My Favorite Bit: RJ Theodore Talks About CAST OFF

RJ Theodore is joining us today to talk about their novel, Cast Off. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The Action Packed Conclusion to the Peridot Shift Trilogy

Peridot is on the edge of annihilation. Once life-giving, the world’s Trade Winds are transforming people into soulless monsters. The surviving Alchemist gods neglect their followers or take advantage of them. Even worse, a delicate peace has been wasted, and everything and everyone is at stake, especially Meran, the mistreated embodiment of the planet.

Captain Talis and the crew of Fortune’s Storm must try to do some good with what’s left of Peridot in the hope that, together, they’ll reclaim the hidden pieces of Meran’s soul before the chaos seals her disastrous fate.

What’s RJ’s favorite bit?

RJ THEODORE

My Favorite Bit about Cast Off is a last minute plot device, a ship that I needed to invent to move one character around—a character we’ve all come to love to hate—Hankirk Delfens. I spent the first two books of the trilogy writing about him burning all his bridges. As I sat on the floor and laid out a thick stack of index cards listing what needed to happen to bring this all to a proper conclusion, I realized Hankirk needed to be able to get around the open skies of Peridot, but he’d been abandoned by anyone who’d ever gotten to know him. I mean, if you meet Hankirk and you want to invite him to your wedding, you’re the wrong sort of person to be reading my trilogy. Hankirk needed to hire a ship, because the promise of innercrust Cutter family money was the only thing he had going for him.

The ship I designed to carry out this job became the most satisfying multi-chapter burn on a character who has more than earned their third degree disdain.

This ship, named the Not If We Don’t Get Caught, and its large, multicultural crew of queer folks who’ve made a career of living their best lives, enjoy the role of simultaneously getting Hankirk where he needs to go while treating him with the absolute disinterest and disrespect he deserves. After two books of Hankirk being a respected leader, first of the Veritors and later of the Tempest, we finally have a crew that can smell him for the filthy litter box he truly is.

If you are familiar with the song “Master of the House” from Les Misérables, and the lyrics…

Everybody raise a glass—

Raise it up the master’s ass!

…That’s akin to the spirit this crew embodies for their new client, Hankirk Delfens, who has promised them riches if they’ll help him seek out the missing ring of Arthel Rak so that he can “save Peridot.” He convinces their captain, a tall, muscular woman named Hawke who physically, mentally, and quite literally threatens Hankirk’s sense of control of the situation, that he has the knowledge it will take to fix what “has become of Peridot.” If only Hawke knew what Hankirk really meant by what was wrong with the planet, she’d have sold him a broken dinghy and left him to scoot along under his own power until he sank to the frozen fields of flotsam.

Aside from the ship’s name, which is easily my favorite ship name that I’ve ever come up with, we’ve got a crew of pirates who represent the types of people Hankirk has spent his life feeling superior to—and now he desperately needs them. He’s promised them piles of money at the end of the run, but he forgot to negotiate respect into their contract, and the pirates spend chapters making sure he knows that, to them, he is less than nobody.

Hankirk is a self-centered rotten entrail of a person, and as I sat among my index cards to see this trilogy to its conclusion, I conceived this ship as his personal hell. A slow burning comeuppance before the trilogy saw him reach his final comeuppance. Yes, they sail him where he’s going. Yes, he manages to convince them (at first) that he’s doing the right thing, and yes, he still manages to use their ship to do quasi-villainous things. But it’s all against the backdrop of a bunch of queer, confident pirates that Hankirk needs more than they need him. And, knowing this, they treat him in such satisfyingly disdainful ways. They may not dump him off the side of the ship as he proves again and again he deserves, but they enjoy making him so miserable (and we enjoy reading it) that he should feel as though it would be a kindness if they did.

The cast of this ship’s crew—from Eoma, the velvet dressed Bone thief, to Aldra, their book-collecting Rakkar pilot and budding alchemist—makes me want to spend more time writing of their adventures in Peridot as it takes shape at the end of the trilogy. This found family enacts all the piratical misbehavior I could want to write, and they always, always make it look good. And if you’ve read even just the first few chapters of Flotsam, the first book in the Peridot Shift trilogy, you have got to appreciate anyone who makes our unlikable anti-hero Hankirk as frustrated and tormented as this crew does.

So here, here! to My Favorite Bit, the aeronautical pirate crew of the Not If We Don’t Get Caught! For their service to the readers who have had to put up with Hankirk for all this time, may Peridot’s winds carry them always to their deepest desires.

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BIO:

R J Theodore (they/she) is an author, graphic designer, and all-around collector of creative endeavors. She enjoys writing about magic-infused technologies, first contact events, and bioluminescing landscapes.
Theodore’s love of fantastic storytelling developed through grabbing for anything-and-everything “unicorn” as a child, but they were subverted by tales of distant solar systems when their brother introduced them to Star Trek: The Next Generation at age seven. A few years later, Sailor Moon taught them stories can have both.
Their short fiction can be found in Metastellar, Lightspeed, and Fireside Magazines, as well as the award-winning Neon Hemlock anthologies Glitter + Ashes and Unfettered Hexes, in addition to Crooked V.2 and Bridge to Elsewhere. They live in New England, haunted by their childhood cat. Find more information at rjtheodore.com.

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