I recently had the pleasure of reading and reviewing The Choir Boats, the first book in a new historical fantasy series by Daniel Rabuzzi. He kindly agreed to an interview, and I was able to ask him a few questions. I hope you find his answers as fascinating as I did!
1. How many books will there be in the series? What is the next one called? Is there a projected publication date?
The sequel is called The Indigo Pheasant, or, A Tax from Heaven, and I hope to have it published by 2011. The sequel will cap off the first round of adventures for the McDoons... but I have four other books sketched out in my mind ... if a publisher sees an audience developing for my tales of Yount, then we'll get a total of six one day...
2. One of my favorite things about the book is the way music, math and dreams are part and parcel of the way magic works in the book – can you tell us more about that?
Thank you for that observation. For me, the magic in all of us stems from our wonderful ability to sing, to speak and to divine the mathematical laws that undergird our world. The connections between these three abilities-- separated more often than not in our schooling today-- are still very apparent to us when we dream. Our oldest tales capture these connections, and move them beyond dream. I think of the power of the runes in Scandinavian mythologies, for instance, and of the flow of spirit in the Dreamtime stories told by the first nations of Australia. I am fascinated by the explosion of discoveries within the neurosciences as a result of functional MRIs, and other non-invasive brain scans-- our incredible brain is far more plastic than we realized, and our musical and mathematical aptitudes seem to be more tightly intertwined than previously realized.
3. I found the character of Maggie to be particularly compelling, especially as we are tantalized with brief glimpses of her, but she remains mysterious. Will she be featured more prominently in the next book?
Ah, such a great question! Maggie will absolutely feature more prominently in the sequel...in fact, without giving away too much, Maggie will emerge as the main character, the deciding (and decisive) protagonist... I think about Maggie all the time...
4. I enjoyed the mentions made of other characters from books set in that same location and time period as though they were actual, living contemporaries of the characters in the book. What made you decide to do that, and why did you include the particular characters you mention?
I surprised myself when I first did that, as it happens! The pen has a mind of its own sometimes... I found that I had referred to Lucky Jack Aubrey without any idea that I was going to...but it seemed quite natural, since I love the Aubrey/Maturin novels, which take place in the same era...since I also love Jane Austen, I decided to include some references...it just felt right that Sally would know Elizabeth Bennet (who will be Mrs. Darcy upon Sally's return in the next book-- won't that be interesting?)....I also love Dickens and thought it good to include a few of my favorites as well, albeit in younger versions since, of course, Dickens's world is a decade or two after mine and Austen's...
5. I love the cover as well as the interior illustrations, and I love the fact that the artist is also your wife. Can you talk a little bit about how that collaboration came to be?
One of the most pleasurable aspects of the project was collaborating with Deborah. She is my first (and fiercest) critic-- she reads everything I write. When the time came for Chizine Publications to do the cover, I recommended that they use a photograph of a woodcarving she had done as part of her "Sea Beast Series" (which she exhibited at Mercy College in Manhattan two years ago). The creature had the feel of the ones in the Interrugal Lands. Chizine was amenable, and their wonderful book designer Erik Mohr did a great job with it. The illustrations-- which Deborah matched painstakingly to each chapter's theme-- followed naturally. I want Deborah to illustrate all the Yount books!
6. Who are your favorite authors – the ones you loved as a kid as well as the ones you read today?
So many, so many... as a kid (but all remain favorites to this day!): Sendak, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Lord Dunsany, Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, LeGuin, and as many fairytales and folktales from every possible place as I could find. Since then: Borges, Thomas Mann, Calvino, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Ellen Kushner, Nalo Hopkinson, Phillip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Greer Gilman, Delia Sherman, Z.Z. Packer, Theodora Goss, China Mieville, Catherynne Valente, Angela Carter, A.S. Byatt, Bharati Mukherjee. Some particular recommendations: Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu's Zahrah the Windseeker, Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, Susanna Clarke's Strange & Norrell. Some very new books that are very good indeed: David Anthony Durham's Acacia series, Ken Scholes's Named Lands series, Cindy Pons's debut Silver Phoenix, and Malinda Lo's debut Ash. I am writing about the latter four in upcoming entries of my blog Lobster & Canary.
7. In the contest to win a copy of The Choir Boats, I’ve asked those who enter to tell me which fictional country they’d most like to visit in person. So I thought it would be fun to ask you, too. Is there one you’d choose over all the others?
Well, if I really had to choose just one, it would be Tolkien's Middle-Earth, but specifically the Elvish kingdoms of Beleriand during the First Age. LeGuin's Earthsea and Alexander's Prydain would run Middle-Earth a close race though!
8. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I absolutely love to hear from readers, who should feel free to contact me at drabuzzi AT earthlink DOT net.