Tell us a bit about your latest work.
The Gladiator and the Guard is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, the first one being The Collar and the Cavvarach. The stories take place in a world almost exactly like our own. Although most aspects of the culture are just about what they are currently on Earth, a few sports are different, such as the martial art known as cavvara shil. The main difference, however, is that slavery is legal there.
The Krillonian Empire rules much of the world. An emperor, who is never named, governs from the capital city, Krillonia, on the continent known as Imperia. Eight separate provinces (independent nations before they were conquered) can be found on nearby continents. Each province, plus Imperia, is allowed to elect its own legislature and decide on many of its own laws, but the emperor reserves the right to veto any of them and make changes as he sees fit. This seldom happens, however, and to most people the emperor is merely a vague and distant ceremonial figure.
The prevalence of slavery is probably what would stand out the most to visitors from Earth. There are nearly as many slaves in the city of Jarreon, where both books take place, as free people, and they are easily identified by the steel collars they are required to wear locked around their necks. From each collar hangs a tag inscribed with the slave’s name, their owner’s name, and a copy of their owner’s signature. On the back of the tag is their owner’s phone number and a bar code that can be scanned to access additional information.
Many families own one or more slaves who do their housework and yardwork. Businesses often own a large number of slaves, usually for manual labor, though some are trained for more complex tasks. Those who don’t own their own slaves may “hire in” one belonging to someone else. The accepted rate for an hourly wage is two-thirds the amount that a free person would earn for equivalent labor (the money goes to the slave’s owner, of course).
To read more about the culture of the Krillonian Empire, take a look at this post on my blog.
Here’s the back-cover blurb for The Collar and the Cavvarach :
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?
And the blurb for The Gladiator and the Guard:
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?
What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?
In this series, it’s the value of human life. I also focus on the responsibility of each individual to do what they know is right, regardless of their circumstances.
What would be your dream project?
I’m currently working on a science fiction novel that takes place on another planet. As long as we’re dreaming big, I’d love to complete my research for it by actually traveling into space myself!
If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do?
I would go back to my first book, a YA fantasy called Prince of Alasia (in my series the Annals of Alasia). It represents the best writing I knew how to do at the time, but I’ve grown a lot as an author since then, and I know I could make it much better if I were to re-write it. I’ve actually considered doing so, but I have too many other new books simmering my mind, waiting for release. Rewriting old ones just isn’t a high enough priority for me at this point.
What inspires you to write?
Characters romp around having adventures in my head until I have to let them out. I have no choice!
What writers have influenced your style and technique?
Anne Elisabeth Stengl, author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, has. I love the way some of the books in her series take place in overlapping time periods, from the perspectives of different characters. I did something similar in my Annals of Alasia.
Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?
I would place it somewhere in the middle, but closer to the art side. Without art, it has no beauty or creativity. But it needs science, too; without that, it has no structure.
Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?
There will probably be one more book in the Krillonian Chronicles, though I’m tossing around ideas that may eventually lead to other stories set in the same world. In the meantime, I’m working on a final book in my Annals of Alasia fantasy series, which should be ready to publish in the next few months. There’s also Heartsong, the science fiction novel that I drafted for last year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, in November). I hope to have that one polished and ready for publication in another year or so. Lots of irons in the fire!