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In this epic new work, the award-winning Kenyon, whose work has be compared to Larry Nivens and Stephen R. Donaldson, creates an alternate Earth in the 19th century. This Earth is ruled by two warring factions—scientific Anglica (England) and magical Bharata (India).
Tori Harding, a Victorian woman, whose heart aches to claim the legendary powers of the golden lotus, must leave her reasoned world behind and journey to Bharata. In pursuit of the golden lotus, Tori will be forced to brave its magics, intrigues, deadly secrets and haunted places, to claim her destiny and choose between two lovers in two irreconcilable realms.
As a great native insurrection sweeps the continent of Bharata—Tori will find the thing she most desires, beautifully flawed and more wonderfully strange than she could have ever dreamed.
Interview with Author Kay Kenyon
Can you talk a little about what the book is about?
It’s about a young Victorian woman pursuing magical powers in an altered India. She is thwarted in her ambitions in the male-dominated England of the 19th century. Much about my fantasy England and India is historically accurate, such as Victorian settings, British colonialism and the Raj in India. Some is pure magic, such as powerful mages, shapeshifters, magic-infused tigers, demon birds, kraken of the deep and ancient ghosts. There is also a love triangle among my heroine, a handsome captain in her father’s regiment, Edmond Muir-Smith, and Jai, a prince in the glittering court of a raja.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
The British Raj in India. I happened to pick up a book on that subject, and soon became enamored with India’s beauty and resiliance. I love Victoriana, and also wanted to write about a strong young woman, denied many opportunities, who turns to magic as an ally. I also thought it would be great fun to mix fantasy and history. It was!
What message do you want readers to get from reading the book?
The power of accepting the world with its imperfections (and beauty) as opposed to how we demand it to be.
How long did it take to write the book?
Too long! I rewrote in five or six times, the most of any of my eleven novels.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
The most fun to write was Elizabeth, the prosyltizing teacher. Characters with big personalites are always saying rich, unexpected things.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
I am a meticulous planner. I worked from a detailed synopsis and a diagram of major turning points. Still, in a 400 page novel, there were a hundred surprises, including magic tigers, and a love triangle.
If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be?
Fortunately, at the last minute, I change the ending. My beta readers wanted a very bad death for one of the antagonists and a happier ending. They got it!
How did you come up with the cover?
My publisher produced it and I’m delighted with it. Over my career, I’ve had some truly awful covers. (Often for foreign editions.) But as with an ugly baby, you have to act proud!
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I wasn’t sure until I finished my first novel over a decade ago and found I was actually eager to write another. Many aspiring writers have a stereotyped view of what the writing life is like. If you can take the hard work and the ups and downs (accepting imperfections!) you have a better chance to sustain a long-lasting career.
What was the first story that you ever wrote?
My first story, a short story, was about a highy successful novelist mining a family secret for material. I handed it in for a creative writing class, and it probably wasn’t very good. But I still love the title: Dear Descendant.
What are your favorite books and authors?
In science fiction, C.J. Cherryh (Foreigner series), Ian McDonald, (River of Gods), Mike Resnick (Kirinyaga stories). In fantasy, George R.R. Martin, Guy Gavriel Kay (Under Heaven), Naomi Novik (Temeraire series). I also love thrillers and espionage stories: Alan Jacobsen, Alan Furst, Daniel Silva.
What are you working on next?
A book about an enchanted ship lost on a strange ocean. It will come out in January, 2015.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Marry a lawyer! (OK, a joke… but I did.) Read your contracts!
How do you juggle writing with family time?
Discipline. Compromise. Sleep deprivation.
Praise for A Thousand Perfect Things
“This has become my favorite of all Kay Kenyon’s books. The science-driven men of Anglica have constructed a marvel of engineering-a bridge that crosses the ocean-but they don’t understand the mystical forces they’re facing in the dangerously seductive country of Bharata. As usual, Kenyon offers flawless world-building and a diverse cast of characters driven by conflicting and wholly believable desires. This is a rich, gorgeous, and marvelously detailed tapestry of a book.”
– Sharon Shinn, Author of Troubled Waters and Royal Airs
“Kay Kenyon has once again created a world into which one blissfully disappears, replete with magic and monsters, romance and reigning dynasties, set upon the fragile social scaffolding of mid-nineteenth century England. The story is, literally and figuratively, a bridge between the mystical and the very real, with a young heroine who a delivers a deliciously vicarious ride. Brilliantly told with elegant yet occasionally jarring prose, A Thousand Perfect Things is a masterwork from the mind of one of our best authors of compelling alternate realities.”
– Larry Brooks, Author of Story Engineering
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She met Jessa on the walkway between the greenhouse cottage and the great house.
“A visitor!” Jessa declared, waving a note. “Arriving this afternoon.”
“Captain Edmond Muir-Smith. He’s coming to visit Papa.”
Tori vaguely remembered that a Muir-Smith had served under her father in the Pict campaign.
Jessa’s color was high. “Mama’s in a tempest, though he’s just an army officer. One to whom I suppose papa will try to marry me off.”
With her sister’s recent broken engagement tarnishing her prospects, any eligible male visitor raised immediate interest. “How old is this one?”
“Twenty-eight. A captain in the King’s Company of the fusiliers. And he’s taller than I am.”
Tori felt a smile break out. “How long do we have to tear apart the closet to find something to wear?”
Jessa grinned. “Not long enough.”
Looking at her sister, Tori could not imagine that she wouldn’t impress the captain no matter what she wore, with her light brown tresses framing a heart-shaped face.
Looking back toward the library, Tori said, “I’ll be right up.”
As Jessa ran off, Tori paused, glancing up at the sycamore tree. It always managed to gather shadows this time of day. With its flaking bark and patches of dusty green algae it was easy to see in it something that wasn’t there.
Oh, but this time, it was. Her throat went dry.
It perched on a branch quite close to the trunk of the nearest tree. At first impression, it was an owl with bluish purple feathers. Its rotund body was very bird-like, but it wasn’t a natural creature, not with that visage. The face was almost human. A bulbous nose flabbed down the length of its face so that both human and owl aspects were equally repugnant.
Its head rotated around to her. Large eyes, chillingly light-filled, met hers. She backed up a step. It was . . . it had to be, a manifestation of magic. Do not be afraid, she charged herself.
She shivered under that maladroit gaze. Sometimes magic killed, Anglics had come to learn. Such visitations were called contagions, a term that so perfectly represented Anglic fear of the unscientific. Sometimes contagions presaged a malign event: for example the disaster in Oxfordshire when the train went off its tracks and went four miles before plunging over a cliff. But that said nothing about magic as a practice, for any endeavor might be turned to horrid purpose by those who abused knowledge. She did not wish to judge the intrusion in the sycamore. But the face . . .
It looked away, as though to prove it had other business. But then, slowly, the head swiveled back in her direction. Her stomach tightened. Oh, it looked at her. Assessed her. She yanked her gaze away, lest its eyes drag something out of her–she knew not what.
Why had it come? Oh, leave us in peace, she wanted to plead, but found herself unable to speak. Backing up, she felt a most unseemly haste to be away from it, and turning, rushed up the walkway.