Writing the Books You Want to Read

Written by Jacqueline Carey

I’m an eclectic reader, so I suppose it stands to reason that I’m an eclectic writer, too. I crave fresh challenges.

I thrive on variety.

Sometimes you want to read a book that’s like a sumptuous feast, rich and decadent, a lengthy, immersive experience. Sometimes you just want a book that goes down like tossing back a bowl of popcorn, handful after handful, until you’re startled to find it gone.

Sometimes you want to be surprised and delighted, to encounter the literary equivalent of molecular gastronomy, reconstituted beads of golden beets, let’s say, that resemble trout roe, yet burst in your mouth with an unexpected earthy sweetness.

I want to read those books.

I want to write those books, all of them. Language is such an infinitely malleable medium. I want to continue to explore its possibilities. I want to maintain the joy of discovery and the excitement in execution that the creative process affords.

For me, that means writing in different styles, different voices, different genres. And I suspect that holds true for some of the more interesting writers of this generation, those of us with hungry, restless minds and eclectic palates. When I consider the works of authors like Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling or Kazuo Ishiguro, I’m inspired by the breadth and depth of their literary undertakings, and I know myself to be in excellent company.

With the release of the original Kushiel’s Legacy trilogy, I established a name for myself as a writer of opulent historical fantasy, epic in scope and dense with intrigue, and most notoriously, infused with a provocative strain of dark eroticism. Given the latter, it may have come as a surprise to readers that my next project, The Sundering duology, contained nary a single love scene.

There’s a good reason for this. The Sundering is Tolkienesque fantasy, deconstructed and re-envisioned as epic tragedy from a point of view sympathetic to the losing side. I find there’s an almost chaste quality to Tolkien’s handling of romance, and that was one of the many elements I wanted to riff on.

So, nope, no sexytimes.

But it was still written in the fairly ornate, mannered prose that had become one of my hallmarks, so it probably also surprised people a few years later when I came out with the near-future dystopian fable Santa Olivia, which features a style so much more blunt and muscular that I dropped the f-bomb on the first page. That book also contains a love scene that successfully incorporates the word “scamper,” a fact in which I take inordinate delight.

Everything I’d written to that point took place outside contemporary society, but then I had a fun idea for a paranormal and wrote the Agent of Hel series, which is whimsical and creepy and laced with an abundance of pop cultural references. I hope many of these references remain classics and a snapshot of a time and place, but I am sure that few of them are probably already on their way to obsolescence.

Now with the release of Miranda and Caliban, I’m offering my take on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and once again, it’s like nothing I’ve written before. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true since it’s another deconstruction, but from a narrative standpoint, it’s wholly new territory. It’s written in the present tense and features the alternating first-person voices of my two eponymous protagonists, which grow and evolve over time. In some ways, it’s the most literary and delicate thing I’ve ever written.

Ah, but what comes next?

After writing a book as delicate and nuanced as Miranda and Caliban, I’m ready for some heartier fare. After writing within the confines of an existing plot framework, I’m ready to give free rein to my creative impulses. And after working with such an intimate cast of characters, I’m ready to populate my own bold new world. So next year, I’ll be returning to epic fantasy—with a dash of pulp horror just to spice things up—with a tale of honor and love and destiny set in a vast archipelago beneath starless skies, where strange and wondrous gods walk the earth.

I look forward to sharing it…and to exploring further literary vistas yet to come!

Follow Jacqueline Carey on Facebook and on her website.

3 thoughts on “Writing the Books You Want to Read

  1. Dang, woman! I’m all pavlovian about the “Miranda and Caliban” release, and now you have me anticipating this new project on the horizon! Thanks for being so eclectic in your writing, so we can continue to be in our reading.

  2. Wonderful for you to write about your work this way. Variety! It can lead into strange bedfellows, or so they say!

  3. As a follower of Jacqueline Carey works,since I picked up the first novel, I have never complained about,as she calls it , electic writing. Her storytelling is one that calls to your imagination and keeps you riveted to the pages., but her style is not quick beach reading. I happen to like that in a book. Glad to see she is putting out another book this year.

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