Ryan Graudin’s novel The Walled City was the subject of our very first review, back in November, so it seems only proper that I invite Ryan back to be our first guest in this occasional series of author interviews.
Rachel Cotterill: Let’s start at the beginning. What was the first book (or series) to get you hooked on speculative fiction?
Ryan Graudin: Probably Brian Jacques’s Redwall series. Reading about anthropomorphic mice in a medieval abbey fighting wars with vermin was my gateway drug into deeper fantasy and science fiction novels.
RC: Mine, too. What’s not to love about mice with swords?! We’d love to get some more book recommendations from you — what are your favourite books by female speculative fiction writers?
RG: I adored Victoria Schwab’s Vicious, which is an adult fantasy novel exploring a supervillain’s origin story. Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races is another all time favourite of mine. She writes about man-eating ocean horses in a way that seems plausible and even poetic. And Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy is a must-read fantasy series for teens.
RC: Which SF character would you most like to meet?
RG: I would love to meet the entire crew of the Serenity from the television series Firefly. I love that show with an undying passion, and one of the things that drew me to it was how the whole crew interacted like a family. I love the sense of community on that ship, and would be bowled over to be a part of it.
RC: Let’s talk a little about The Walled City. Anyone who remembers the Hong Kong handover will recognise the inspiration for Hak Nam — did you have chance to visit in the course of your research? And if so, how much do you think it’s changed in the past 15+ years?
RG: I was able to visit, though not until well after most of the book had been written. The place where the Kowloon Walled City once stood is now a park, and it boasts a rather lovely museum as well as some memorial statues. The area around the park looks a good deal more developed than it does in the old pictures (more buildings, etc), so I suppose that’s changed. Hong Kong itself is a very sleek, modern city. I quite enjoyed my time there.
RC: You cover some dark subjects, like sexual slavery and addiction. Was it a deliberate choice to keep the book YA-appropriate despite these themes, and how did you balance this?
RG: Yes. I tell people I’m never one for writing about darkness for darkness’s sake, if that makes sense. I wrote about the drugs and the trafficking because that’s what really goes on in many parts of the world. I don’t think teens should be sheltered from these truths, especially when their peers all over the world are enduring them. I did, however, want to handle them in a way that was both truthful yet respectful to the victims. Mei Yee’s scenes were certainly the hardest to write. It never crossed my mind that this wasn’t a YA novel, I always knew that’s what it was supposed to be.
RC: The Walled City marks a bit of a departure in genre from [Graudin’s debut novel] All That Glows — which did you have the most fun writing?
RG: I loved writing The Walled City, however I would not describe it as a fun experience. It was sheerly terrifying and hard and in the end so, so gratifying. All That Glows was definitely more fun in terms of subject matter. Faeries and princes and ancient lore is a bit lighter on the psyche than trafficking and murder and drug running.
RC: What (sub)genre do you think you’re going to try out next?
RG: The sequel to All That Glows (entitled All That Burns) is out in the US in February, but after that I’m exploring a bit of alternative history in a duology that is coming out with the same publishers who published The Walled City. Look for the first book in Fall 2015! I also have a sci-fi idea I’m tinkering around with, but we’ll see if anything comes of that.