Rene Sears: I love the interactions between Widdershins and Olgun. He has a very strong personality, especially for a character who doesn't speak. What was the idea behind their relationship?
Ari Marmell: The original idea, honestly, was pretty shallow. It was, quite literally, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if she had this god riding around with her?" No personality, no reason, certainly no idea of playing with the idea of religion and divinity in that setting.
Not that I'd ever have written it that way, but that's how it first came to me. Only later did everything develop, including his personality, his almost paternal feelings for Widdershins, his method of communication, etc.
It's also interesting that his form of communication works so well for the character interaction, since my original reason for choosing to go that route, instead of having him speak, was incredibly banal. I'd already written a novel--The Conqueror's Shadow--in which the protagonist had an unseen companion. In that case, the entity does speak (and is in fact one of the most smart-assed characters I've ever written, which is probably saying something). The idea of having Olgun communicate in ways other than speech was, initially, nothing more than an effort not to repeat myself too closely.
I know, I'm ruining the illusion that everything was meticulously planned from the first word. The secret of writing is to make it look like you know what you're doing--not necessarily to actually know it.
Rene Sears: What are some of the challenges of writing a second book? Is anything easier?
Ari Marmell: Some things are, sure. I don't have to introduce the characters. I don't have to make up a lot of the personal or cultural details. That sort of thing.
On the other hand, some things are actually harder. When writing the first book of a series, I can just write the characters as they come to me. But in a second book, I have established speech patterns and the like, which I need to adhere to. I know it seems like familiarity should make characters easier to write--and it does in some situations--but it does mean I have to worry more about consistency in terms of things like, "Well, is this actually how this character would say this?"
Rene Sears: Davillon seems to have a French Renaissance feel to it. What drew you toward this stratified society and level of technology as a setting?
Ari Marmell: Well, for one, I wanted to try something other than the traditional faux-Medieval fantasy setting, which I'd already used in several books. But I've always liked the aesthetics of the Renaissance. I think it has a lot of story potential in fantasy that's not nearly as thoroughly explored as the Middle Ages. And what with the ideas of Guilds, a colorful aristocracy living in (relatively) close proximity with the poor, the heavy influence of religion, the more subtle forms of magic... All of it just felt tailor-made for these books.
As to why I went French rather than, say, Italian or something else? I can't give you an answer other than that, once again, it felt right, honestly. Although, there are other nations bordering Gallice that aren't inspired by France. (I made a passing reference to one in False Covenant.) With any luck, that's something I'll get to explore in the future.