Author spotlights are occasional Q&As with contributors. Marie Brennan is the World Fantasy and Hugo Award-nominated author of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, the Onyx Court, other series, and over sixty short stories. As half of M.A. Carrick, she also writes the Rook and Rose trilogy.
Departure Mirror: Tell us a little about your Departure Mirror story.
Marie Brennan: “The Bottle Tree” is a prequel piece for my Wilders urban fantasy series. Julian is one of the main characters of that series, and Neeya appears in the second book, Chains and Memory; in the course of developing that book, my brain offered up a speech where Neeya tells someone about the promise Julian makes at the end of “The Bottle Tree,” and how that affected her life. The speech does what it needs to in the novel, but when I began contemplating a piece of short fiction that would show Julian’s childhood directly — with all the bizarre conditions that surround a wilder’s life — naturally I gravitated toward something that would lead up to that moment. Because I really can’t write about Julian’s childhood (or that of any wilder) and not have it focus on the deep shield: a method of control that is simultaneously very, very necessary, and very, very troubling.
DM: How did you become a writer?
MB: The very short form is that I read Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock when I was about nine or ten and it made me say, “I want to be a writer.” The longer version is that, like many kids, I made up stories to entertain myself; unlike many kids, I just never stopped. I got serious about my writing in college, sold my first novel when I was twenty-four, and have kept at it ever since.
DM: What else are you passionate about? Tell us about it.
MB: My three big hobbies these days are role-playing games, photography, and shorin-ryu karate. The first of those is storytelling again, but unlike writing, it’s social — and it’s wound up feeding into my fiction more than once, from a variety of angles. (The Mask of Mirrors, the first book of the Rook and Rose trilogy I’m co-writing with Alyc Helms, grew out of a game they run and I play in.) Photography ties in with my travel, which I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of, and it’s taught me to see details that I would have walked right past before, honing my eye in some really useful ways. As for karate, I think it’s good for writers to have hobbies that get them out of the chair and out of their brains for a bit, so we don’t forget we have bodies that need taking care of.
DM: Do you have anything you’d like to promote?
MB: I’ve accidentally tripped into this being a very busy time for me! Last August I had a fix-up novel called Driftwood out from Tachyon, which builds on the eponymous short stories I’ve been writing for years; then January 19th was the street date for The Mask of Mirrors (under the name M.A. Carrick), followed by The Night Parade of 100 Demons, a Legend of the Five Rings novel, under my own name on February 2nd. Plus I run a Patreon called New Worlds, which is all about worldbuilding in science fiction and fantasy, which is about to wrap up its fourth year!
Thank you, Marie! “The Bottle Tree” can be found in the Winter 2021 issue of Departure Mirror Quarterly. The issue is free to download and to read. If you love the story as much as we do, please tell your friends!