Melanie Rawn received a B.A. in history from Scripps College and worked as a teacher and editor before becoming a full-time writer. Her work includes the Dragon Prince and Dragon Star trilogies, as well as the Exiles and Spellbinder series. Her latest novel, Touchstone, is the first in a new fantasy series. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Note: This interview first appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, and was conducted by Theodore Quester.
Your story, “Mother of all Russiya,” features a strong historical element, and a great sense of place. Did this require a lot of research? Did you travel to the region at all? Is this something that comes before or after the story idea?
“Travel to the region”—don’t I wish!
There is a tremendous amount of world-building here—do you make use of it in other stories?
Whereas the research was for this story specifically, one can’t help but collect things for other projects along the way. I’m sure bits of it will show up in future novels.
What drew you to this subject?
A few years ago, I was looking up some other things about that period in Russia and happened upon a brief biography of Olga. She lived an amazing life. In the one portion of it told in “Mother of All Russiya,” there’s treachery, murder, intrigue, rebellious vassals, a nation in the making, and a smart and ruthless woman who will do anything to protect her son—what’s not to love about a story like that?
Was this a difficult story to write?
The difficulty was in trying to make the time and place more real—all this happened more than a thousand years ago, and in a part of the world that we don’t usually learn much about. Set a story in Ancient Rome or 12th Century England, and the reader will most likely have a mental file of background information; medieval Kiev is pretty much a mystery. So I got to put my history B.A. from Scripps College to good use (not the Scripps in La Jolla, the one in Claremont; we don’t do fish!).
What else do you have coming down the pipeline?
Right now I’m working on the third book of the “Glass Thorns” series. In March, I did a West Coast book tour for the first volume, Touchstone, and had a terrific time. Writing these books is huge fun; the characters are unlike anybody I’ve ever done before.
What are some of your favorite examples of epic fantasy (in any media), and what makes them your favorites?
Mad Men. No, really. Mad Men.
Fascinating characters, a world in sometimes violent upheaval, bizarre social and sexual mores (not to mention interior design), deaths, back-stabbings, politics, and wizards who perform enchantments (with widely distributed printed spells and even more widely distributed visual spells for which one must possess a special magical box) to convince people that things they don’t want and don’t need and can’t afford are in fact things they can’t possibly live without.
Oh, and really nifty costuming.