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SunLit Interviews

Evolution of a matriarchal “horse-tribe” provided inspiration for author’s fantasy world

Even within a world she created, Laura Reeve confronted challenges to honest portrayal of love -- and mapping out mileage

Laura E. Reeve began writing science fiction and fantasy in the fifth grade, leading to a lifelong obsession for building worlds. Along the way, she spent nine years as a U.S. Air Force Officer, holding operational command positions and having the opportunity to escort Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty inspectors. Her civilian jobs have ranged from Research Chemist to Software Development Lead. She lives in Monument, Colorado, with her husband and a Shiba Inu who runs the household.

What inspired you to write this book?

Author Laura E. Reeve. (Handout)

This series is set in a world I began creating in college. The original inspiration for the world was to build a matriarchal “horse-tribe” and show it evolved to a renaissance period. Then, when writing the series, I added the magic and unicorns because I wanted to play with themes of innocence and innocence lost.

Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?

My parents had a great fiction library and I quickly developed favorites that I read every summer: Alcott’s “Little Women,” Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice,” Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre,” Orczy’s “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” (LOTR) series. My favorite characters were Jo (“Little Women”), Lizzie (“Pride and Prejudice”), and Aragorn (LOTR). Early on, I found I loved smart and resourceful characters, which describes all three. Jo and Lizzie, being women, are at disadvantages with respect to their societies and economic status quo, but they still build the lives they want. Aragorn, as well, is resourceful and courageous, having initially only a tattered title of kingship and a broken sword to fight the most evil and powerful force in his world.

“Souls for the Phrenii” by Laura E. Reeve. (Handout)

After I got out of the Air Force and had time to get back to fiction, I indulged my love of science fiction (SF) and fantasy and found more favorite authors: C.J. Cherryh (both SF and fantasy), Brandon Sanderson (a little SF, mostly fantasy), Guy Gavriel Kay (fantasy) and Jack Campbell (military SF), to name only a few. All are great world builders—that’s a given, to get onto my reading list. However, they each have strengths that bear mentioning: C.J. Cherryh writes the most interesting and conflicted characters I’ve ever met, Brandon Sanderson is an amazing storyteller, Guy Gavriel Kay’s lyrical fantasy has real-world historical bones, and Jack Campbell creates the most believable space battles, command and control structures, and military scenarios I’ve ever read (and I read a lot of military SF). In fact, Campbell’s first Lost Fleet book, “Dauntless,” could almost be a treatise on military discipline and leadership for young officers. It’d sure be more interesting than the stuff I had to read for Squadron Officer School!

Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?

I picked this scene because it’s the main turning point and it presents Draius (main character) and Bordas, her comrade, with repugnant decisions. They’re both Tyrran and trained soldiers, so their honor is important to them. Draius’s mission is to get the stolen shard of the Kaskea home as soon as possible, while Bordas’s mission is to protect her. Abandoning or undermining their missions would be dishonorable.

However, a boy is near death because of Bordas. Draius is bound to the Phrenii, who protect children, so they’re pressuring her internally to stay and ensure the boy survives. Obviously, there’s no decision that doesn’t leave someone’s honor besmirched… perhaps everyone’s.

What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?

I hope I don’t sound like a sadist here, but I had the most fun putting my characters through hell. Of course, then I had to wrack my brain to figure out how they might untangle their problems. It was rewarding to find solutions or compromises to some, but not all, or the problems.

What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?

The scene where two characters declared their love and loyalty to each other and agreed to marry for life (both have longer than normal lifetimes). The feelings had to be honest and true because both characters are also bound to the Phrenii, which meant they would know if the other is lying, hesitating, or uncertain. A mere marriage of convenience couldn’t be tolerated. Other (non-graphic) sex scenes in the book were easier because the characters were just hiding secrets and using each other. But this scene had to be honest, while not being trite or overly sentimental (they’ve just been through a battle, after all). It was very difficult to write.

What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?

It was more of a process I learned. I had to get time scales for travelling by ship (galley) between points of my world and get true distances for my map. Unfortunately, I had already said how long it took to get between two cities by ship in the previous book. Since this world mimics the 15th century Mediterranean area, both in its map and its technology, I had to find times for ship travel between two points in the Mediterranean that were, on averaging favorable and non-favorable winds, similar to two points I had on my map. Once I had two comparable points, I could translate the distance to nautical miles, then leagues for land travel… Now I can figure out general travel times by conveyance method between any two points on my map. But when I build the next world, I’ll figure out the scales on my map before I write down anything about travel times!

What project are you working on next?

I’m currently hip-deep in “Names of the Forgotten,” which will complete Draius’s story.


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Buy “Souls for the Phrenii” at BookBar.
Excerpt: “Souls for the Phrenii” by Laura Reeve.

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