Fran Wilde is one of those writers who seems to have lived multiple lives before her current one as the author of Updraft and the forthcoming Cloudbound: as a sailing instructor, a game developer, a poet, and more. In many cases, Wilde is able to weave together different aspects of her life, as with her Cooking the Books podcast, in which she discusses genre fiction and food with other authors. With the release of The Jewel and Her Lapidary from Tor.com Publishing, Wilde is able to tap into another past life: jewelers’ assistant. In her recent Reddit AMA on r/fantasy, Wilde discussed how working with silver solder influenced some of the power mechanics, her literary influences, crossover YA and why you should read fantasy, and her thoughts on Tommy Arnold’s cover art for The Jewel and Her Lapidary (“I love how fierce and determined their faces are”).
Wilde also took a page from Myke Cole’s recent AMA and asked the Redditors a question: “What kind of gemstone would you use to take over the world, and why?” Between that and her jewelers’ stories about dropping expensive stones, you’ll look at gemstones in a whole new light. Read the highlights below!
Literary Family Tree
Several Redditors had questions about the worldbuilding of Updraft, especially the towers and flying among the clouds. When lyrrael asked, “Did you pull inspiration from anywhere, or was it totally made from the whole cloth of your creativity?”, Wilde provided a literary family tree, with various literary progenitors adorning the branches and ideas and questions shaping the far-reaching roots. (We love the Pacific Rim bird flying nearby.)
What Is YA?
Ellber: I’ve been in a few online discussions about whether certain books are or are not YA. I’m always interested in an author’s perspective. So, do you consider Updraft to be YA?
FW: Good question. My answer is it’s a bit of both. That somewhat nebulous but lovely category called “crossover” has elements of YA and elements of adult. My friend E.C. Myers has a great description of YA—a young person’s discovery of their world and their place in it… And Updraft absolutely has that. It also has elements that are found more commonly in the broader category.
It would likely have been easier to come in under one umbrella or the other distinctly, but most of all I think we wanted the reader to decide what kind of story it was for them. So, crossover.
Killing (or Just Shuffling Around) Your Darlings
lonewolfandpub: Knowing how much good stuff has to be left on the cutting room floor to make a book better, what’s one of your favorite things that you had to leave out of Updraft or Cloudbound?
FW: Oh gosh. Hmmm… I think with Updraft there were a few quieter moments and a song or two. I also always feel like I want to expand out into lives of different characters—luckily, that’s what short stories are for. With Cloudbound, I’m still pretty close to that one, so I think the cutting room floor is filled with necessity.
Fran Wilde’s Jeweler Past
When asked about the real-life jewels and lapidaries that influenced her novella, Wilde shared this recent video she made for Tor.com Publishing:
Wilde also answered several technical questions in the thread, such as…
whimsicalme: Loved “The Jewel and Her Lapidary”. What powers the soldering irons that they have on hand?
What was your favorite thing to work with when you were a jeweler’s assistant?
FW: Great question! They are fuel powered with a version of lamp oil / white spirits. They are modeled a bit on older blow-lamps and work with a solder wire that the lapidaries also carry.
I actually loved watching silver solder finally flow after sitting there stubbornly. Also casting—though I still have some casting wax I haven’t used… Hmm. Setting things, because of the careful, even pressure required. As far as stones and gems went, I liked most things except emeralds. Those were pretty but very high maintenance.
Why You Should Read Fantasy
extreme_cuisine: If Joe Blow were to ask fantasy readers: “Why should I read fantasy?”, how do you think we could respond? (Some people do think fantasy is simply about escapism or outlandish fantasies etc. Are we merely adults who never outgrew our love of fairy tales and myth?)
Or put another way: “What do fantasy books give us that other types of fiction do not?”
FW: I think I’d tell Joe B. that reading fantasy is an excellent means of transport—to move beyond your assumptions and familiarities, like one does when one travels to a new place. You begin to think in new ways, and see things with a different lens. At the same time, you can literally be moved to understand perspectives that are otherwise unfamiliar, and to witness plots and action that may be outside of your normal day-to-day.
I think we are always telling ourselves stories as human beings—stories about getting up, getting to work, meeting people. We’ve been doing it since our earliest fireside tall-tale sessions. Fantastical stories reach back to the power of myth and what-if in ways that perhaps (some but not all) literary stories don’t always do.
Also, if you can imagine yourself flying to work, it’s a lot more fun than being stuck in traffic.
Gemstone Powers Activate!
Once Wilde clarified that her gemstone question was not a Steven Universe-related query, she got a bevy of answers that were varied, thoughtful, and (in one case) wonderfully punny:
lonewolfandpub: Also, to answer your question, erm, diamonds? They’ve done a pretty good job so far, I see no reason to mess with success.
FW: HA! Great answer! Also excellent cutting tool if you need to break out of a glass-walled prison.
wishforagiraffe: I think to take over the world, I’d use… Sapphire. Since I’m going with I don’t have to use a single stone, but can use many of a single type of stone, sapphires come in basically every color, so there’s plenty for people to covet, and they’re still a very hard stone
FW: Sapphires are ridiculously cool on a structural level—so are rubies.
Emeralds, though. Gahhhhhh. Trouble all the way down.
whimsicalme: I’d take over the world with an opal, because I’d tell people there was a hidden message amongst the chips and chunks of color, then take over while they were distracted trying to solve it.
FW: Oh GOOD plan! ::makes a note::
Ellber: The gemstone I would use to take over the world would be chrysocolla, the “wise stone.” It has the power to protect and stimulate the mind during negotiations, leading to brilliant results. I would use its power to subtly and insidiously cause people to see things my way, including the need to make me ruler of the world. Many centuries ago, when I was a member of the green faction in Rome, we used it with great success, and my friend Cleopatra would wear it all the time, achieving wondrous results, until the day she asp-ired.
FW: Oh well done indeed. +10 for the pun.
Ellber: As an alternative, I might use a max glad stone, since it would make everyone too happy to notice I was taking over; that would take a lot of craft though.
FW: HAH. +20.