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Books A.M. Dellamonica: 'The periods of history I’m drawn to weren’t the kind of places any sensible person would want to live through'

Photo by Kelly Robson

A.M. Dellamonica is the author of several novels, including 2009's Indigo Springs, which won the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and its sequel, Blue Magic. Her latest novel, The Nature of a Pirate, was just published by Tor Books. It is the final instalment in her award-winning Hidden Sea Tales trilogy, which also includes Child of a Hidden Sea and A Daughter of No Nation. She lives in Toronto.

Why did you write your new book?

The Nature of a Pirate is the final book in my Hidden Sea Tales trilogy. Being the capper for the trio, I wrote it with an eye to answering some of the big mysteries that drive the overall story: Is Stormwrack, for example, a parallel world or a future Earth devastated by climate change? Will the pirate nations succeed in breaking the treaty that has kept the peace on Stormwrack for over a century? Whose side is Clydon Banning, the arguably sociopathic Duelist-Adjudicator, on? Finally and most importantly, will Sophie Hansa and her brother Bram remain on Stormwrack and continue to investigate its mysteries, or will they be exiled back home to San Francisco forever?

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Which historical period do you wish you'd lived through?

As a queer woman who isn't always that good at performing femininity – as we currently construct it – I have grown into the best of all possible worlds: one where I have genuine protection under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, not to mention the right to be legally married to my wife of almost 20 years, writer Kelly Robson. Even if I were more conventional, and male, the periods of history I'm drawn to weren't the kind of places any sensible person would want to live through. They are brutally violent: Joan of Arc's brief rise to prominence in the Hundred Years' War, the U.S. Civil War, and the U.S. conflict in Vietnam are the three periods I've examined most extensively. But if I could have the Fantasy Island version of a trip to the past, I'd ask to ride shotgun on an opulently catered version of Charles Darwin's voyage on the Beagle.

What question do you wish people would ask about your work (that they don't ask)?

I get asked, "Why portal fantasy?" a good deal, but people rarely ask, "Why ecofantasy?" The environmentalist and feminist elements in my work are perhaps things people take for granted. Maybe nobody wonders about that – maybe "Because it's 2016" is answer enough. I'd love to to think so. But the fact that I have a Narnia-like construct, in Stormwrack, seems more surprising to readers than their green sensibility.

Who's your favourite villain in literature?

He's a classic, but hands down, the best villain is Iago from Shakespeare's Othello. I love the idea of Moriarty, but in the Sherlock Holmes canon he doesn't actually get much stage time … he's a behind-the-scenes string-puller who's been made much of after the fact, by writers who came after Arthur Conan Doyle. Iago, on the other hand, destroys someone he knows intimately, before our very eyes, by telling him a convincing lie that plays right to Othello's insecurities. Iago's only real weapons are malice and deceit. He's not running a complex criminal empire. Dishonesty is something any of us can wield, an option we always have at hand, and it's vastly more poisonous than Kryptonite, a death ray, or even a shotgun.

What's the best death scene in literature?

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James Tiptree Jr. wrote some of the most heart-ripping and poignant character endings I've ever seen. I'd give her a tie between the end of The Only Neat Thing to Do and Backward, Turn Backward. In the latter, a young woman knowingly chooses to doom herself, because she's trapped in an idea of who she is and what her life's supposed to be like. Seeing that her (perfectly good) future doesn't measure up is what drives her to a terrible extreme. She chooses a completely horrifying end over a comfortable, ordinary life.

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