Hipster Heroes: Talking Navigation and Necromancy with Graeme Ing

During the Virtual Fantasy Con, a Facebook event that ran from October 15-21, 2017, I had eight guests stop by my booth to talk about their work. The first was friend and fellow fantasy author Graeme Ing, and here is a transcript of our discussion. We were joined by another friend and fantasy author, Edward Buatois. (Look for a blog post featuring Ed next week!)

I loved Graeme’s YA fantasy Ocean of Dust, and I’m looking forward to diving into his adult fantasy Necromancer.

OOD400x600I wanted the Dust Ocean to be like another character. It is mysterious, has a personality of its own and features heavily in the plot and the development of hero Lissa’s character.



Necromancer400x600Necromancer was inspired by two premises: 1. What if a Necromancer was a young, hip hero, rather than the cliched evil, grey-bearded wizard summoning the dead in his dungeon. 2. I wanted the book to be written First Person to bring to life hero Maldren’s sarcastic, overconfident personality. Then I proceeded to break down that confidence over the course of the book.

AMJ: I want to start off with Ocean of Dust, which I loved. How was the Dust Ocean “another character”?

GI: It was one of the first ideas I came up with on this book, and I wanted it to influence hero Lissa’s thoughts and actions as if it were alive somehow, especially when it “talks to her” during the book.

AMJ: Is it alive? There are definitely creatures living inside it, but does the dust itself have awareness?

GI: That’s a great question and I want to save that for the sequels I’m writing next year.

AMJ: OK, fair enough. 🙂

GI: Sorry, I know that’s sneaky. We’ll also find out more about the creatures.

AMJ: One of the things that struck me about Lissa’s development as a character is how her powers begin as an illness. What made you think to set things up that way?

GI: She has a real connection with the dust and the creatures. Because she’s lived on land all her life, suddenly coming into contact with the dust ocean overwhelmed her body. That continues to happen later in the book when she gets closer to the dust in the little boat. She still has to adapt to the powers of the dust ocean.

AMJ: I know you sail–do you get seasick?

GI: A little. Sometimes. Apparently even super-experienced sailors do now and then. Have you ever sailed?

AMJ: I did in college and loved it. Nothing but novice stuff in tiny 12 or 15 foot boats on lakes, but it was fantastic. I’ve always wanted to take real lessons, but never got around to it. I do dive, however, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time on motor boats, and I do get quite seasick in anything rougher than 2-3 foot swells. What other aspects of your sailing experience informed the story of OOD?

GI: Navigation. Sounds boring, I know, but as a kid I was fascinated with maps and exploring. I wanted to follow my dad into the Royal Navy and become a navigator. That’s why one of the major plots of OOD is her learning about navigation. The viewing device on the bow is clearly inspired by the sextant, etc. 🙂

AMJ: And how did you come up with the mechanism that drives the ship through the dust? I imagine it as a sort of giant egg beater.

GI: Interesting. What it actually does is take the “flux” energy that runs through the Dust Ocean. The metal fins they lower off either side of the ship attract the flux, almost like a magnet, and that generates a form of electricity that powers the propellers. I totally wanted to get away from the sailing ship that fills fantasy books.

AMJ: I thought it was super cool that the ship is essentially motor-driven. That played into my science fantasy sensibilities.

GI: I’m a big fan of science fantasy too. Fantasy with technology makes a great read

EB: SF and fantasy can really synergize. SciFi makes it relatable/almost real, and fantasy adds a sense of wonder. Engineering by itself can be boring.

GI: As a reader, I love to try to figure out how the tech works. Is it forgotten and appears like magic to people, or is it basic science

EB: I admire/like what you’re doing with the flux-powered ship, and your motivation to get away from standard sailing ships.So, the ship takes its power from the flux the dust generates, in order to drive through the dust?



GI: Yes, it’s the flux that powers the ship, which is why finding the channels of flux becomes so important in the book

EB: Ok so it’s not a feature of the dust per se but rather almost like the tradewinds. I know not “exactly” but it sounds like it functions the same way.

AMJ: Lissa is pressed into service against her will. Historically, this used to be somewhat common for folks in the wrong place at the wrong time, as Lissa appears to be when the novel opens. I’m curious if a) this practice of essentially kidnapping vessel’s crews off the street will have implications in later stories, and b) if you were thinking of historical examples when you put it in the book.

GI: The kidnapping was important to casting the crew in a bad light. I want readers to see how dangerous the ship and its crew are, but also how relationships change over time as everyone gets to know each other. And yes, press-ganging was a very common recruiting method centuries ago 🙂

AMJ: You have children and teens being swept off the street. It seems like society in general would start to protest that. Drunken sailors nabbed from taverns is one thing, but children is another.

GI: Very good point. Horrible for the parents, if indeed they ever figure out what happened to their poor children.

AMJ: I kept wondering if there was a particular reason that one obnoxious rich kid was taken…that did not seem like a random kidnapping. Of course, I also thought the kid’s parents might just want to be free of his spoiled brat self. 😉

GI: I think the clue to that is when they are looking at the urns in the ship’s hold The boy isn’t entirely innocent. Yeah, he’s a total brat, isn’t he

AMJ: Now, let’s talk about Necromancer. I haven’t read this book yet but I love the premise. Would you classify Maldren as an antihero or a reluctant hero?

GI: There are elements of being a reluctant hero for sure, but he definitely regards himself as a hero, but then he’s a bit cocky, and needs being pulled down a peg or two.

AMJ: I recently discovered the GRIMDARK fantasy subgenre. Would you say Necromancer falls into that category?

GI: I didn’t come across that term until after writing the book. I don’t think Necromancer is grimdark. It’s not THAT dark, not dystopian, and not depressing that I always thought grimdark was. There’s actually humor in Necromancer. 🙂 Some readers have even commented that it’s not even true dark fantasy but regular fantasy.

EB: I also like the idea of a “young, hip” necromancer rather than the dust/crusty kind. That’s the ultimate “what if,” when you’re willing to break with the “tradition” of a character paradigm that’s been fairly well-mined by other authors and add your own spin to it.

GI: That’s exactly what I was going for. A fresh twist.

AMJ: I agree. I like the idea of taking a vocation that’s typically done by old bearded guys with evil intent and making it more of a regular guy’s job, or a job that a young hipster might do as a way to get by or because it’s fun, or whatever, rather than as something motivated by malice or greed.

EB: Maybe it’s true what they say that coffee will rot your brain, hence the necromancing. Old crusty necromancer = young hip necromancer, add latte.

GI: Which makes sense to me. After all, how did those crotchety old beard guys learn their skills before they became old 😉

To learn more about Graeme and his work, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.



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