Gwen Perkins is here for an interview. Her book The Universal Mirror was released at the start of the year by Hydra Publications.
On the island of Cercia, the gods are dead, killed by their followers and replaced with the study of magic. Magicians are forbidden to leave their homeland. Laws bind these men that prevent them from casting spells on the living–whether to harm or to heal.
Quentin, a young nobleman, challenges these laws out of love for his wife. His best friend, Asahel, defies authority at his side, unaware that the search for this lost magic will bring them both to the edge of reason, threatening their very souls. The Universal Mirror shows how far two men are willing to go for the sake of knowledge and what they will destroy to obtain it.The Universal Mirror is the first novel in the epic fantasy series, Artifacts of Empire. Its sequel, The Jealousy Glass, will be released in November 2012.
Please share a bit about yourself –
I’m a mother of three lovely children, two girls, Amaranth and Nynaeve, and a boy, Oisin. (And anyone who can name the origin of all three names will earn my admiration.) We live in the Pacific Northwest in the City of Destiny. Our house is ever full of stray animals and children.
So far as that whole “day job” thing goes, I’m a curator at a museum. This isn’t quite as it’s portrayed in the movies. Some days, I feel like a private detective and others like a magician. Either way, I spend much of my time thinking about the past and talking to children or creating things for the public to enjoy. I’m very fortunate in where I work–I’m constantly inspired by the world around me.
Do you remember where your love of history came from? –
Trashy biographies. I know, I know, I’m expected to say something more academic but the fact is, I love tabloid history. That doesn’t mean I go around spreading historic rumors but I’d much rather read stories about how chroniclers spread lies about the Empress Theodora dancing nude with chickens than stare at pages of a Farmer’s Almanac.
I’m also a bit of an “X-Files” historian. If there’s a weird event or mysterious happening that I run across in some letter or archive, I’m on it. One of my favorite bits of history is the shipwreck of the Andelana in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay. The ship mysteriously capsized on Friday the 13th in January of 1899, disappearing overnight with the crew on-board. Only one crew member survived, a cabin boy who was in the hospital at the time. Wilhelm Hester, a photographer who took the last shot of the crew (minus the absent cabin boy), became extremely superstitious afterwards. Supposedly, after this, Hester always insisted that one member of the crew stand outside of every photograph because every man in the photograph he took of the Andelana had died. The tragedy became such a mythologized event that afterwards, spiritualists rowed out in boats with lanterns at night to try and commune with the dead at the bottom of the Bay.
History tends to be well dry what would you recommend to those interested but wanting something more light and fun?
Oh, definitely biographies–especially those of movie stars. If you can get them, the autobiographies written by June Havoc (who was an actress and dance marathoner) and her sister Gypsy Rose Lee (famous burlesque dancer) are fantastic. While I do have a high tolerance for dry history, I also like to settle down with a book that’s just fun.
There is also historical fiction out there that’s pretty engaging and relatively accurate–The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George and I, Claudius by Robert Graves. I often find that reading a good novel about history, then using that to guide my exploring is a lot more interesting and makes the research livelier. Just remember that fiction authors do take creative license!
Does your work as a museum curator fuel your imagination Night at the Museum like or is it all business?
Oh, I definitely have Night at the Museum fantasies all the time! Our galleries are filled with ghostly white mannequins and I admit that, walking through them in the dark gives me shivers from time to time. (The right museum would be a fantastic setting for a horror novel. Er… preferably something other than a wax museum. That’s been overdone.) Not to mention, there is a mummy upstairs right now. How could I not be inspired?
When do you fit time in to write? –
I generally write after 9 pm just because that’s when my children are in bed. It’s a little difficult to get much writing done while they’re awake. I do tend to think a little better after dark–there’s just something about it that gets the creative juices flowing.
What is your work space and routine like? –
Well, I’m not one of those lucky writers with an office. I have a desk though! It’s in the living room, kind of off to the corner. So on the occasions that I do need to work while the family’s awake, I can chatter to them while I type. My desk is typically rather cluttered, I admit, with manuscripts, notes, and books by other people.
