Rebecca Roanhorse is joining us today to talk about her novel, Black Sun. Here’s the publisher’s description:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.
A god will return
When the earth and sky converge
Under the black sun
In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.
Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain.
Crafted with unforgettable characters, Rebecca Roanhorse has created an epic adventure exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade.
What’s Rebecca’s favorite bit?
Just like in my previous blog visit for “Trail of Lightning”, my favorite bit isn’t something you can read. It’s something you listen to. It’s the book soundtrack.
Music plays a huge role in my creative process. I put together a soundtrack for my novels as I’m outlining, and for the rest of the drafting and editing process, the soundtrack serves to keep me focused. I try to pick songs I don’t already have an association with, and then I don’t listen to those songs outside of working on the novel.
My book soundtrack functions in a couple of ways. First, as a sort of Pavlovian bell to get me into the headspace I need to be in to write, very quickly and without a lot of atmosphere required. A cup of strong coffee, a set of headphones and Spotify is enough to transport me to the pre-Columbian inspired world of “Black Sun”, even when sitting in some featureless airport or hiding in the car at my kid’s soccer practice. But the primary function of the soundtrack is what I eluded to earlier. It embodies the mood and the themes of the novel. For this post, I picked one song from the soundtrack that capture the explosive first chapter, and then the songs I consider the theme songs for each of the four POV characters. So here are five songs from the “Black Sun” book soundtrack and the reasons they are part of my favorite bit.
1. Beauty by Love Supreme
“Black Sun” is a big sprawling epic fantasy inspired by the pre-Columbian Americas, but it’s also a story about people. People who often find themselves lost in their respective worlds, struggling against societal expectations and the call of destiny unasked for. We follow four main POV characters, but the main character is Serapio, a boy blinded and scarred by his mother as a child to become a vessel for a god of vengeance. There is horror in his story, but also a terrible kind of beauty. I imagine “Beauty” to be that conversation between Serapio and his mother, and later, Serapio and his god.
Do you remember, child?
There’s something through the green
There’s something through your bleeding
Destroy me again
Is there still something I need to have?
Destroy me again
Until I feel I know
2. Heavy in Your Arms by Florence + The Machine
Naranpa is one of the four main POV characters. She is a woman from the “wrong side of the tracks”, a neighborhood in the city of Tova called Coyote’s Maw. She leaves her impoverished childhood behind and rises to power and prominence as the Sun Priest, but she is beset by schemes and assassination attempts and unsure whom she can trust. She must learn to trust herself if she wants to survive.
I was a heavy heart to carry
My feet dragged across the ground
And he took me to the river
Where he slowly let me drown
Who is the betrayer?
Who’s the killer in the crowd?
The one who creeps in corridors
And doesn’t make a sound
3. Brother by Sam Tinnesz
Much like our other POV characters, Okoa is a man caught between his own desires and his obligations to community and destiny. He struggles with who he is and who he wants to be, and he will do dark deeds out of love before the trilogy ends. This song captures the deep conflict that wars inside him that might ultimately lead him into the one place he did not want to go.
Does the dark feel warmer than the light now
Does your hand shake when you strike a man
Did you do it for yourself
Or somebody else
How long will you run
You’re not what you’ve become
Walking up there on a wire so high
You know there’s only one way down
I can’t save you now
4. The War by SYML
I love everything about this song. The haunting vocals, the slow building tension. This song embodies Serapio’s final scene in the book, which I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t read “Black Sun” yet. But image the glorious sweep of a wintery mesa, the cries of giant crows, and destiny come to call – in blood and violence.
Here stands a man
At the bottom of a hole he’s made
Still sweating from the rush
His body tense
His hands, they shake
Oh this, this is a mad boy
Here stands a man
With a bullet in his clenched right hand
Don’t push him, son
For he’s got the power to crush this land
Oh hear, hear him cry, boy
5. Fear the Water by SYML
Xiala is a Teek who has been driven from her all-female sea-faring culture for crimes that are unclear. This song captures her so well you would think it was written just for the book. It floored me the first time I heard it and has been Xiala’s theme song in my head ever since. Just as “The War” captures Serapio’s final scene, “Fear the Water” is Xiala’s last moments with Serapio, and more than that, her entire relationship with him throughout the book.
Some ancient call, that I’ve answered before
It lives in my walls, and it’s under the floor
If this was meant for me, why does it hurt so much?
And if you’re not made for me, why did we fall in love?
A knock at my door, I thought I was alone
Unaware of what I thought I needed, I drop like a stone
If I’m not mistaken, then I was the last one to know
And if you return for me, I’d never want for more
Rebecca Roanhorse is a NYTimes bestselling and Nebula, Hugo and Locus Award-winning speculative fiction writer and the recipient of the 2018 Astounding (Campbell) Award for Best New Writer.
Her novel Trail of Lightning (Book 1 in the Sixth World Series) won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and was a Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Finalist. It was also selected as an Amazon, B&N, Library Journal, and NPR Best Books of 2018, among others. Storm of Locusts (Book 2 in the Sixth World Series) was a Locus Award Finalist and was longlisted for the Hugo Award. It also received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist, and was named an Amazon, Powell’s, and Audible Best of 2019. Her novel, Resistance Reborn, is part of Star Wars: Journey to The Rise of Skywalker and a USA Today and NYTimes bestseller. Her middle grade novel Race to the Sun for the Rick Riordan Present’s imprint was a NYTimes Bestseller and received a starred review from Kirkus. Her latest novel, Black Sun, has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, and Library Journal and comes out on Oct 13, 2020.
She lives in Northern New Mexico with her husband, daughter, and pup. She drinks a lot of black coffee. Find more at https://rebeccaroanhorse.com/ and on Twitter at @RoanhorseBex.