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About the Book:
Author: Constance Cooper
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Clarion Books
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Yonie Watereye lives in the bayou. The water there is full of guile, a power that changes people and objects. Yonie, 16, makes a living investigating objects affected by guile, but in fact it’s her talking cat, LaRue, who has the power to see guile.
Yonie becomes aware that someone is sending harmful guile-changed objects to certain people, including herself. Her investigation becomes entwined with her hunt for the secrets of her mother’s past and leads her to discover dangers hidden within her own family.
In the suspenseful adventure that follows, Yonie and her furry sidekick face challenges that could end their adventuring forever.
At one point in the book my main character, Yonie, meets a wealthy and influential man who owns much of the city. He was tough to write because I didn't want the reader to know if Yonie should trust him or not. At the same time I wanted him to be charismatic and personally likable. Striking that balance was tricky—making him mostly charming, with just a tiny bit of slime thrown in to make the reader worry.
2. What would be the theme song of one of your main characters (choose)?
Hmm, I can't really think of a song, but I imagine Yonie with a soundtrack of some really fast and furious fiddle music. Her Papa played the fiddle, and it's a big part of her memories of him.
3. How much research did you have to do for GUILE?
I based a lot of the setting for GUILE on the New Orleans area--things like climate, landscape, plants and animals. That helped me fill in little details. I'd wonder, what kinds of fish would the characters be catching? I'd look it up and find names like jackfish, croaker, and mullet, which I wouldn't have come up with on my own. I also used the late 1800s as a reference time period to get a consistent level of technology—steamboats, revolvers, kerosene lanterns.
4. What inspired you to write GUILE?
I began with the idea of a cat and a human who have a partnership—the cat has magical powers, but needs to use a human as a front because animals with magic are always killed. I came up with this description: “It's like the movie Ratatouille, but with a cat instead of a rat, and a girl instead of a boy, and magic instead of cooking!” It was pretty accurate, actually, but most people's eyes would glaze over after the first “instead of”.
I wound up with Yonie, a sixteen-year-old orphan girl, and her cat LaRue, who are making a living together by pretending that Yonie is the one with the power. I also liked the idea of not using any fairytale words like “magic” or “witch”, so I came up with alternatives--including the word “guile” for the invisible substance in the water that has strange effects on things that soak too long. Things affected by guile are called “sly” or “wily.”
5. Can you share a small teaser of GUILE with our readers?
Of course! Here's a short piece from near the beginning of the story.
LaRue nosed through under the loose shingle and dropped lightly to the top of the shelf. It always amazed Yonie that the cat could fit through such a small space, but her body was far smaller than her fur implied. LaRue was carrying something brown and furry in her mouth, which she set down on a plate as elegantly as a waitress in a Grand Canal cafe.
“Oh, LaRue, not another rat?”
“Not at all, my dear—it's a bat! My first. I know you asked for a bird, but this seemed much the same.”
Yonie eyed the bony, folded shape lying limp on the plate. “Thank you, LaRue. It was very kind.”
LaRue swept her fluffy tail around herself like a full orange skirt. “Every bit of it's for you, Yonie. I've already eaten.”
“Well, I hope you saved room for more. A man's coming back later with a sand crab for each of us. He left us this thing to do a Seeing on—isn't it funny? He said he found it in a fish he caught.”
LaRue sprang up to the tabletop and settled down to study the gong, ginger fur lapping around her like petticoats.
“Hmf. I must say I'm skeptical. To fit that thing in its belly, a fish would have to be as big around as a hunting dog. Did this man boast about his catch, or even hold up his hands to show the length?”
“That doesn't sound like any fisherman I've known.”
Yonie stared at the varnished horns and the dangling dish of brass. “But people do find treasures in fish sometimes, don't they? There's talk about that brooch of M'dam Orley's—”
“My dear sweet Yonie, what an innocent you are! M'dam Orley's husband may need to believe she got that from a fish, but you do not.”
“So M'sir Gerard was lying?”
“Oh, I doubt he expected you to really believe that story. It was a courtesy, no more. Doubtless this is stolen goods, or grave plunder, or something else unsavory, and this Gerard needs to know its properties before he sells it.”
LaRue leapt down into Yonie's lap. “Now, now, don't wrinkle up your face like that. If he's honest enough to pay us, that's all I care about. Even thieves and fences sometimes need a Seeing done.” She stroked Yonie's arm with one furry cheek. “I'm sure you did a fine job. He wouldn't have left his treasure here, such as it is, if he didn't think you were wily. Word is getting round. Soon we'll have customers coming in from all over the Delta. We'll have chicken and cream and silk pillows.”
“I just hate lying to them.”
“I know you do, but what choice do we have? I can't exactly set up in business for myself. Every fool in the Bayous would be after me with a hatchet.”
Constance's fantasy novel Guile will be published March 1, 2016 by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Guile is set in the Bad Bayous, where the water makes strange and unpredictable changes to things (or animals, or people) that soak too long.
Constance's short stories have appeared in Asimov's, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and various other publications. Her work has been podcast, translated into Swedish and Hebrew, and included in “Best Of” anthologies. She also writes sf poetry, and has twice been nominated for the Rhysling Award.
Constance grew up mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area, with one year spent in Surrey, England and a chunk of another spent in Newfoundland, Canada. She studied journalism at UC Santa Cruz, where she hiked to class through redwood forest, explored secret caves, and helped edit the college newspaper. Later she earned an MA in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, and stayed on in Philadelphia working on a linguistic research project before getting sucked into the brand-new world of website design.
After Constance met her husband, they moved to Edinburgh, Scotland for two years, where she morphed into a software engineer. Just as she'd acclimated to saying “beeta testing” and “proh-cessor,” she and her husband returned to the Bay Area to work for a natural language search company.
Now Constance lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two children, and is enjoying ever-increasing time to write the kind of stories she's always loved. Her published science fiction so far has all been set on alien planets, and often told from alien viewpoints (including reptilian, mammalian, and crustacean analogues.) In writing fantasy, she's attracted to inventive, nonstandard settings, light touches of humor, and just pure adventurous fun. Constance's writing also shows the influence of her love for mysteries.