Ecko Rising is a new, high-energy novel that refuses to stay put in either the sci-fi or high fantasy genres. It tells the story of Ecko, a classically sarcastic anti-hero, who finds himself pulled suddenly from high-tech, dystopian London and dropped in the middle of Lord of the Rings. I recently reviewed Ecko Rising (published by Titan Books) for Paper Droids and was thrilled to have the opportunity afterward for a little Q&A with its author, Danie Ware. Read on for her thoughtful responses on magic, writing combat scenes, and feminism in the fantasy world.
Ecko Rising gave us just a tease of the world Ecko comes from, a high-tech dystopian London, and intriguing characters like Lugan, Fuller and The Boss. Will we get to spend more time with these characters and world in future books? Is there perhaps more to Lugan’s lighter than meets the eye?
Now that would be telling! I had – have! – a cunning plan for Lugan’s lighter, but whether I’ll manage to place it before the end of the third book… who knows. And I don’t want to give too much away! Maybe I’ll save it for another day… or another book…
I am endlessly fascinated with the different rules authors come up with for how magic works in their fictional worlds. Elemental magic is reasonably common but yours has a slightly different take and also invokes the use of “passion” — can you tell us about how you came to create it, and if you ran into any difficulties along the way?
Never been a fan of spell lists — seriously, how many words and rules and ways can you come up with to chuck fire at someone? They slow a narrative down — not to mention your poor character having to stop in the middle of a battle and remember the right Latinate word sequence from ‘BOOM’!
The “elementalism” concept began with the Nordic/Runic symbolism of the compass directions — North as Ice, South as Fire, and so on — and then expanded to include a constant and restive tide of energy that flows between these points. That tide defines the world — day and night, summer and winter, wind and weather — and an elementalist can siphon off some of that tide for themselves.
First, the elementalist must “focus” — they must clear their mind, shut away their surroundings, and concentrate on the tide, the “powerflux.” Once their concentration is true, they “attune” themselves — literally, plug themselves in and feel the tide as it flows around them. Needless to say, though, sticking your finger in the world’s plugsocket can be one heck of a rush, and kind of unpredictable…
And that’s when the fun starts. Humans are fragile things — the elementalist must siphon off only as much power as they can control, tempting though it is to reach for more. Hence, any elementalist must affiliate themselves with one element only — to try and wield more would just result in a big splat.
If anything breaks the elementalist’s concentration, then just about anything can happen — from simply losing your power and going “fizzle,” to a huge ker-blooey and a smoking pair of boots.
In answer to the second part of the question, no, elemetalism is creative and instinctual, both to wield and to write. It balances somewhere between raw passion and survivalist common-sense — and how far each individual elementalist chooses to risk it is entirely up to them!
I’ll admit that battle scenes usually make my eyes glaze over, but yours kept me on the edge of my seat — particularly the scene where Triq and Jayr take on the centaurs. I’ve read that you credit your battle-writing prowess to your time spent doing reenactments — any tips for would-be writers who don’t have the same hands-on experience?
It’s very much like the elementalism thing — it’s all about passion. Battles aren’t like tabletop tactics, turns and numbers and movements on a board. When you’re in the middle of one, it’s heat and chaos and shouting and orders and noise. It’s weapons hammering and shoulders hurting and trying to fall back or push forwards… it’s a morass. You have orders, of course you do, and for as long as you’re locked into a shield-wall or a strategic advance, then it makes sense…
But then that formation crumbles and all merry hell breaks loose and it’s just about sensation, and survival — it’s trying to kill the other guy and stay alive yourself!
Both worlds we are introduced to in Ecko Rising feature men and women equally in various roles and positions of power — soldiers, apothecaries, lords, high-ranking businesspeople. Considering that many traditional high fantasy worlds present men and women in very different roles (and tend to have “strong” women as the exception, not the rule), was this a conscious choice you made as you created your fantasy world? Did you ever consider using the traditional medieval gender hierarchy?
Um — no! But in balance, neither did I want to make a statement out of “strong” female characters. The characters are what they are, they’re equal, irrespective of gender.
I did make a conscious decision to make all of the CityWardens, whether male or female, “Lord,” and likewise a conscious decision that all genders of supporting characters (soldiers and others) would be an even spread.
Interestingly, I’ve had a blogger get quite upset at the “rape” scene (I suppose it was inevitable), but she seemed to miss that the overpowering of female by male also happens later in the book — and is an overpowering of male by female. I can’t say anything specific as I don’t want to include spoilers, but, again, the choice to illustrate that particular nastiness both ways round was absolutely conscious.
Ecko Rising has been described as “The Matrix meets Game of Thrones,” two heavy-hitting, often androcentric representatives of genres that have traditionally been male-dominated. Do you feel that you have experienced any different limitations or opportunities as a female author writing “hard” sci-fi, and do you have any advice for other women interested in writing the genre?
Ooo — now there’s a sticky topic! Everyone has an opinion, and everyone’s opinion is based on his or her own experience… In mine, women don’t (usually!) write hard sf, just as men don’t (usually!) write paranormal romance – though that absolutely doesn’t mean they can’t, in either case.
I’ve had writers say to me that the industry won’t publish sf by women because it doesn’t sell, and senior editors/publishers say to me that they actively look for female sf writers and don’t find them. Honestly, I don’t know. It’s a very complex subject and everyone gets very passionate about their own opinion.
Enough with the heavy topics, time for some quick-fire questions! Your favourite book — any author, any genre?
Is probably Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward – the only book I’ve ever got to the end of and then gone (literally) straight back to the beginning and read again!
Your best bet for beating writer’s block?
I didn’t write for eight years — lost my confidence completely as well as having no time. Beating it took someone else to take some confidence in me — and then a certain amount of determination! For a slightly less long-term answer, I tend to walk, and just let the characters talk among themselves. And the Evernote/Dragon Dictation apps are amazing!
Three must-read books for geeky girls?
Mythago Wood by Rob Holdstock
Vurt by Jeff Noon
Fevre Dream by George R R Martin
Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions. I’m looking forward to reading Ecko Burning when it is released!
Awesome — and thank you!