When Erin Bow’s YA debut The Scorpion Rules was published last year, it received multiple starred reviews, was deemed “Masterful” by School Library Journal, called “a game-changing novel” by bestselling author Suzanne Young, and even Maggie Stiefvater raved about it, professing “Bow’s amoral artificial intelligence overlord is one of my favorite characters in a while.” Sounds great, right? Well, you’re in luck since it’s our featured free read this week, read it here now while you can!
Set in a semi-dystopian future Earth where the children of world leaders are routinely held hostage by an artificially-intelligent being in an attempt to maintain world peace, The Scorpion Rules definitely stands out among other YA and the sequel, The Swan Riders (which we’re featuring an extended excerpt of and has just gone on sale this week!) promises to raise the stakes! Erin Bow’s on a blog tour right now discussing The Swan Riders and we’ve been keeping tabs on her. While you’re plowing through The Scorpion Rules here on Riveted, why not take a break periodically and pop in on some of the blogs to whet your appetite for The Swan Riders:
The Swan Riders Blog Tour:
Author Erin Bow’s shared some really interesting insight into her books and her writing so far on her blog tour. Here are two of our favorite Q&A’s so far:
Can you first tell readers where the idea for this series came from for it? What kind of research did you have to do to prepare yourself to write it? (Originally posted on Such a Novel Idea during Erin Bow’s blog tour)
I never know quite where ideas come from. I feel bad about that. I think people want to hear that I have a secret PO Box that I send away to, and I will give them the address and the decoder ring. But ideas come from everywhere and nowhere, very slowly, and then very suddenly.
I could tell a couple of the stories about where THE SCORPION RULES came from. Here is one: I did a lot of research for an Aztec book, called The Teleportation of Gilbert Perez. (It’s based on a real-ish historical incident: read about it here and then write the book for me, okay?) I got about 30,000 words into Gilbert’s book when my carry-on bag with my notebook, my computer, and my external backup was stolen. I lost those words, and that novel. I never found my way back.
But I wanted to keep one thing I’d come across in my research: the figure of the royal sacrifice, of the child raised to be royal/divine, but doomed to be a human sacrifice. Now, these kids didn’t write their own stories down, but as far as one can tell from the records of the people who killed them, they were willing sacrifices.
That’s amazing. I wanted a whole book about that. So I wrote one.
I dove into it without much research, stopping and starting, making it up as I went along. I did have to do a lot of research – on everything from how albinism affects eyesight to how to milk goats to how to launch spaceships off a magnetic rail to how to treat a sucking chest wound. At once point I took horseback riding lessons, and I feel I definitely nailed the bit where my protagonist gets on a horse for the first time and is awkward and terrified, and later very sore. But I didn’t prepare to write through research – a very different process than the book before these, or the book I’m writing now.
How do you go about picking out the names for characters and/or places in your books? (Originally posted on Novel Ink during Erin Bow’s blog tour)
Characters normally come to me with names, so it’s hard to tell you much about the process. The names do usually mean something, though. For example, these below are four major characters from the first book: Greta, Elian, Xie, and Talis:
Greta is named Stuart because she’s part of the house Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s house, an Scottish house with some claim to the British throne. (The English don’t do well in the melted future, but the Scottish do fine.) The name Gustafsen is mean to invoke one of the other lineages of her kingdom. (The seven crowns of the Pan-Polar Confederacy are Canada, Iceland, Scotland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Siberia.) Plus, Greta Gustafsen was Greta Garbo’s real name.
Elian might bring to mind Elian Gonazales, who as a child was used as a high-stakes political pawn. His last name, Palnik, is the nom du plume of a prominent Jewish cartoonist.
I worked with a Mandarin speaker to create Da-Xia’s name, aiming for something like “hero.” Her name is pronounced roughly “Day-sha,” but her nickname Xie is a different story. It’s not Mandarin – because in Mandarin it would be pronounced “Shay.” It was given to her by her fellow hostages. I picked the sound “Zee” because I wanted it to sound like resolution, like peaceful rest, like ending.
Talis was named Talis in a roundabout way. I created the Abbot before I created Talis, and eventually decided he needed a boss. My husband suggested things like “Bishop” and “Patriarch,” and I hated all of those. But then I remembered Canon Tallis, from Madeline L’Engle. “Canon” is his title – it’s an office of the church – but it’s also an elaborate pun on the Tallis Canon, the name of a famous piece of early Renaissance church music. I didn’t look up how to spell it, and thus Talis was born.