Today I’m joined by the lovely Rabia Gale! She’s the author of The Mourning Cloak (Taurin’s Chosen, #1) and other book full of imaginative, original storytelling. Check out her answers and don’t forget to check out her website!
Hi Rabia! If you had to describe yourself in three fictional characters, who would it be and why?
My closest fictional match is Emily, the titular character of L.M. Montgomery Emily of New Moon series. She’s a writer, a lover of language, inhabitant of worlds spun from her own imagination, and not the easiest person to understand or get close to. Discovering her as a pre-teen was like finding another “kindred spirit”, in Anne-speak.
I’m introverted, bookish, and thoughtful like Anne de Vernase in Carol Berg’s The Soul Mirror and like novelist Phoebe Marlow in Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester, I will never be the belle of the ball or have a large crowd of admirers, but am happy having a small circle of people to feel comfortable with.
Introverts for the win! (Especially those created by Montgomery!) Taurin’s Chosen teeters between Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Steampunk. Your other stories are also fairly untraditional. What draws you genre-bending?
I honestly think it’s due to early influences. I grew up on anime and 80s cartoons, in which science fictional and fantastical elements happily jostle about in the same show. Space travel, intergalactic cops, and awesome tanks can coexist with magical swords, ghostly mentors, and a magical mummy of ancient evil!
After that education, it’s no wonder I treat all of speculative fiction as a grab bag from which to draw inspiration.
A childhood diet of anime explains a lot, haha. How did you go from watching mourning cloak butterflies to creating semi-vampiric specters?
It wasn’t hard once I identified the butterflies as mourning cloaks. The name sounded like it was right out of a fantasy novel—and that it wasn’t attached to some creature of sweetness and light!
So I started pondering what an otherworldy being called a mourning cloak would be like. The first iteration involved an origin story, something like “How the Mourning Cloaks Came About”. I started with the idea of widows morphing due to intense grief or being forced into it by uncaring relatives. That concept didn’t go anywhere, because it took place in some mythic past, whereas I was more interested in an advanced science fantasy world. I decided that mourning cloaks would be only one of a cast of paranormal creatures living in and around a big city—and the story just flowed from there.
Huh. That’s a fascinating idea evolution. Has story inspiration ever come as a result of homeschooling your children?
Yes! I’ve discovered so many colorful characters and interesting events from reading history with my children. There’s this one short story inspired by the ancient library of Ninevah that’s been bouncing about in my head for the past several years. I really should write it down some time.
Homeschooling’s biggest impact on my writing, though, is through refreshing and enhancing my grammar skills. The more I teach it, the better I learn it.
Teaching is definitely the best way to learn! Fondest memory of books/reading as a child?
As a child growing up in Pakistan, I didn’t have the wide access to books I do now. The fantasy and science fiction books I liked were hard to find. There were no public libraries and few dedicated book shops. I treated the books I owned like a dragon would her hoard, zealously guarding and gloating over them.
When I learned of an interesting title (usually through back-of-book blurbs), I’d sometimes spend years looking for it. I still remember the exact moment I first held Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsinger in my hands. I’d been digging through dusty stacks of romances and thrillers at a used book stall in one of my city’s many bazaars—and there it was. I may have muttered, “Pinch me, I’m dreaming!” but I know I did take a firm grip on the book lest someone wrested it away from me. A few months later, I found its prequel Dragonsong in a used bookshop and that same feeling of unreality washed over me. It was like finding buried treasure.
Now that I can get a book delivered to my door at the click of a mouse, I don’t get the same payoff anymore. I miss that feeling sometimes.
That is amazing! *adds Dragonsong to TBR* What do you hope people get from reading your books?
I frequently write about worlds in peril or lives that have been shaken to the core. But as a writer, I’m always reaching for the light, even if it often looks like a mere glimmer in the dark. My characters might be heartbroken, damaged, or simply overwhelmed and in way over their heads, but they’re seeking a path out. I love immersing readers in a weird world and taking them on adventures. More than that, though, I want my characters’ journey to remind people that the night will end and the sun will rise again.
Inspiring hope is one of the best things an author can do. If you could recommend fans three books to read after Taurin’s Chosen, what would they be?
Oh, I LOVE recommending books. *rubs hands in glee*
The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher: This Bluebeard retelling is weird and magical, with a touch of horror. A relatable protagonist gives you something to hold on to as you navigate the world. It’s gorgeously written, and full of catchy turns of phrases and delicious descriptions. The original elements are imaginative and remind me of all the fun I have coming up with new concepts for my worlds.
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay: Why read a massive historical fantasy tome after a pair of science fantasy novellas? Because language, mood, and setting are all important to me, and Kay demonstrates his mastery of these in this story set in an alternate Tang-dynasty China. Tucked into this huge novel are slivers that echo what I was trying to do in Taurin’s Chosen: the sounds of the once-human out in the darkness; a man who has been alone forced to interact with the world again; the sense of the small and personal unfolding into larger events with far-reaching consequences.
The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff: This historical novel chronicles the passing of Roman power from Britain and the invasion of the Saxons through the eyes of a Roman deserter. Sutcliff’s protagonist, Aquila is scarred by great loss, deeply changed, unable to return to the open-hearted youth he’d once been. My heart aches for him every time I read the book, just as it aches for my damaged protagonists in Taurin’s Chosen.
WOW. These are some hardcore awesome premises! Definitely going to look them up. Thanks so much for stopping by, Rabia!
About the Author
I break fairy tales and fuse fantasy and science fiction. I love to write about flawed heroes who never give up, transformation and redemption, and things from outer space. In my spare time, I read, doodle, eat chocolate, avoid housework, and homeschool my three children.
A native of Pakistan, I grew up in hot, humid Karachi. I then spent almost a decade in Northern New England where I learned to love fall, tolerate snow, and be snobbish about maple syrup and sweet corn. I now live in Northern Virginia.