In addition to my interview with author Jimena Novaro about being a writer, I asked her some questions about her current story, The Withering Sword. These are her answers.
Tell me about the story up until now.
“The Withering Sword” is about the fall of a mighty empire. Told from the perspective of various different characters, some of them members of the imperial government, some of them inhabitants of the subjugated territories, the novel explores how the actions of individuals can change the world. The deposed nobility of one of the colonized kingdoms, Miihing, plots to gain back their power through their prince, but he threatens to spark a revolution that will take control completely out of the hands of the aristocracy. The heir to the empire and commander of the fleet finds himself caught between loyalty to his dynasty, his desire for revenge for the death of his sister, and his compassion for the subjugated people. A priestess works to keep the old traditions of her culture alive despite the influence of the empire, and to protect the people of her village from the imperial soldiers. And throughout the empire, the colossal mountain birds have left their homes to attack farms and villages, and a bookish scholar must stop them.
What made you want to write this book?
I came up with the idea to post a serialized novel on my website last year. I had several different ideas and when I was researching the Chinese Empire one day it all came together. I wanted to write something big in scope; something that involved many different cultures and countries, politics, just a touch of dark fairy-tale magic, and several different character journeys in the context of this fantasy world.
Since this is a serialized novel, how does this affect the way you write the story? Have you written everything already, or are you writing as you go? If you haven’t finished it, do you know how the story will end?
I’m writing as I go, but I do know the general direction it will take. I’m generally about three chapters ahead of what I post. It changes the way I approach writing, because I know I can’t go back and make major revisions, so I can’t do what I sometimes do and throw something in for the heck of it, hoping it’ll make sense later. I have to be sure about how everything fits into the bigger picture before I write it. Even though I don’t have the whole novel outlined, I’ve sketched out in my mind where each storyline is headed, and how it will interact with the rest.
What has been the greatest challenge to writing this story so far?
So far it’s been fun more than difficult, but as always when I’m beginning a story it takes me awhile to get comfortable in the skins of new characters and in the context of a new world. I think the end of “Chapter Five: The Silver Statuette” gave me the most trouble so far; it’s hard to write a revolutionary statement from the point of view of someone from a completely different culture and time. It was just one little paragraph, but I had to carefully consider the rules of the society and how and why someone would break them, which was quite a challenge.
Who is your favorite character? Why?
It’s hard to pick, but I’d have to say that of the chapters I’ve posted so far, I like Amraxes the most. He’s a very passionate, determined person who doesn’t betray his ideals. There’s also a lot of ambiguity in him, because his grandfather, the emperor, filled him with a desire for glory, and he’s spent his life conquering new territories for his mother, but at the same time he’s very compassionate and protects the people who need his help. The interplay of rationality versus the spiritual experiences he has early in the novel also draw me, because I can relate to them.
What has surprised you the most about writing this story?
I’ve been writing for years, but it still surprises me every time the story starts taking on a life of its own. My little band of conspirators started making sinister plans left and right, shocking me with their cleverness. Characters had unexpected reactions to situations that turned out to be just right. I’m really looking forward to seeing where it all carries me next!
Jimena posts new chapters to The Withering Sword each Sunday. Look for chapter seven tomorrow!