A little bit of background on Jo, and then onwards to the interview!
Jo was born in 1980 and has a Bachelor of Science, but turned to writing because people tend to get upset when scientists make things up. Her hobbies include knitting, spinning, cooking and research. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and spends a lot of time daydreaming about snow.
You've described the cold and snowy environment in a lot of detail. Other than doing a lot of reading, did you travel anywhere to experience piles of snow?
The entire time I was petrified that I’d make some glaring error that would expose me as a fraud… it all came to a head when my publisher told me they were sending the book to Robin Hobb for a cover quote. Hobb had been one of my favourite authors for years, but I realised then that I actually knew very little about her, so I looked her up and saw that the grew up in Alaska! I just about had a heart attack, and when she sent me a message I replied to say that I was genuinely terrified, because if I’d got anything wrong, she was certain to pick it. She wrote back to say that I’d got the cold parts exactly right, which was an incredible relief! It doesn’t stop me from snatching up everything I find on cold-climate environments, though, and I suspect I’ll still be doing it long after Children of the Black Sun is all in print.
Q2. One of my favourite things to read about in fiction is moral ambiguity or "shades of grey" in terms of character choices. That is something which your character Rasten embodies. Where did the inspiration for him come from?
My characters first come to me with a few key aspects sketched out --- for example, to begin with I knew was that Isidro was wounded and Sierra was running away from something, but that’s all. Rasten began as an ordinary henchman, but one of the first things I knew about him was that he loved Sierra.
To begin with I couldn’t reconcile these two aspects, his love for Sierra and his obedience to Kell, but as the story came together and I had to climb inside Rasten’s head, I realised that he was far more complex than I first thought. It’s a rule for me that all my characters must make the best decisions they can and do everything in their power to achieve their goals --- I can’t let them make stupid decisions for the sake of the plot --- and the old saying that every villain is the hero of his own story was important here, too.
It took a long time to work out what made Rasten the way he is and why he makes the choices he does --- he is quite mad, but ultimately all his actions make perfect sense to him. His morality is learned from the world around him, a cruel and sadistic place where pain and power are all that matters. He’s always done whatever it takes to survive, and he realised long ago that no-one’s going to rescue him. He has no choice but to save himself, and that means using anyone or anything he can get his hands on. Once I realised this Rasten exploded onto the page and became a major character in the story. But the ultimate question for his character is whether his love for Sierra is enough to guide him out of the twisted world Kell has made for him, or if the damage he’s sustained is simply too great.
In the world you've created the living arrangements are very communal and families are polyamorous. What led you to choose that sort of culture, particularly the latter aspect? Will that be explored further in the final book?
As for whether we will see more of this in book three… well, at the close of Black Sun Light My Way, Cam and Isidro, Sierra, Mira and Delphine are all scattered across two continents. If they do manage to re-unite, they’re going to have to figure out just what the future holds for them, and whether the damage that was done can be repaired, or if their only choice is to forge new bonds from the scraps that remain.
Do you have a title for the third book in the Children of the Black Sun? Can you tell us a little about your future writing plans after this series is done with?
Book three will be called North Star Guide Me Home --- it’s a story about homecoming, about fighting to reclaim a stolen motherland and build new lives from the ashes of war. However, those who’ve laid claim to the north by right of conquest will not willingly give up their prize, and they’ve had a great deal of time to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the battered souls marching homewards.
Once North Star is done I’m planning to dive into research for my next series, which will draw inspiration from India and ancient Greece, with leylines and dragons and a sprinkling of science. I’m quite taken with ideas of magic-as-technology, but whenever I mention this people start talking about Steampunk. I don’t really think of it that way, and in any case I have been reliably informed that it can’t be steampunk without an element of Victorian England, which I can promise will be conspicuously absent. Either way, I can’t wait to get started!
Thank-you, Jo for taking the time to answer my questions! I'm certainly looking forward to reading North Star Guide Me Home next year and the new books that come after. Jo Spurrier is a writer to watch.