Saturday, 4 October 2014

Interview with Jo Anderton

Today I have an interview with the wonderful Jo Anderton, author of the Veiled Worlds trilogy, The Bone Chime Song, and many other stories.

You've mentioned elsewhere that the Veiled Worlds trilogy was influenced by anime. Can you elaborate on this for us? Any specific influences or a more general aesthetic?

I think over the years of watching and loving anime it's managed to seep into my story brain, but then so have the big fat trilogies I devoured as a teenager! While there's definitely a general aesthetic thing going on, I'm more than willing to admit to a few specific influences.

Some of Tanyana's character was inspired by Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell. I think it's the Major in her that makes her tough, but also at times distant, a personality trait that is challenged as the books develop. One of things I love so much about the Ghost in the Shell world is the way it plays with the concept of identity, and challenges the relationship between body and self. This is a big theme of the Veiled World books -- how much of ourselves is wrapped up in our bodies, what is it that makes me me, that kind of thing.

Another major influence is Full Metal Alchemist. Not only is Tanyana's suit absolutely inspired by Edward's metallic arm, but the brothers in the books (Kichlan and Lad) are based very strongly on the brothers in FMA — Edward and Alphonse. Something in the way Alphonse is trapped in his suit of armour for a body, unable to properly age and engage in the world while his brother struggles to find a way to free him… that's Lad and Kichlan right there.

Another possibly odd-sounding influence is none other than… Sailor Moon. You heard me. You know what I still love so much about Sailor Moon? She doesn't save the day through violence, she saves the world by helping people. It was really important to me that this happened in the Veiled Worlds books. So often in our stories the heroes win the day by resorting to the same violence as the so-called villains. But not Sailor Moon, dammit. And not Tanyana either.

In the Veiled Worlds, you set up a very technical magic system in the worldbuilding. You then gradually picked it apart over the three books. What led you to this setup?

I'm a sucker for worlds that aren't what they seem. This could possibly come from an unhealthy addiction to really complicated Japanese rpgs. You know the ones that don't necessarily make any sense but are still really cool because actually the world is a video game or the gods are really AIs… Or something like that. One of my favourite animes, Scrapped Princess, is like that too.

Basically, I just like it when stories set up a world, and then surprise! actually there's something completely different going on. So naturally I would do the same thing.

Book three, Guardian, breaks somewhat dramatically from the setting of Debris and Suited. Was this the plan from the very start? (Did you always know that this was where the series was going?)

Oh yes, absolutely. Each book has a theme, I guess you could call it. Or a lynchpin. Debris is all about Tanyana's fall. Suited is all about her Suit. But Guardian was always going to be about the Keeper. I knew that to do that, we had to go back to where everything began, and that meant switching settings. Crossing the veil.

Will we be seeing more novels from you or short stories or both? Can you give us a taste for what's coming next?

I certainly hope so! I'm very much enjoying the project I'm working on at the moment, and with any luck it will see the light of day.

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