So far as routine goes, I’m only consistent when I’m on a novel schedule. (I start again in June. Right now, I’m on “vacation.”) What I tend to do is give myself deadlines and write to those. On average, I push myself to write daily with a goal of finishing one chapter a week minimum. I do outline and use that to stay on task as well–I tend to build into my schedule weeks to revisit and revamp the timelines. I see writing as a second job and like a job, I also schedule breaks and vacations to keep myself sane. (Though I admit, this is harder than it seems because I love to write!)
The cover for The Universal Mirror looks great how involved were you in the design? –
I was lucky enough to be very involved in the process. I selected the artist, Enggar Adirasa, and was shown the proofs every step of the way so that I could give feedback. In fact, if you’d like to see the early iterations of the design, I have them posted on my website here: http://theuniversalmirror.com/
It was great to be able to watch the cover unfold all the way from rough sketch to the finished product.
Tell us about The Universal Mirror –
On the island of Cercia, God is dead, killed by his followers and replaced with the study of magic. The people are suspicious of magicians, believing them the cause of ill fortune. So the universities train magicians in the use of magic, as well as in the restrictions — or Heresies — that bind it. Magicians must not leave their homeland; they must not cast spells on the living–whether to harm or to heal.
Quentin, a young nobleman, and his friend Asahel are both magicians. But they come from very different backgrounds. Quentin belongs to an old bloodline, though his grandfather has whittled away the last of his family’s fortune. Asahel, on the other hand, always smells of the sea, his face smudged with dirt. He was decidedly out-of-place at the universities that trained magicians, since most of them came from the upper classes. Their curiosity was what bound Quentin and Asahel together in school and preserves their friendship afterwards. They both long to explore magic, rather than cage it.
Quentin longs to heal the woman that he loves, Catharine. Catharine is pitted and scarred from a series of Plagues which came to Cercia. She wants no part of Quentin because of her self-hatred, disliking it if he so much as looks at her. But Quentin adores Catharine in spite of this, wanting nothing more than her affections. If he is to save her from herself, he must be able to use his magic to heal.
And it’s sequel –
One year after the conclusion of The Universal Mirror, a revolution has placed the heroes of Cercia among its leaders. Quentin has taken the reins of government, elevating his friend Asahel and casting down their former ally Felix as a scapegoat for the wrongs that government committed. The laws of magic have been broken and with that freedom, comes threat from outside and within. To prevent the Empire of Anjdur from warring with the small island nation, Quentin sends Asahel as an ambassador to the other nation, along with the party Asahel hand-selects, one that includes Felix in spite of his history with Quentin.
The journey to Anjdur is interrupted when their ship is attacked and destroyed. Cast adrift, Asahel and Felix make their way to the shore and eventually find Nicolas, an atheist cleric who was part of the crew. The three men are forced to approach Aulis, the capital of Anjdur as not only diplomats but beggars.
Anjdur has just ended a civil war over religious extremism led by the Sophists, a group faithful to the deposed Empress Sophia. The Cercians are invited to the court by the new ruler, Irena, but rapidly suspect her of having an agenda for her kind treatment of them. When she is nearly assassinated by Sophists, it becomes apparent that Irena’s reign of religious tolerance is threatened by those who supported her sister Sophia, the former Empress. Coming from a land of little religion, the three men realize that if Cercia is to survive against the might of the Anjduri Empire, Irena must be secure on her throne.
What’s next after this series is done? –
I have plans for other books in the Artifacts of Empire series. The Jealousy Glass is the first of a two-part arc in the Artifacts-verse and there are other stories yet to be told. I’m also concurrently writing a YA novel with Wilson Fabián Saravia which I’m incredibly excited about. That one is quite different from what I’m doing with my present series though it’s definitely still got my usual love for weird history woven in.