A Queen Who’s Writing: Catching Up with Sarah Kozloff

We know you love a binge-read, so with Sarah Kozloff’s Nine Realms series, we’re trying something a little different: we’re publishing all four books in the series in four months, with book 1, A Queen in Hiding, coming on January 21st – read an excerpt here! While you’re waiting, catch up with author Sarah Kozloff on her unusual inspirations, the Bechdel test, and her career as a film studies professor.

What were your biggest inspirations writing the Nine Realms series?

Since I read The Lord of the Rings in childhood, the books have been buried deep in my heart. When I started to write, however, I found myself drawing equally on classic movies, such as The Seven Samurai and its remake, The Magnificent Seven, for scenes about the building of a small band of raiders, who go up against incalculable odds.

You’ve said the Bechdel test helped spur you into starting A Queen in Hiding. Can you tell us about that?

Sure. I was teaching a class on American Women Directors and we were looking at charts about which films could or could not pass the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test, created by Alison Bechdel, sets a very low bar concerning the representation of women in a story: do two named female characters talk to one another about something else besides a man?  Basically the test asks, “do female characters serve as more than adjuncts to men?”

As fully-fleshed as Arwen, Galadriel, and Éowyn may be, they never talk to one another—they exist in separate storylines, and thus the series fails. Staring at that chart, at that moment I resolved to write a series about the return of the queen.

Can you tell us about your favorite (non-spoilery) scene?

I doubt that anyone else will love this scene as much as I do, but it is far and away my favorite. In A Broken Queen, Cerúlia has been injured and fallen in a moat that backs up on a swamp. She is rescued by a series of sea creatures: first an enormous turtle, then elephant seals, then dolphins. I tried to capture each of the rescuers’ personalities and the vast sea under the moonlight, reverberating with the songs of a pod of whales. It is perhaps the most overtly “magical” scene in the 2000 pages of the four books.

You’re a film professor at Vassar. What drew you to epic fantasy?

Many of us live secular lives in a post-sacred era. Epic fantasy often reaches for the numinous, offering hints that Fate can take a hand. As Gandalf tells the reluctant Frodo, he was meant to carry the Ring. I find that this genre enlarges lives that can too often seem meaningless. I’m drawn to the flashes of grandeur, just as I respond to the heart-stopping beauty of great cinematography, lush soundtracks, or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing cheek to cheek into heaven.

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