M. A. Carrick is joining us today to talk about their novel, The Liar’s Knot. Here’s the publisher’s description:
TRUST IS THE THREAD THAT BINDS. AND THE ROPE THAT HANGS.
In Nadežra, peace is as tenuous as a single thread. The ruthless House Indestor has been destroyed, but darkness still weaves through the city’s filthy alleys and jewel-bright gardens, seen by those who know where to look.
Derossi Vargo has always known. He has sacrificed more than anyone imagines to carve himself a position of power and influence among the nobility, hiding a will of steel behind a velvet smile. He’ll be damned if he lets anyone threaten what he’s built.
Grey Serrado knows all too well. Bent under the yoke of too many burdens, he fights to protect the city’s most vulnerable. Sooner or later, that fight will demand more than he can give.
And Ren, daughter of no clan, knows best of all. Caught in a knot of lies, torn between her heritage and her aristocratic masquerade, she relies on her gift for reading pattern to survive. And it shows her the web of darkness that traps her city.
But all three have yet to discover just how far that web stretches. And in the end, it will take more than wits and knives to cut themselves free.
What’s M.A. Carrick’s favorite bit?
We promise, we’re not cheesing out on the question when we say this entire book is our Favorite Bit.
Probably all of you reading this are familiar with Middle Book Syndrome. It’s a common ailment of trilogies, where the first volume is a grand and satisfying thing, and the third volume is even grander and hopefully even more satisfying, but the second one is . . . just kind of there. It exists to keep the first and third installments from bumping into one another; it’s setup for payoffs that will come later. It’s the least-loved child, however much the parents may insist they love all their children equally.
Because we are terrible writer-parents, we’ll freely admit that we may love our middle child more than the other two. Not that we didn’t adore writing The Mask of Mirrors — we wouldn’t have written all 200+K words of it in four months flat if we didn’t — and not that there aren’t many things we’re incredibly excited about in the third and final book. But you see, The Liar’s Knot is the reason we started writing this whole thing in the first place.
Anyone who’s read or listened to interviews with us may be aware that the Rook and Rose trilogy has its genesis in a tabletop role-playing game Alyc is running, with Marie playing (ahem) a certain con artist named Ren. We started writing side scenes for the game, things involving Ren and a few NPCs but not really involving the other player-characters, until one day Marie noticed that we’d written fifty thousand words of side-scenes and hey, uh, maybe we should try writing a novel together? And then we spent a little while noodling around with lists of tropes we both like, trying to cook up a concept, before we embraced the obvious: the story we were already telling.
So we came into this project with a handful of characters and the arc of how they and their relationships changed over time. Our job was to build a world to house that and a plot to make it go, to give ourselves new and even more compelling reasons for why those moments of growth and change happened. (Anybody who’s ever played an RPG knows that they can produce some truly glorious moments of impromptu storytelling . . . but those drift in a sea of wonky pacing, dropped threads, and awesome ideas thought up too late to deploy them.)
A few of those bits do show up in The Mask of Mirrors, often in very mutated form. (The abandoned wheelwright’s was a perfumery in the game scene, and what they found there wasn’t a printing press: the resemblance lies in “let’s make those two characters do a little caper together.”) But the real meat of the story, the narrative beats that fired our imaginations so brightly we decided to write three novels of chihuahua-killing size just to bring them into the world — those, you’ll mostly find in The Liar’s Knot.
Whether we’ve successfully avoided Middle Book Syndrome is for readers to judge. We’ve done our best, though, filling this installment with significant developments and payoffs, and so many tasty bits we can’t possibly pick just one as our favorite.
Oh, fine. If you insist, we’ll choose the avalanche of plot that is Chapters Fourteen through Sixteen, which elapse over the course of less than twenty-four hours and rearrange the board significantly.
. . . and the continued fallout from that which comes in Chapter Seventeen.
. . . and the whole Dockwall caper.
. . . and the kitten.
Look, we love the whole book, okay? And we hope you will, too.
M.A. Carrick is the joint pen name of Marie Brennan (author of the Memoirs of Lady Trent) and Alyc Helms (author of the Adventures of Mr. Mystic). The two met in 2000 on an archaeological dig in Wales and Ireland — including a stint in the town of Carrickmacross — and have built their friendship through two decades of anthropology, writing, and gaming. They live in the San Francisco Bay Area.