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Kate Elliott

Fiction and Excerpts [2]
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Fiction and Excerpts [2]

Court of Fives

, || Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best contenders.

Sleeping With Monsters

We’re pleased to share Kate Elliott’s introduction to Liz Bourke’s essay collection, Sleeping With Monsters—some of which are taken from her column here at Tor.com. Bourke’s subjects range from the nature of epic fantasy—is it a naturally conservative sort of literature?— to Mass Effect’s decision to allow players to play as a female hero, and from discussions of little-known writers to some of the most popular works in the field.

Bourke herself writes that the collection’s purpose is ”to be a little loud and angry. To celebrate the work of women in the science fiction and fantasy (SFF) field. To offer a snapshot, a limited glimpse, of what I think is best, most fun, most interesting.” A provocative, immensely readable collection of essays about the science fiction and fantasy field, from the perspective of a feminist and a historian, Sleeping With Monsters is an entertaining addition to any reader’s shelves, available July 1st from Aqueduct Press.

[Read more]

No Fear, No Doubt, Just Writing: The Real Value of NaNoWriMo

“Finding the courage to write fiction sometimes means finding the courage to fully admit the staggering range of your doubts and fears, and to see them for what they are: an expression of a part of yourself so entangled with your ambition and creativity and drive that the two can never fully become extricated.”

“I like to think of any given person not as a single discrete and thus finite entity but as a multiplicity of ever-shifting selves. Because we can continually grow and change, we are never static, and thus we are in constant communication with our past selves, our current self and its versions adapted to the various niches and angles of our lives, and our anticipated future iterations who are themselves capable of branching into infinity.

There is a lot of cross-talk in our heads. Wherever ideas come from (and I really don’t know), they arise out of and in conversation with the deepest levels of this chatter. These wellsprings contain some of the purest and clearest expressions of our inner selves, the waters we want to tap for our most expansive creativity.But that chatter can create a lot of fences, too, ones we keep slamming into when we thought we were promised open ground running all the way to the horizon.”

I wrote the above lines in a 2014 NaNoWriMo-related blog post titled “Finding the Courage to Write Fiction.” On this first day of NaNoWriMo 2016, I want to return to them.

[Read more]

Writing Women Characters Into Epic Fantasy Without Quotas

The cold equations of “realism,” some claim, suggest there is little scope for women taking an active and interesting role in epic stories set in fantasy worlds based in a pre-modern era. Women’s lives in the past were limited, constrained, and passive, they say. To include multiple female characters in dynamic roles is to be in thrall to quotas, anachronisms, Political Correctness, and the sad spectacle and dread hyenas of wish-fulfillment.

Is this true?

[How can women characters fit in epic fantasy settings based on a quasi-historical past?]

Five SFF Stories Complicated by Intact Family Relationships

The main character who is orphaned or has no significant contact with family (left behind, estranged, dead spouse or child as motivator, etc) shows up frequently in SFF novels, and understandably so: Such characters don’t have to take anyone else’s life or needs into account as their adventures unfold. It’s easy to just pick up and go when you don’t have anyone relying on you, or when your decisions don’t immediately impact the lives of people you care about.

I’ve written this kind of character myself, but with Court of Fives I specifically wanted to write a story in which the main character’s family is intact and present, and therefore plays a part as one of the complicating factors in her journey. What happens when a choice we need to make will hurt someone we care about? How much will we risk for those we love?

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Series: Five Books About…

Court of Fives

Jessamy’s life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom’s best contenders.

Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors—one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy—causes heads to turn. When Kal’s powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes’s family apart, she’ll have to test her new friend’s loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, Kate Elliott’s first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege. Court of Fives is available August 18th from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

[Read an excerpt]

Writing Women Characters as Human Beings

Occasionally I get asked if I have any advice for writers on how to create believable female characters while avoiding cliches, especially in fantasy novels where the expectations and settings may be seen to be different from our modern world.

There is an “easy” answer to this.

Write all characters as human beings in all their glorious complexity and contradiction.

That’s a decent answer, although rarely easy to pull off in practice, but it’s not really answering the question I’m getting asked.

[Read More]

The Status Quo Does Not Need World Building

The imagination is not context-less.

The words and conceptual markers a writer puts on the page arise from thoughts and perceptions and interpretations rooted in our experiences and knowledge and assumptions. Writers write what they know, what they think is important, what they think is entertaining, what they are aware or take notice of. They structure stories in patterns that make sense to them. A writer’s way of thinking, and the forms and content of what and how they imagine story, will be rooted in their existing cultural and social world.

[Who chooses what amount of world building is acceptable in fantasy literature? ]

Identity and Characterization

Who am I? Who are you?

Who is anyone, anyway?

And who gets to define who I am, or who you, or they, or we are? Don’t we get to define ourselves? Or do some believe they have the right to define who we are based on who they want us to be regardless of our own understanding of our identity?

Just what is identity? A single thing? Or a multivariate thing, a thing of diverse diversities, a thing of both intersection and difference?

Are any one of us merely one person with a single specific definitional identity that trumps anything else we might be, or are we, to quote Malian writer Amadou Hampâté Bâ, “a complex being inhabited by a multiplicity of beings in continuous motion”?

How cool is that? Continuous motion! A multiplicity! I can go for that.

We change across time, of course: we grow, we age, we may reproduce, the people with whom we have relationships may change.

But we’re also not definable as any one chief characteristic.

Is the most important thing about me that I am female? That I have white skin? That I grew up in an ethnic household with an immigrant mother, so we ate special food and used foreign words and practiced odd customs? That I write? That I write and read and view sff? That I’m a bit of a jock? That I am a parent? A mother of twins? And a singleton daughter! That I’m Jewish? That I paddle outrigger canoes? That I own a schnauzer? That I’m married? To a cisgendered male? That I have hearing loss? That I voted for (insert secret ballot here)? That I’m an American citizen? That I once (no, never mind, I don’t want to be defined as that).

I would go so far as to say that the only time we are defined as “one specific over-riding identity” is when we are being defined from the outside by people or groups who have a reason to want or need to limit our multiplicity.

[So what does this have to do with writing?]