My Favorite Bit: Laura Anne Gilman talks about THE COLD EYE
Laura Anne Gilman is joining us today with her novel The Cold Eye. Here’s the publisher’s description:
In the anticipated sequel to Silver on the Road, Isobel is riding circuit through the Territory as the Devil’s Left Hand. But when she responds to a natural disaster, she learns the limits of her power and the growing danger of something mysterious that is threatening not just her life, but the whole Territory.
Isobel is the left hand of the old man of the Territory, the Boss—better known as the Devil. Along with her mentor, Gabriel, she is traveling circuit through Flood to represent the power of the Devil and uphold the agreement he made with the people to protect them. Here in the Territory, magic exists—sometimes wild and perilous.
But there is a growing danger in the bones of the land that is killing livestock, threatening souls, and weakening the power of magic. In the next installment of the Devil’s West series, Isobel and Gabriel are in over their heads as they find what’s happening and try to stop the people behind it before it unravels the Territory.
What’s Laura Anne’s favorite bit?
LAURA ANNE GILMAN
Trying to choose a single ‘favorite’ bit from the Devil’s West books is a bit like trying to remember your favorite moment from summer camp: after a while, it’s all tied up in multiple strands of memory and experience. Trying to separate it out and explain it is…well, it can get messy. But in the case of THE COLD EYE, there was one moment that, every time I look back at it, my breath catches and I’m filled with the reminder of this is it, this is why I write.
The setting is this: Isobel – one of our protagonists- unexpectedly encounters a slaughter of buffalo, left to rot on the plains.
She’s horrified – not because they were killed, but because it was done wastefully. Whoever did it took trophies, but left the meat behind. Clearly, whoever killed them was not doing it for survival, but some darker motive.
Researching this particular scene was painful, because it involved taking a long, careful look at what actually happened when these beasts became trophy kills, including incredibly depressing photos. They were killed for ego, yes, but also to take them away from those who did hunt them for survival.
And, having spent some time observing the herds of buffalo (okay, American Bison for the nitpickers) in Yellowstone, trying to imagine what it was like when herds far larger than that ranged freely, and knowing I will never see that sight, is infuriating.
And yet, this was my favorite bit to write.
Because I did get to spend time observing buffalo, who – like moose – are amazing, majestic, massive beasts. Seriously, watch a buffalo cow and her calf pass barely two feet in front of your car, and you will reconsider everything you ever thought about size, power, and the superiority of standing on two legs. I can see where for some people that might be terrifying, but I actually found it quite freeing.
And I was able to bring that emotion into the scene with Isobel, that sense of what buffalo mean in context of the Territory. It’s a painfully gorgeous scene, because it invokes the weight of both that moment for Isobel and the echo of what they meant in our own history. And, the writer says shamelessly, I think I did it really well.
But that wasn’t quite enough to bump it up to “favorite over all” status. It’s what happens in that scene that made gave it that extra push. Because while Isobel is dealing with the slaughter, the payment that she makes to settle their ghosts, a decision has to be made about what she will do about it. And the decision happens in such a seemingly inevitable way, Isobel herself doesn’t realize the significance of it, even as it establishes who – and what – she has become, and who she may have to become, later in the book.
That decision? Hadn’t been in the outline. It rose strictly from the emotion of the scene, the sense of inevitability and pain evoked by the description. And just as there was no marker around the spot, no warnings for her, or for the reader, it came as just as much a surprise for the writer, who didn’t realize until many chapters later what I had done.
Well-played, lizard brain. Well-played.
And that’s why it’s my favorite bit. Because I wrote my heart out – and my writing-heart gave back twofold.
Laura Anne Gilman is the Nebula- and Endeavor-award nominated author of two novels of the Devil’s West, SILVER ON THE ROAD and THE COLD EYE (January 2017), and the short story collection DARKLY HUMAN, as well as the long-running Cosa Nostradamus urban fantasy multi-series (Retrievers, PSI, and Sylvan Investigations), and the “Vineart War” epic fantasy trilogy.
Under the name L.A. Kornetsky, she also wrote the Seattle-based “Gin & Tonic” mysteries.
A former New Yorker, she currently lives outside of Seattle, WA with two cats and many deadlines. More information and updates can be found at www.lauraannegilman.net, or follower her on Twitter as @LAGilman