So now that there’s a good solid chunk of Serpent’s Kiss out in the world (and much more to come—settle in!), I wanted to talk a bit about why I’m so excited to be writing and sharing this book.
I’ve already discussed over on Twitter and on Wattpad how much I love mixing magic and romance together. I spent a lot of years trying to pick just one of those genres, because if I didn’t choose—well, how will anyone know what shelf you belong on in the bookstore? The Apocrypha: Dying World books, the Invisible War books—those are definitely shelved in speculative fiction, even if I tried to sneak in just a little romance. But I was trying very hard to play by the rules with those books, and I think they suffered for it.
(Side note, when I write the next Invisible War book, there will be much more romance in it.)
So there was no question the Empire of the Four Suns series was going to contain both romance (of the steamy sort) and magic. The magic part was easy. Worldbuilding has always been a game for me, so exploring the new world and poking at its hows and whys was fast and easy. The romance part…well, there were more decisions that had to happen there.
From what I can see, there has been a line in romance for a long time. A wall, really. With straight romance on one side and non-straight romance on the other, and never the twain shall cross. On a superficial level, this is frustrating because it means those books feel artificially limited. On a deeper, more dangerous level, it separates people, divides and others them. (Romance Writers of America are struggling through some of the effects of that othering right now.)
The Empire of the Four Suns series is an epic length story, with an epic length cast of characters. Frankly, it would have been boring if everyone in the world were straight, or gay, or cis. A cast of this size gave me the opportunity for variety, to have ALL the characters that I want to write.
And this decision brought me back to the fun of worldbuilding. What does a world look like where people are free to express themselves, to live the way they want to live and with whom? Is this a world where everyone can make their choice free of discrimination? (Spoilers: yes…and no.) What’s it like to be on any part of the sexuality spectrum among the clans? What about the gender spectrum? These are fun questions to engage with as a writer! (Special call out here to Lukas Tolvaj, who has been friend, advisor, and sensitivity reader and who’s questions sent me in all kinds of interesting directions. He’s amazing. Hire him!)
At this point you’ve met Yeijiro, Corinne, Alexia, Tōru, Roman, Satsu, and Andreas. There are many more to come. There are a lot of relationships ahead of us. I hope you have as much fun reading them as I have had writing them.