Saturday, September 1, 2018

Elsa Hart

Elsa Hart was born in Rome, Italy, but her earliest memories are of Moscow, where her family lived until 1991. Since then she has lived in the Czech Republic, the U.S.A., and China. She earned a B.A. from Swarthmore College and a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. She wrote her first novel, Jade Dragon Mountain, in the mountain borderlands of Southwest China.

Hart's latest novel is City of Ink.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Dune, by Frank Herbert

I write historical mysteries, but I often turn to fantasy and science fiction for lessons on how to build worlds.

The more removed a setting is from contemporary reality, the more elucidation it needs to make it navigable for readers. There is added pressure on mysteries, which work best when readers are given a fair shot at guessing the solution. A reader can’t be expected to solve a puzzle without knowing the rules. What do the characters in this setting value? What do they fear? What choices are available to them?

Great writers of science fiction and fantasy are experts at embedding descriptions of unfamiliar settings into a story. I’d been intending to read Dune for years, knowing the acclaim it has received for the sheer scope of its world-building.

Having finished it, I can see why! The brilliance of this book is in details so subtle they are easy to overlook, details of weaponry and combat, of mythology and religion, of ecology and technology. Dune is considered fundamental to its genre, and I expected to encounter more elements that have become tropes in the years since its publication. I didn’t expect to be so surprised, and I thoroughly enjoyed the jolt to my imagination.

The book I’ll be picking up next is The Invisibility Cloak by Ge Fei.
Visit Elsa Hart's website.

--Marshal Zeringue