Interview, excerpted from the Orbit Books Newsletter for September 2001

Orbit meets… Carol Berg

Was REVELATION easier or harder to write once you had set the scene and environment so convincingly with TRANSFORMATION?

REVELATION was definitely harder to write. Four reasons come to mind:

  1. It is a more complex story. Whereas TRANSFORMATION is a fairly straightforward tale of two people transforming each other through the power of their personalities, REVELATION is the journey of a man discovering that the world is altogether different to what he believed, and, in the process, probing the nature of his own soul.
  2. I didn't have the slave's perspective any more. As a slave, Seyonne was somewhat restricted in his choices, which made life easier for me!
  3. REVELATION is somewhat more introspective. The interaction between Seyonne and Aleksander in TRANSFORMATION was very fun and very easy to write, but the second book could not be just a "retelling" of that same story. (Aleksander appears in REVELATION only in a few very critical times, but he is back in RESTORATION in a big way.) REVELATION is a very personal journey for Seyonne, and someone is playing mind-games with him along the way. When he faces a life-changing decision at the end of REVELATION, we have to understand clearly the path he has traveled.
  4. Very simply, for the first time in my "fiction" career, I was writing under a deadline.

Did the new novel develop in ways that surprised you?

Yes, in several aspects. Speculation on the nature of the rai-kirah and the origins of the demon war were the inspiration for REVELATION. I don't like "all bad" or unmotivated villains, any more than I like flawless or all-powerful heroes. TRANSFORMATION was so much the story of Aleksander and Seyonne and their transforming relationship that I had no time to explore the true nature of the rai-kirah. But when I started thinking about Ezzarian history, I realized that the Ezzarians had no more idea than I did about what the demons were. They were so engrossed in their duty that they didn't have time to wonder about it. Why did they have so little information? Why were they the only ones who knew about the rai-kirah? Why did they feel "the universe thrown out of balance" by demon death? But the rai-kirah turned out to be much more complex even than I imagined.

Beyond this, the surprises almost all had to do with relationships between characters taking a twist I didn't expect. Seyonne's relationship with his long-time love Ysanne was probably the most surprising example. (But I won't give it away.) I like it when readers tell me that they think they see what's coming, and then events go off in a surprising direction. I enjoy it, too, even when I'm the one fooled.

Will readers meet any new central characters in REVELATION?

Absolutely. Fiona is a very stubborn, talented, and prickly young Aife who has been assigned to keep watch on Seyonne to make sure he has not brought some hidden corruption back to Ezzaria. She is driving him crazy by watching over his shoulder, taking notes whenever he does anything wrong. Blaise is an enigmatic young Ezzarian who has grown up outside of Ezzaria, wholly unfamiliar with Ezzarian life and custom. He is the leader of a band of outlaws who harass Derzhi nobles, tax collectors, and other officials, and he has some most unusual talents. And, as it should be for the Second Book of the Rai-kirah, we meet several of the rai-kirah, some of whom are quite unlike the Lord of Demons or the other demons Seyonne has met in battle, or anyone else he has ever met, for that matter. (He runs into a number of the more "usual" demons, also.) And then there is Merryt. Seyonne has said several times that a Warden's worst fear is to be abandoned alive beyond a portal, trapped in "the abyss" or whatever lies beyond the soul when the Aife's landscape vanishes. Merryt is a Warden who has experienced this and lived to tell about it.

Ezzarian life was very much in the background of TRANSFORMATION. Will Seyonne's people feature more prominently in the new book?

A great deal more. Seyonne has come home to Ezzaria, ready to take up the life he dared not dream of when he was a slave -- a life of duty and honour and family in the land that he loves. But as so many of us discover, you can't go back. His experiences in the world cause him to view his people and their life from a new perspective, and he begins to question their rigid beliefs. He has become an outsider in some sense, and though he still has faith in the work they do, he believes they need to reexamine their ways. This isn't very popular with the Ezzarian traditionalists. When events keep pointing out their glaring ignorance as to their own history, Seyonne embarks upon his journey of discovery. REVELATION is really the Ezzarians' story.

The history of Seyonne's race isn't a particularly happy one. Were the trials of the Ezzarians based on the sufferings of any particular real-world nation?

No. Not any particular nation. But examples abound throughout history of complacent, isolated countries being overrun by tyrants.

Your portrayal of Seyonne in TRANSFORMATION was incredibly convincing. Was there anything you found difficult about writing from a male perspective?

It is very gratifying to hear that readers, especially male readers, feel this way about Seyonne. I tried to sketch his character in my mind -- intelligent, compassionate, a natural introvert with great self-confidence -- and then I worked very hard at considering how such a person would react to the circumstances of Seyonne's history. I suppose the most difficult part was to avoid male cliches and stereotypes, especially of the "action hero" figure, without going too far in the other direction and having an "anti-action-hero", like the negative of a photograph. Seyonne is a warrior, after all, and very good at what he does, so I couldn't have him be a "sensitive new-age guy". And he is not a natural rebel, which makes things even harder in REVELATION. Keeping him in balance was important.

Here's an example. Someone challenged me that "a man would never notice the beautiful scenery". I answered that Seyonne grew up in a country of great natural beauty. His father, a scholarly man who had no melydda, worked outdoors and was content with it. He took Seyonne to the fields with him every day before Seyonne started school. It is not unlikely that such a man would instill the love of beauty and nature in his son. Plus Seyonne's warrior's training required him to be observant. (That's one reason he makes a good narrator.)

Seyonne and Aleksander are such contrasting characters, though both have extraordinarily strong wills. Are there aspects of Carol Berg in both characters?

Wow, this is a loaded question. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that there are aspects of both characters that I aspire to. I am probably more naturally akin to Seyonne's introverted nature, and his proclivity to think things through -- sometimes too much. I've never been known to be particularly strong-willed, though perhaps I'm developing it as the years pass!

How long will we have to wait for the final book in the trilogy? Can you give us any clues as to the content (without giving too much away about Revelation!)?

RESTORATION should be on schedule for publication in Autumn 2002. In RESTORATION, both Aleksander and Seyonne find themselves in trouble (what else?). Aleksander still has a lot to learn about people and kingship. Drastic changes occur in the Derzhi Empire, and Aleksander must find his destiny, the promise of the feadnach that Seyonne has seen in him. For his part, besides helping Aleksander cope with disaster, Seyonne will have to confront the consequences of his decision made at the end of REVELATION and the meaning of his visions, as well as the true threat behind the history of the rai-kirah. War, visions, assassins, oracles, dreams, a prison fortress, storms, narrow escapes, a ghostly woman in green, madness, gods, myths, and even a bit of romance... Is that enough clues?

Will you stay in the world of the Rai-Kirah for future books, or are you hoping to explore new territories?

I have a totally different world in mind for my next books. But I am also considering an idea for another story set in the world of the Rai-kirah, taking place long before the events of these three, even before the demon war and the Derzhi Empire.


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