Norway.
Sounds awesome! Please go check out City of Hope and Ruin — and if you read and like it, please consider leaving a review to help the authors out.