Anne Stephens | GODBLIND

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ANNA STEPHENS is a UK-based writer of grimdark fantasy. Her debut novel, GODBLIND, has caused quite a stir already. We caught up with the exciting new talent to find out more about the book…

STARBURST: Tell us all about Godblind
Anna Stephens: It’s something I considered to be epic fantasy but everyone tells me it’s grim-dark. Which is fine, I don’t mind either way. It’s a story about people in extraordinary circumstances. It’s based around a religious war - a political war. It’s about the things that people will do for power and the things that people will do for other people.

Why are gods and religion such a common fantasy theme?
I think it’s quite a subject in the real world and there’s a possibility that if you put it in a fantasy setting you can talk about real world events, but it’s got that one step removed. I think the way the world is going there’s a lot of radicalisation in lots of different religions. Godblind, in a way, is a means to explore that and why people do what they do.

Which character was the most fun to write?
My current favourite is probably Tara Carter, who’s a captain in the West Rank. Up until September last year, she was actually a man. I made the decision that I wanted another female character; one who is in a position of authority, no matter how hard-earned that was. So I decided to change her into a woman and as soon as I did that, she absolutely came to life on the page. Her voice was bigger, she was louder, the personality changed and she really leapt off the page at me. She’ll also be featured in the sequels so I get to keep writing her for a little bit longer.

Is genre fiction as diverse and progressive as it thinks it is?
I think there’s an awful lot of good work being done. I think there’s a lot of people who are working hard to break down stigmas and barriers. I don’t think we are as far forward as we could be, but that’s a reflection of society as well. I think we are getting there. Authors like N. K. Jemisin are doing a lot to bring diversity into science fiction and fantasy. There are authors like Kameron Hurley, who’s doing an awful lot for gender equality. I do wonder if we need a bigger name to join in.

How would you describe Godblind to an elderly relative?

It is a novel of the human experience of war. It can be quite bloody. It’s not particularly nice. Most of the characters are in it because they feel it’s their duty or because they strongly believe. It’s a story about faith and hope, and what people are willing to sacrifice for peace.

When you started writing Godblind, you obviously had an idea of how it would turn out. How close was the finished product to the initial vision?
There are a lot of significant differences. The very, very first vision of Godblind, which was more than ten years ago, was utterly different. It followed the story of a young and privileged princess. It was full of clichés. The final version, aside from the names of the characters and place, there’s probably not a lot of the original version in there. It’s gone through so many changes!

If you got to write using another author’s world, what would you pick?
I think I’d want to step out of fantasy altogether. I think the Doctor Who universe, I’d love to do something Doctor Who-ish. Sticking to literature, maybe Scott Lynch, there’s a really playful sense to his writing, even when he’s being quite serious.

What’s next for you?
Godblind is the first of a trilogy. I’m currently drafting a sequel. My deadline is the first of July, so it’s looming a little faster than I would like. I think it’s going well, though we’ll see what my editor says. Once that’s done, I’d like to some other books set in the same world but set later on, maybe 10 to 15 years down the line, with some existing characters and some new characters. I do have a very old space opera on my hard drive, which will certainly be interesting to take a look at again.

What are your recommendations for our fantasy readers?
Currently reading The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor, which is a science fiction fantasy novel. I’ve just finished Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, which was amazing. I also recommend Blackwings by Ed McDonald. Not read all of it yet, but what I have read was amazing.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t take those rejections quite so hard. The first versions of the stories that you wrote, they were not very good and rejection made you a better writer.

If you could preserve one man-made thing for all time, what would it be?

GODBLIND is out now and you can read our review here.
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