Could you give a quick summary of The Voidwitch Saga for those who may not have read it yet (WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, PEOPLE?!)
Mars Xi is a genetically-engineered human weapon who’s been on the run from the people who made her for most of her life. At the start of Killing Gravity, these shadowy forces have almost caught up to her, and Mars must rely on the kindness of strangers as well as her own terrifying telekinetic potential to survive.
Mars has had few friends throughout her life, and in Void Black Shadow we see the lengths to which she’ll go to protect them. As the name suggests, it gets dark, and it’s the most political of the three books.
In Static Ruin, Mars finally confronts the man who started it all – her father.
How did you come up with the general story? I mean.. KILLER. SPACE. WITCHES.
It was a whole number of ideas all colliding together in my head. The spark was Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. When I read it, I found myself skimming over the sections related to the politics of the universe she’d created because I wasn’t interested in any of that – I was interested in the characters. By the end of the book it became apparent that the politics were actually important, but by then it was too late, and I just didn’t care. But it led me to think – could I write a space opera where the galactic conflicts and politics are happening somewhere in the background, and the story itself is focused instead on the fringe of the galaxy and the outcasts who live there? After that, the rest of it kind of snowballed.
In terms of Mars’ abilities, it was Akira that instantly came to mind – massive telekinetic destruction, but on an even larger scale than the movie and comics show.
There is no shortage of diverse characters within this series, but it is Mariam Xi that is obviously the glue that holds it together. She is such a brilliant character! Was her voice hard to write or did it just come naturally?
Mars came really naturally, and I think that’s because there’s so much of me in her. The self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness are straight out of my own experience, and the rage and violence is something I dealt with (in a minor capacity, I think) in my early teens. I hope I’ve matured into a calm and conscientious adult, but Mars never had that chance – she had to lie, cheat, steal, and kill just to survive.
She’s not a good person, but she is fiercely loyal to those she loves, and she is an unflinching protector of the weak, so she’s not all bad.
How much input did you have regarding the covers? Tommy Arnold is an artistic genius! I think he is truly one of the greatest modern cover artists & your covers are especially rad as hell!
Tommy Arnold is definitely one of the best cover artists working today. My editor (Carl Engle-Laird) and I had a similar idea in mind for the first cover, which probably would have been too busy. Tommy definitely made the right call with keeping the design clean and striking.
Can you describe how you felt when you first held a physical copy of Killing Gravity in your hands? Or what it was like seeing it out in the wild for the first time?
Ecstatic. I’m still kind of amazed that it’s a real thing that people have on their bookshelves.
Which writers inspire you?
William S. Burroughs is the main one in terms of actual prose. The way he used language was completely unique, particularly his descriptions. Warren Ellis in terms of output, discipline, and the way he keeps a distinctive voice across projects and different forms. I’m also coming up alongside some incredible writers like JY Yang, Cassandra Khaw, and Brooke Bolander. It’s always inspiring just to see their work, and all the amazing stories that are coming out of the SFFH fields at the moment.
Are you a gamer? This almost had a Mass Effect/Halo quality to it. Would you ever want to expand this world into video games or graphic novels?
These days I basically only play co-op games with a friend who lives in the UK, but I played the first few Halos and have played through the Mass Effect trilogy (exclusively femshep, of course). I actually loved two of the early Halo novels, so I’m not surprised that you see a link. I wouldn’t say either Halo or Mass Effect were overt influences on Killing Gravity but after the fact I can certainly see the parallels.
I would love to see VoidWitch comics and/or video games!
Can we expect to see more Mars in the future? A full-length prequel novel, perhaps?! (PLEASE SAY YES!)
It’s really hard to say. Mars’ story has been told by the end of Static Ruin. If I’ve done my job properly, then readers will be sad to see it end, but content with how it was all wrapped up. I mean, I could easily bring her back to do a series of stories with Mars as a wandering ronin type figure, but unless I came up with a new conflict just as central to her character as the one conflicts in the trilogy, the new stories just wouldn’t have the same weight.
There’s also the fact that putting her in more books means putting her in more danger. She’s been through a lot already, so she deserves a break.
In terms of the VoidWitch universe though, I could imagine finding a lot of stories to tell there if I ever had the chance to return. I’ve actually written a first-draft of a novel that’s a spin-off from Void Black Shadow, following the space witches that Mars meets very briefly. That one is more of a traditional space opera, showing two sides of a battle for control of the galaxy. I have a vague idea of where this story could go as a full trilogy of novels, potentially reintroducing Mars in the third book, but as it stands there’s simply not enough interest to get the novel published.
Tor.com Publishing have already done a fantastic job supporting me with the trilogy of novellas, but to go beyond that it comes down to numbers, plain and simple. Maybe one day, but for now there are other stories to tell.
Is there anything you are currently working on that you could share a bit about?
My next book, REPO VIRTUAL, has just been announced, so I can finally talking about that! REPO VIRTUAL (sorry, but it just looks better in all caps) is my attempt at adding to the cyberpunk canon. It’s a fully 21st Century take on the subgenre, showing the environmental and sociopolitical repercussions of the rampant corporations that cyberpunk warned us about, and maybe helped normalise.
I’ll be working again with Tor.com and Carl Engle-Laird, and I couldn’t be happier about that fact. It will be released sometime in 2020 (damn, that’s such a cyberpunk number).
(That *is* such a badass cyberpunk number!)
Finally, it’s the battle of the killer minds – Mars Xi & River Tam.. who wins the fight?!
It’s been so long since I watched either Firefly or Serenity, so I can hardly remember the extent of River’s abilities (beyond the martial arts). Still, I’d have to say Mars, hands down.
Though I’d like to think that if Mars had a chance to learn about River’s background, they’d team up instead.
(YES!! I think they would make one hell of a pair!)
Thanks for this, it was a lot of fun!
Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me, Corey! I cannot wait to read the third & final installment of The Voidwitch Saga, Static Ruin, available November 6th!
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