Juliette Wade and I keep running into each other at our local genre conventions. We’ve been on panels together a couple of times, even shared the table of contents of the Strange California book, but we never sat down to chat until last FogCon, when I asked more about her work. She told me about her amazing book Mazes of Power, which will be out next February. You can preorder it now. I’ll put the link below.
Juliette Wade never outgrew of the habit of asking “why” about everything. This path led her to study foreign languages and to complete degrees in both anthropology and linguistics. Combining these with a fascination for worldbuilding and psychology, she creates multifaceted science fiction that holds a mirror to our own society. The author of short fiction in magazines including Analog, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy & Science Fiction, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her Aussie husband and her two sons, who support and inspire her. Her debut novel, Mazes of Power, will come out from DAW in 2020.
The cavern city of Pelismara has stood for a thousand years. The Great Families of the nobility cling to the myths of their golden age while the city’s technology wanes.
When a fever strikes, and the Eminence dies, seventeen-year-old Tagaret is pushed to represent his Family in the competition for Heir to the Throne. To win would give him the power to rescue his mother from his abusive father and marry the girl he loves.
The struggle for power distorts everything in this highly stratified society and the fever is still loose among the inbred, susceptible nobles. Tagaret’s sociopathic younger brother, Nekantor, is obsessed with their family’s success. Nekantor is willing to exploit Tagaret, his mother, and her new servant Aloran to defeat their opponents.
Can he be stopped? Should he be stopped? And will they recognize themselves after the struggle has changed them?
Did something in the real world inspire Mazes of Power?
Mazes of Power itself was not inspired by anything in the real world, but I can track the origins of the world of Varin back to a trip that I took to France when I was twelve years old. I had a chance to drive and camp around France at that time. We went to visit a place called the Gouffre de Padirac. It’s an underground cave system. You climb stairs down and down through an enormous sinkhole, and from there enter an extensive system of caverns where you can board a boat and continue your tour along an underground river. At one point, the ceiling is 110 meters above the surface of the water. I was absolutely awed by the place — and a year later, I invented a world where people lived in high-tech underground cities.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
I went back and forth on this question for a long time, because there are so many scenes I love in this book. In the end, I went with a scene that I love because I’m a geek who loves scenes of interpersonal interaction between people with very different cultural backgrounds. There’s a scene where Lady Tamelera, a kind noblewoman, invites her manservant Imbati Aloran to play a game of keyzel marbles with her. Keyzel marbles is somewhat similar to the game Halma, in that you have a round board with cradles in which colored marbles sit. Keyzel is a two-player game where people attempt to move blue or green stone marbles step by step across an obsidian board. Tamelera’s home has a gaming table and chairs made of inlaid wood — a rare and expensive substance in Varin. Aloran, having sworn himself to Tamelera’s service, truly wants to grant her wishes and play the game with her, but can’t bring himself to sit down in the extravagant chairs, and can’t wrap his mind around the idea that in order to play fairly, he would have to attempt to defeat her.
What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?
My general writing process is to outline as far ahead as I can, usually several chapters ahead, but then to start writing the book from the beginning and continue in chronological order until I reach the end. In the case of Mazes of Power, I attempted to write it once and my momentum petered out at about the 40% mark because the outline was so long and unwieldy. At that point, I took a step back and realized that I had made the wrong person the primary protagonist. Mazes has three point of view characters: Tagaret, Nekantor, and Aloran. The first draft that didn’t work had been treating Aloran as the main character, when in fact it needed to be Tagaret. Once I had rewritten the book so that Tagaret’s was organizing its structure, everything fell into place. I was able to outline it all the way to the end, and able to write it in a way that worked.
What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?
The best thing that happened was that I learned I had sold audiobook rights for both Mazes of Power and its sequel. The reason why this was awesome – besides just that audiobooks are awesome — was that I was able to stop teaching part-time and concentrate fully on my work on the novels.
What do you have planned next?
I’m currently writing the contracted sequel to Mazes of Power, entitled Transgressions of Power. This book also takes place in the world of Varin, and many of the characters from Mazes appear in it. However, it features all new points of view and goes to many places we’ve never seen before. I’m especially excited to be exploring the world of the Arissen officer caste in this book, given that I spent so much time with the Imbati servant caste in Mazes.
Preorder a copy of Mazes of Power on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IRRccX
Check out all the books Juliette has had stories in: https://amzn.to/31jNW0i
Or visit her website: https://juliettewade.com
And read her blog: https://dive-into-worldbuilding.blogspot.com/