Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by author Anna Kashina. Anna grew up in Russia and moved to the United States in 1994 after receiving her Ph.D. in cell biology from the Russian Academy of Sciences. Her fantasy novel Blades of the Old Empire is available from Angry Robot. Its sequel, The Guild of Assassins, publishes August 5th.
Do you have a favorite under-read author?
E. T. A. Hoffmann. He is known to general audiences mostly as the author of The Nutcracker, but he has written some other wonderful stories that, I feel, are definitely under-read. I consider him the author who influenced me the most during my early forays into fiction writing. As a teenager I used to lose myself in his worlds.
Would you rather discover the fountain of youth or proof of life on Mars?
Fountain of youth, definitely. It feels somewhat strange, given that in my other life I am a scientist.
What literary or film science fiction technology do you wish existed in our world right now?
All my top choices would be from Star Trek: transporters, replicators, and holodecks. However, I am aware that if they existed, life would probably become too good to be true.
Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle-earth (or some other fictional realm)…
Rivendell, in Middle-earth. I like my vacations quiet and uneventful, and this place has everything I can imagine for a perfect holiday (except for the technology mentioned above).
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
Early on, it started with my love for fairy tales and folklore from all cultures. Then, one day, I got my hands on The Lord of the Rings, and that sealed the deal and turned me into a devoted fantasy reader.
What would your Patronus/familiar be?
I would love it to be someone romantic, like a panther or an owl (or even a small dragon?). However, I would probably end up with a rabbit or a squirrel, just because one has no choice in these matters and things tend to never work out quite the way you would love them to be.
What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)
Adventure and role-playing computer games of the old generation. Once, as an adult, I spent days doing nothing but playing Might and Magic. And, I always keep copies of Sierra classics, even though finding a computer that runs them is a challenge. Perhaps it is fortunate that my favorite games are not produced anymore, leaving me time to do other things.
Name your three favorite fictional villains of all time. Alternately: Heroes vs. Villains—which are more fun to write?
Villains are my favorite topic, so I am going to cheat here and answer both questions without picking alternatives.
Villains are definitely more fun to write, if only because with villains you are not bound by any rules or moral standards. The danger is, if you are not careful they will just take over the story, so one has to focus on their negatives to keep them in the background. In a sense, the boundary between a villain and a hero is all in the details, and if the details are well done it is often hard to tell the difference.
My favorite fictional villain is Jaime Lannister—if you could call him a villain in the conventional sense. He starts out being quite despicable, and then turns around to be the man I enjoy reading about the most. I just love the way this reversal is done in the books, so that nearly every one of his past actions becomes perfectly justified, if not always forgivable.
Speaking of more classical examples, I would name Dracula, for being mysterious and romantic, and Davy Jones, for having a tragic story.
List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.
I write (and read) for entertainment, and I believe my books would appeal to readers with a similar purpose. Those who enjoy gore, or stories that focus on grim reality and push the boundaries of tolerance, probably won’t be the ideal readers for my books.
I love secondary world fantasy with rigorous historical roots, and pay great attention to world building within these parameters.
And, I am very visual when it comes to books, so I tend to think of “watching” rather than “writing” when I am working on a novel. It feels so rewarding when I am able to relay the same feeling to my readers.
If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be? Why?
There are several names that went through my head at this question, but the one I decided to mention is Shah Jahan, the man who built Taj Mahal. He wrote poetry, I hope it qualifies him as an author. It would be very interesting to discover a memoir written by him, so that we could see into the mind of a man who was capable of such love and lived this kind of a life, undoubtedly full of atrocities and betrayals, but also of devotion and beauty. Just thinking about it makes me want to write it myself. Perhaps, one day, I will.