I’m pleased to welcome Josh Martin, author of Ariadnis and sequel Anassa, which is released this week!
Kate Ormand: Hi Josh! Can you tell us a little about what we can expect from Ariadnis?
Josh Martin: Hi Kate! Thanks for having me on here!
Ariadnis is the story of two cities who have been at loggerheads for centuries over who gets to rule over their home: the last island left on Erthe. It’s a clash of cultures and idolatry – one city (Athenas) is progressive and industrial, whose people live in a steam-powered, metal construction. The other city (Metis) is traditional and rural. Its citizens live in an interlinking network of nine enormous trees. Our two heroines: Aula and Joomia have been unlucky enough to be born with a mark that singles them out to be the champion of each city, and must therefore compete to win a magical book that will allow them to win control of the island for their city. But what happens if they find a third way to lead their people into a new age of humanity?
KO: Can you tell us how the gorgeous book cover ties in with the story?
JM: The covers were designed by Michelle Brackenborough and illustrated by Leo Nickolls – who are both geniuses. The cover for Ariadnis went through quite a few stages, but the curling vines and branches have always been there, alluding both to the novel’s dwelling on nature and also Joomia’s powers. Of course, owls are important symbols of wisdom and are sacred to the societies in the book so it was a natural focal point for the book’s cover!
From the very beginning Anassa presented itself to me as a book about being reborn – healing, changing, moving forward. I’m so chuffed with the cover because I think it’s a true reflection of that.
Anassa was, in fact, previously called Arachness. The first line I wrote of it was: “The spiders are leaving”. I didn’t know what it meant, but I liked the way it made me feel. I’ve associated spiders with prophecy ever since I read Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels trilogy when I was about thirteen so part of the draw was that. Spider webs also have a rich history of being used in healing – and are still being used today. For me, that was a perfect symbol to allude to the healing process Etain goes through in the second book.
It wasn’t until later that I also found ants incorporating themselves into the story too (and if you look closely on the cover you can also see them crowding toward the spider). Ants are the most marvellous architects, and though their building capabilities are legendary, I used them in Anassa more to build the idea of an enemy who can hide in plain view, who work not as individuals but as a single mind with many bodies.
KO: Congrats on the release of Anassa this week! Pros and cons of writing a sequel?
JM: Thank you! I think the best thing about writing Anassa was that this time around I knew the characters really well and didn’t have to spend much energy guessing what they’d do. I was also a lot more emotionally invested in them – this was the first time I’d ever made myself tear up as I was writing.
The worst thing about writing it was just all the doubt, and the knowledge of a deadline. I am wildly more productive if given a deadline, but I often end up second-guessing myself about the choices I’ve made – a very common author problem, I think!
KO: And to wrap up can we end with a quote from the book?
JM: Of course! This is an ominous quote to end on, but hopefully intriguing as well….
There are specific funeral rites in Athenas.
You do it as early as you can, you carry the one who has passed on your shoulders to your plateau’s viewpoint, where you can look from the edge of the city to the forest below, and the sea, if it’s a clear day.
You wrap the body of your loved one in the colours of the sky. There are magi on hand, of course. And priestesses. You and your family are allowed to choose some hymn. After you’ve sung it, the magi will blow on a whistle made of bird bones and carved in the shape of a feather. The owls will hear it and come.
The priestesses murmur the rites and utter the farewell oath. They bring out the funeral knife, and the blade sings its own hymn as it’s pulled from the scabbard. Your loved one is unwrapped, so the head is exposed. And the priestess brings the knife down on their neck.
The owls will arrive then. In their hundreds. The great greys are usually the first. It’s your job to offer them your loved one’s head.
You pick it up gingerly.
You hold it out.
The owls have been trained to take the head back to the owlery to devour it, but sometimes they don’t. As you cry your tears, or not, a priestess does a speech about the bullshit metaphor: ‘May the wisdom of their life take its course through the Wise One’s creatures, let the Wisdom flow from them to Him, from Him to Athenas and in turn, may the Wise One keep us Wise.’
Then the priestesses and the magi will wrap the body back in sky colours, and they’ll attach small parachutes which float the body through the air, to the sea.
As your loved one glides gently from sight, most people sing the Athenasian Sky Song, which is depressing as hell and sounds like a cat being strangled.
So when I hear the notes of the song I know what it means.”