Tremontaine: The Interview

Previously on Tremontaine…

Ixkaab Balam came to the city to do her family duty and put a botched spying mission behind her; she didn’t expect to find politics, the sword, or a discovery that threatens to put her family’s coveted chocolate monopoly at risk.

By the time of Kaab’s arrival, Diane, Duchess Tremontaine was long used to the surprises her city could deal out. Originally from the north, she had also once been a stranger to this place. With a past to hide and a house in financial peril, the duchess wasted no time in forging a secret alliance with the newcomer.

Politics, however, never has only two players. Kaab and Diane quickly found their plans complicated by Rafe Fenton, a handsome scholar with more passion than sense, and Micah Heslop, a farm girl with a unique perspective on the world and the mathematics that define it.

The dance of betrayal and treachery that followed was mostly fun and games. After all, in this city the powerful hire swordsmen to fight – sometimes to the death – for entertainment.

But now, a complex engineering project that could open the city to the world threatens to put everyone at risk. With little distinction between enemies and lovers or rivals and friends, survival – even for the savviest of players – is not guaranteed.

This city that never was is changing, dear reader. Outcasts are the tastemakers, and now, more than ever, is the time to keep your wit as sharp as your steel!

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As Tremontaine approaches its fourth season, we’re showing off the cover image for the first time — and, to celebrate, its current writers got together digitally to ask each other questions about the weird world of collaborative writing, extreme research, and letting other people see our most draftiest drafts.

Tessa Gratton: What’s your favorite thing about writing for Tremontaine?

Liz Duffy Adams: I like being a sort of stealth collaborator on Tremontaine, emerging from the wilderness into the Land to join my name with another writer and then vanish again. It was intimidating at first. I read and loved Tremontaine before I was invited into it, and of course Swordspoint and the other original novels before that, so I was reasonably steeped in the world. But suddenly to be writing in these fabulous characters’ voices, characters I had no hand in creating, in this immensely rich and detailed world where I had only been a tourist, not a citizen? I quailed a bit.

And then I began to enjoy myself. The hunt episode in Season Three that I wrote with Delia Sherman was sheer pleasure; working with Delia—she of luminous wit and perfect sentences—is always great fun, and among other things a brief moment with Lady Davenant alone in her chamber made me very happy. And now I’m back in Season Four in another episode co-written with Delia, and three with the droll and brilliant Joel Derfner, with whom I got to introduce a couple of new characters and so feel I’ve left a small footprint in the City, before slipping back off across the river.

Joel Derfner: Which of our characters is the most difficult for you to write, and why?

Tessa Gratton: I find it extremely difficult to write Micah. Or rather, to convince myself to write from her POV. Once I’m in it, I can do it–she’s so unique and her voice is fun, interesting, and entertaining, her perspective different from everyone else’s. But when I’m working on an episode in its early stages, choosing which point of view I’m going to use for an episode frame, or for individual scenes, Micah is always my last choice. I avoid her if I can help it, and it took me a while to realize why: she’s not ambitious and she doesn’t have desires the way the rest of the characters do–which is a function of who she is. Sure, she wants things: to learn, to grow, to have family, protect her loved ones, to ascend to a purely mathematical state, probably. Unlike our other main characters, she’s not a schemer, and she isn’t an actor. She’s a reactor. You bet she’ll finish something somebody else starts if it will protect her people, but she doesn’t start things on her own. To me, that makes her a less useful protagonist. I love how she wanders through our narrative, affecting people and making everything just better, but that’s frustrating for me to write, when I need DRAMA.

ALSO anytime somebody calls Micah cinnamon roll, I think to myself, “I like to eat cinnamon rolls.” Especially in a show like Tremontaine, I look for ways to hurt the characters, to make them suffer and dial the angst up to 100%. I just can’t do that to Micah!

Ellen Kushner: Which character do you most identify with?

Karen Lord: Definitely Joshua. A bit of an observer, drama happens around him more than it happens to him, and he tries his best to look out for his friends.

Racheline Maltese: I wouldn’t say I identify with Diane–I don’t have that type of self-control, for one–but I think her actions are highly rational and, for the world she lives in, highly reasonable. I know we’re often supposed to preface discussions of her with “I know she’s a bad person, but…” except I don’t think she is. Davenant is a bad person; he’s not trying to survive, he’s trying to dominate. Diane really is trying to survive, even if that survival is through winning. She’s just a perfectionist about her survival. I get it. I really do.

Karen Lord: What new thing did you learn from writing with a team that changed your own solo writing process?

Ellen Kushner: The main thing I have learned, with humility and respect, is how differently everyone’s brain works. I know by now that we’re going to end up with thirteen highly elegant novellas. But as we work our way through First Outline to Second Outline to Zero Draft to It’s Ready for Editing Draft, some people’s First Outlines read like rough arguments inside their brains, while others are precise right down to the word count for each scene. Some Zero Drafts appear smooth and polished. Others – well, OK, mine – are full of alternate word suggestions and bracketed questions.  The one thing we all have in common is that everyone is convinced that their rough draft is awful, which I find hilarious because they’re all so brilliant. And Joel Derfner taught all of us the [say something really smart here] technique of [adjective] bracketing in Zero Drafts.

Liz Duffy Adams: Is there a character you feel particular ownership over/affinity with, and how does it feel to share them?

Karen Lord: Out of all the strangers in a strange Land, Esha, probably. I quite like sharing her as long as she’s Doing Stuff for Herself more than she’s Doing Stuff for Others.

Ellen Kushner: Which of our gang of authors would you most like to have write your own death scene?

Karen Lord: Tessa, without doubt! It will be profound, touching and remembered for generations to come!

Ellen Kushner: I want Liz Duffy Adams to write my death scene because the dialogue will be spectacular. I want Joel Derfner to write my death scene, because it will happen so fast I won’t feel a thing. I want Karen Lord to write my death scene because the secrets of the universe will be revealed (after some hot sex). I want Tessa Gratton to write my death scene because it will be incredibly moving and everyone would cry buckets. I want Racheline Maltese to write my death scene because there will be a spectacular sword fight – and maybe a cow.

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Tremontaine season 1-3 are available on the Serial Box app and website and on all third party retailers. Season 1 is also available in print wherever books are sold. Tremontaine season 4 will be available on September 12th.