Genevieve Cogman’s first novel, The Invisible Library, was released in the US earlier this month. Before turning to the LIBRARY series, Cogman wrote for role-playing games like The Dresden Files and Vorkosigan games. She lives in the north of England and works for the National Health Service. Genevieve chatted with me about The Invisible Library, writing and knitting yarn.
One random commenter with a USA address will win a copy of The Invisible Library.
Marion Deeds: I know from the afterword and a couple of interviews you’ve given that you live in the north of England, you like musicals and that you’re a quilter. What else would you like to tell your American audience about yourself?
Genevieve Cogman: It’s difficult to know what to pick out about one’s self that would interest other people. I enjoy doing a bit of solo tourism – I’ve been to Paris, to Venice, to Prague, to Amsterdam … I spend too much time reading. I drink far too much coffee. My flat is overcrowded with books, fabric, and yarn.
What kind of yarn?
Noro is my absolute favorite here, although I have lots of other types/manufacturers too.
Well, I just looked up Noro yarns on the internet and they look splendid.
In the world of The Invisible Library, the Fae are agents of Chaos, while dragons represent Order. Although you are going in a completely different direction than Michael Moorcock chose with the ELRIC series, were you influenced by him in any way?
Very likely, as I first read Moorcock when I was eleven or so, and I’ve been through quite a number of his books. (Elric, Hawkmoon, Corum, and so on…) I can’t be sure how much he’s influenced me, but I’m sure that his influence is in there.
Who are your writing influences?
Probably too many to count. Consciously, I could mention Bujold, Barbara Hambly, Tolkien, John Dickson Carr, Emma Lathen, Edmund Crispin, GK Chesterton, Barry Hughart, Moorcock (as above!) and others. Subconsciously… I honestly don’t know. I suspect that most of what one reads filters through to influence what one writes to some degree, and I read a lot.
John Dickson Carr is a name we don’t see too often anymore. Do you have a favorite book of his.
No single favorite of his, I’m afraid, though I have a shelf of his books under the names of both John Dickson Carr and Carter Dixon.
Your dragons are interesting and original. Tell us how you developed them.
They’re partly based on the Journey to the West, partly from Minekura Sakuya’s manga Saiyuki, partly based on a friend’s writing (said friend is one of my beta-readers), with a little bit from general mythology, a touch of Moorcock, a smidgeon of the Exalted roleplaying game (something else I’ve written for in the past), and a whole lot of their own pride and prejudice.
Who was the most fun character to write for you? And who was most difficult?
Silver was the most fun to write. He embraces cliché so gleefully and enthusiastically, and strikes such lovely poses. Vale was the hardest, because I wanted to get the homage to a certain character (readers will know which character) correct. And it’s so easy to get the “wrong” feeling when you’re trying to evoke a particular character.
I thought Bradamant was perfectly awful, and by that I mean, awful by the intention of the writer, and perfectly depicted. She’s dislikeable, but understandable. Will we be seeing more of her? And was she a challenge to write?
You will be seeing more of her: she shows up again in book three, and possibly later on as well. (I have her loosely penciled in for an appearance in book five, though since that’s only outline as yet, we will have to see.) She was a bit of a challenge in that I wanted to make her dislikeable but also, as you say, understandable. She has some reasons for grievance. I also wanted to make it plausible that other people would buy the way that she presents herself.
This book recently came out in the US, which means, I think, that we are at least one book behind. Without spoilers, what can we expect in Book Two, The Masked City?
Irene and Kai get to take an entertaining vacation trip, where they will make new friends, have cultural experiences, and enjoy train rides. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I’m looking forward to reading it. Before you sold the LIBRARY series, you wrote for several role-playing games, including the Vorkosigan games and The Dresden Files. How did that experience help you when you started writing novels? Did it hinder you in any way?
I don’t think it hindered me. It taught me a lot of valuable things about accepting editing and criticism, and writing from different points of view. It also taught me the importance of getting my head down and writing and making my deadlines.
I noticed that the Global and World Cities Research Network ranks cities using an Alpha thru Gamma system, although their rankings are based on economics rather than magic and high technology. Did their scale inspire you in some way? What brought about the idea of “rating” alternate worlds?
I’m afraid that I’d never heard of that scale before you mentioned it, so thank you for teaching me something new! But no, that had nothing to do with the scaling that the Library uses for worlds in my books. I created those “ratings” because I felt that the Library would have some sort of classification so that they could identify a given world. The Fae and the dragons do have their own ways of identifying specific alternate worlds, but those are different from the Library’s methodology.
Tell us what you’re working on right now.
I’m currently working on Book Four. In terms of what precise scene I’m working on … Irene is attempting a daring escape. It is about to go wrong. She will regret this.
Part of our tradition at Fantasy Literature is to ask authors to tell us their favorite beverage. It can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic and we’ve had answers ranging from various types of tea to a cocktail that was named after the writer’s main character. What is your favorite?
Coffee, definitely coffee. I can and do drink tea and alcohol and fruit juice and water and other things, but coffee is my regular several-cups-a-day drink.
And don’t forget, one commenter with a U.S. address gets a free copy of The Invisible Library!