As a special treat today, I interviewed Breanna Teintze, author of the newly released Lady of Shadows and it’s predecessor Lord of Secrets. We talked about world building, playlists, and characters. Enjoy this extra post for the week and the chance to pick up a new pair of books to see you through being housebound. Double win.
First up, what is Lady of Shadows about?
Death is simple. Dreams are dangerous. Life is . . . unexpected.
Outlaw wizard Corcoran Gray expected death to be final, but life, and his loved ones, had other plans. A year after being resurrected and flung into a new body, he’s still trying to come to terms with his situation – and his self – when the all-powerful Mages’ Guild demands his help to stop a deadly plague.
He’s inclined to refuse the organisation that still wants him dead, until his partner Brix starts showing symptoms – to save her, Gray will do anything, even if it means working with his greatest enemies.
But it quickly becomes clear that this is no normal plague. The situation is more complicated, and more lethal, than anyone has realised. Ancient dangers are stirring, and thousands of lives are at stake . . .
I’d love to hear more about the world of Corcoran Gray. What influences your choices in world building?
I knew that Lady of Shadows was going to have a much different atmosphere than Lord of Secrets, because I knew we would be going to Genereth. I had figured out that Genereth, the city where Brix’s family is from, existed when I was working on the worldbuilding for the first book. But it’s only mentioned in passing, so in this second book I got to draw a map and really figure out what it would be like to live in the City of Gods. I had several things rattling around in my head when I started to build the city– Trier in Germany, for example, which is full of cathedrals and was an important Roman city before it became important in the church hierarchy in Germany. I thought of all the cities in the world whose tourism and wealth are based on religious pilgrimages. But I didn’t want to design a city that was a copy of Trier or Rome or Jerusalem, and that led me to the trade cities of the American southeast.
That’s a fancy way to say New Orleans. And of course once I knew that Genereth was going to share features with New Orleans, I had to have the music to go along with it.
I had developed a playlist for the finished version of my first book, Lord of Secrets, too, so I knew that music was going to be powerful in establishing the mood and atmosphere of the book. What I didn’t expect was that Lady of Shadows’ atmosphere was going to be quite different from that in the first book. I hope it’s still a lot of fun, but Lady of Shadows is a bit deeper, a bit darker, and I think the playlist reflects that.
Is it the world that then helps you craft such dynamic characters?
For me the characters usually come first. A character will start rattling around in my head before I even have an idea of which plot or world they belong to–sometimes years before I know where they belong. That was especially the case with Lady of Shadows, since I knew Gray and Brix from the first book and I had been thinking for a long time about how their experiences at the end of Lord of Secrets would impact them and their relationship–it’s always bothered me when popular stories either don’t let a couple stay together, or act like they don’t have to do any work to stay together. It’s one of the things I love about The Mummy films from the late 90s–Rick and Evie are devoted to each other, they have normal couple stuff they have to work through, and that doesn’t get in the way of their having adventures together. I think a lot of the time it’s tempting, once you know a character really well, to act as though the lessons the character has learned don’t apply. This is why you get characters in some television shows, for example, who don’t grow season by season–it’s too hard to come up with new lessons for them to learn. So of course I had to challenge myself to not let my characters lose any of the growth and change they had at the end of the first book.
You’ve posted before about building playlists for your books. Can you share yours?
Here’s the links to each, if you’d like:
Do you use the playlists while you’re writing?
I’m too easily distracted for that. I actually have a very set, boring playlist that I write to. I think I’ve trained my mind to respond in Pavlovian fashion that the soundtrack to Tron: Legacy means “writing time.” I do use the book-specific playlists to listen to while I’m cleaning or doing other tasks, so I can brainstorm and get a really good feel for the setting.