Megan E. O’Keefe is joining us today with her novel Break the Chains. Here’s the publisher’s description:
As the city that produces the most selium – that precious gas that elevates airships and powers strange magic – Hond Steading is a jewel worth stealing. To shore up the city’s defenses, Detan promises his aunt that he’ll recover Nouli, the infamous engineer who built the century gates that protect the imperial capital of Valathea. But Nouli is imprisoned on the Remnant Isles, an impervious island prison run by the empire, and it’s Detan’s fault.
Detan doesn’t dare approach Nouli himself, so his companions volunteer to get themselves locked up to make contact with Nouli and convince him to help. Now Detan has to break them all out of prison, and he’s going to need the help of a half-mad doppel to do it.
What’s Megan’s favorite bit?
MEGAN E. O’KEEFE
In my first novel, Steal the Sky, friendship was a key part of my conman protagonist’s life, and this theme extends into the sequel, Break the Chains. But this time around, with the second book in the series, I was able to dig deeper into the friendships growing up around the other characters. I found an unexpected joy in examining the friendships of my female protagonist, Ripka. The relationships she forms with other women, tenuous as some may be, quickly became my favorite bit.
For me, that exploration brought back memories of my first forays into fantasy as a genre. Not literature per se, but the creative abandon of my first encounters with Dungeons and Dragons.
You see, at the age of ten my dear friend Arwen (yes, that truly was her name), sat me down in front of a split-spine edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and said, “You can pretend to be anything.”
With that first character I chose to be a different child, just slightly older than I was, who carried magic in her hands and had a cat familiar (because of course she did) and handled swords as well as stitchery.
And it was fun and exciting and new. For a girl who devoured Laura Ingalls Wilder and wore her copy of Island of the Blue Dolphin to rags, the idea of making something without constraint – even the whole world – was addicting. I made characters wrought of stars, created worlds of thread, and used the loose framework of those early D&D rules to craft my own fables. In the beginning, I did this mostly with other women.
And then I grew older. Friends drifted apart over time, and through some trick of fate and culture my D&D group became primarily male. I do not mean this as a censure of that eventuality. I adored my male friends, and still do. At the time I was not even aware of the shift. After all, it seemed only natural. As I drifted into my teens and discovered the fantasy and science fiction section of the bookstore, most of what I was greeted with was a mirror of my own reality. Each story featured one or two women, maybe, in the primary cast of characters. They rarely knew each other well, or at all, while the men were tent poles of the companion group.
Stories can push us. Stories can make us reexamine our world, our everyday realities, and urge us, maybe, to change. They can also confirm biases, and leave us comfortably in the shadows of our self-built caves.
And so, back to my favorite bit. When writing Break the Chains I knew I was going to put my watch-captain, Ripka, in prison. She was desperate to set right the wrongs she could not stop in Steal the Sky, and saw an opportunity in rescuing a man she believed to be wrongly incarcerated.
But in prison, one needs allies to survive. The group who reaches out to Ripka is a ragtag ensemble of women. And though they are decidedly incarcerated for reasons that would have made Ripka, as a watch-captain, shudder, she comes to care for them as individuals, and see the world through their eyes. One woman, who might just be the most dangerous person Ripka’s ever crossed, might yet become her greatest friend.
It is through these budding relationships that I hoped to illustrate an often overlooked, and often pivotal, slice of everyday life for women in all cultures: friendships between women, in all their treasured variety.
Megan E. O’Keefe was raised amongst journalists, and as soon as she was able joined them by crafting a newsletter which chronicled the daily adventures of the local cat population. She has worked in both arts management and graphic design, and spends her free time tinkering with anything she can get her hands on.
Megan lives in the Bay Area of California and makes soap for a living. It’s only a little like Fight Club. She is a first place winner in the Writers of the Future competition and her second novel, Break the Chains, is out now from Angry Robot Books.