This post is part of the Sci-Fi November event, which celebrates all things sci-fi, hosted by Rinn Reads and Oh, The Books! I’m thrilled to have Robert Jackson Bennett here today to answer some questions. You may know him as the author of American Elsewhere and the recent City of Stairs. I recently reviewed City of Stairs and was amazed by the intricate world-building and wonderful characters. I loved it so much, I want to give a copy away, so keep reading after the interview to enter to win a copy for yourself.
**I’ve also discovered that Robert has an AWESOME sense of humor, so please don’t leave without watching his video below, as well as clicking the link to his writing process. If you want a couple of laughs, trust me, you will not be disappointed:-)
Without further ado, please welcome Robert Jackson Bennett to the blog!
Books, Bones & Buffy: It’s been firmly established by bloggers and trade reviewers alike that your world building is one of the strongest elements of the book. What was your inspiration for some of these elements, like the Unmentionable Warehouse and the Blink?
Robert Jackson Bennett: I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a sudden change in reality. For example, as a kid I tried to imagine what would happen if someone just came into existence: no gradual development, no childhood, no background information on how gravity works or even what your body did or even that you had a body in the simplest of terms. How would one cope with that, this sudden physical manifestation in the world?
So to a certain extent, City of Stairs plays off of those same questions: how would a civilization deal with not only a sudden loss of critical infrastructure (try imagining what it would be like if one day we all woke up and all the fossil fuel oil in the world had turned into water), but also a total loss of history? This was what fascinated me to write the Blink.
I do recall that the Unmentionable Warehouse was inspired by the final scene in The Raiders of the Lost Ark. There was also an online game you could play once in the early days of the internet, where you opened boxes at Area 51 and found all these secret things the government had hidden away. It’s too good of a scenario not to write, this idea of bottled up fantastical items all wedged in together in a dark room.
BB&B: I was thrilled to find so many strong female characters in City of Stairs, like Shara and Mulaghesh. Did you have real-life examples to draw inspiration from?
RJB: I read an essay once on Indira Gandhi back in college that was so fascinating it stuck in my head. I think some of it came out here. However, Indira Gandhi is an enormously controversial figure by a lot of common standards, and I would be hesitant to say any characters in the story draw from her directly.
Mostly I did it just because they were so fun to write. I realized the other night that Shara is basically Secret Agent Hermione Granger, in a way.
BB&B: I’ve heard talk about a sequel to City of Stairs. Can you tell us more about what’s next for Shara, Mulaghesh and Sigrud?
RJB: Sure. City of Blades features Mulaghesh being pulled out of retirement and sent to a far-flung, impoverished region that was once the domain of the goddess of war. There she’s joined by Sigrud and some of his family members as they try to track down a missing Ministry agent who seems to have discovered some incredibly important information about a game-changing new natural resource. As the two of them are soldiers and warriors in their own ways, they find a lot to be concerned about in the once-domain of war, and wonder if they can truly change and adjust to a more “civilized” world.
BB&B: If you could use only one of the miracles in the world of City of Stairs, which one would you choose and why?
RJB: Probably Jukov’s Sheets, where they strip you naked and transport you to a distant tropical beach.
BB&B: Since we’re celebrating Sci-Fi Month, please tell us some of your all-time favorite science fiction and/or fantasy books.
I love Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell with a fierce passion. I also love anything Terry Pratchett, as well as anything David Mitchell.
BB&B: Tell us three things about yourself that can’t be found on your website.
- I enjoy smoking meats.
My drink of choice is Wild Turkey 101 neat.
I am from Louisiana but am allergic to seafood.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Robert! OK, folks, here’s the video I was talking about. Don’t think about it, just click the play button and watch:
About the author:
Robert Jackson Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. His fifth novel, City of Stairs, is in stores now.
He lives in Austin with his wife and son. He can be found on Twitter at@robertjbennett.
You can see a short video of what Robert’s future writing plans are right here.
To find out more about Robert’s writing process, click here.
If you haven’t had a chance to read City of Stairs, now’s your chance to win a copy! Giveaway is International, provided the Book Depository ships to your country. To enter, fill out the form below. One winner will be randomly selected on December 2nd. Good luck! (Also, please note my new policy regarding purchasing books from The Book Depository. I reserve the right to select which edition of the book I wish to give away, and I may or may not ask you which one you prefer. For example, you might receive either a paperback or a hardcover, depending on which one is available. I will most likely choose the cheapest option! Also, the book you receive may have a different cover from the cover I show on my blog post. The Book Depository often has both US and UK versions of books, and once again, I will usually choose the cheapest option. So, you’ll get the book, but the edition you receive could be a surprise!!)