Tamsyn Muir on How She Got Her Lesbian Necromancer Novel Shaped Up and Other Highlights from Her Reddit Books AMA

Tamsyn Muir’s epic-sci-fi-fantasy-necromantic-comedy debut, Gideon the Ninth, published last week. (From the writer herself: “Everyone agrees that Charles Stross put it best when he described it as Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space! although I also really liked it when he just said Skeletons!”) To celebrate, the Nebula/World Fantasy Award/Shirley Jackson-nominated author dropped by r/Books for an AMA, and it’s chock-full of writing advice, fun facts about the world of the Ninth House trilogy, forthcoming book news, jokes, skeletons, big influences, thoughts on the HYPE, and more.

Check out the highlights below, and head on over to the AMA itself for more genre-busting goth goodness!


On her favorite Gideon the Ninth line:

I love being asked my favourite line!! You get two, which is my favourite line FROM the book, when Ianthe is talking about a particular skull, a line that only I love—

“Sheer prevarication,” remarked her sister to nobody in particular. “Some people will do anything to get… a head.

You also get my favourite line that got taken OUT of the book. It looks like nothing in context except Gideon being Gideon, but if you have read the book, you understand that this is the last line from Act II. I understand why it got taken out. That scene needed to end two lines beforehand. Nonetheless.

Gideon exhaled hard.

“Oh, suck my dick,” she said.

It ruined the moment. I laughed every time I saw it though


On her reaction to all the HYPE:

I’ve got serious NZ tall poppy syndrome, so my reaction to the hype has been deep, abyssal shame. It made me very bad when pitching the book. Nobody liked my pitch at all. This is because I basically said: This book is fine. Its words go in the correct order nine times out of ten. This is beneath me, and I’m trying to cure myself of it, because the hype machine is less Hype Machine and really just the passion of a lot of nascent goths at Tor.com who saw my weird-ass bone book as The Little Sci-Fi Fantasy That Could.

Part of me is like Advertise me? Everyone is going to think I am SO ARROGANT!!! My book is just a collection of swordfights and people leaning in doorways!!!!, but that part undersells the fact that it is a book that has had enormous care put into it. My editor busted his butt over it, and my publicist is an immortal who has inside her the blood of kings, and the whole team led by Irene Gallo are just die-hards. It hurts me to say but I must say it: it’s a good book, Bront. The hype is from their love. I cannot deny it thrice.

Even when it makes me incredibly self-conscious.


On what kind of dogs Gideon and Harrow would be, if they were dogs:

Harrow is one of those tiny crosses that was the worst idea at the outset—let’s say 1/4 chihuahua, 1/4 Shih Tzu, 1/4 Bichon Friese, 1/4 Maltese—just unbelievably boutique and horrible, with problems. You’d think Gideon would be a big dog but she’s either a valhund or a mongrel with ginger eyebrows and a knowing expression.

This is canon, as you may have read from Book II’s dog prom.


On how she did all that worldbuilding:

Truthfully, the worldbuilding had to suit the story and the metastory, so quite a lot of it came ready-made for reasons I am dying to explain but can’t until the next two books come out. I guess that makes for its own answer, though: a lot on my worldbuilding relies on a meta-mystery that I am hoping to unravel as the books go by. I mean, at the end reveal it will just be me chortling alone as everyone looks nonplussed.

The magic system was easy once I had what I needed in play—the plot created the magic system, honestly, and once I had my main rules for what I could do and what I couldn’t do there came thalergy and thanergy (“phthinergy” before I thought better of it). Once those rules are in place, and once you include my love of schools of magic and magic you’ve got to work for and magic-as-science—it folded out quite neatly. I feel that’s a really boring answer (“I needed this stuff for the plot”) but it really is what happened.

I never actually had a problem keeping track of the Nine Houses or the magic. I tried to make it really easy on myself by giving everyone coded last names. (Originally I also tried to give everyone names that matched their House number, syllable-wise, but that turned to custard very quickly.)


On which Gideon the Ninth character she relates to the most, and other character-types in her life:

I wish I could answer this without Massive Spoilers. There’s a character you have met but will meet again who is very much me, but they’ll be more in the second book. I will not talk about them. On a very personal level I relate to Harrowhark Nonagesimus, though it’s going to take another book and probably some more interviews to discuss why. Harrow and I are thoroughly different in terms of our outlooks and the way we do things and the things we value—but a huge part of me resides in her, so, Harrow.

My editor has been been identified, and self-identified as: Palamedes Sextus. In any case, my editor is Sixth House to his marrow. My first reader and beloved spouse, to whom the book is dedicated, is also Sixth House. My other first readers are also Sixth House. I am surrounded by nerds and need help immediately, is what I’m saying.


On her favorite books to read as a child:

Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s series.

The Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness manual, over and over and over and over again.

My Usborne puzzle adventure books.

An enormous book of types of dogs, including little stories about the dogs themselves. I cannot remember the title. There was one about a Pomeranian where the owner of the Pomeranian had been injured in a tragic horse accident and despite her previous history owning huge dogs, she now owned a small dog. It was unbelievably saccharine. I loved it.

I mean, I read everything. I was desperate for reading material. But the above were particularly precious to me. I wish I could find that damn dog book now, but I’ve done an international move and I will probably never see it again.


On the next books in the trilogy:

Harrow the Ninth is already in the main for June 2, 2020. If I give even a tentative date for Alecto the Ninth dramatic irony says that something will come out the sky and squash me, so all I can say is 2021 at some point. Everything’s basically done barring the last copy edits on Harrow for proof reading etc, and Alecto has all the ducks in a row for being written.


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