Everyone is familiar with Amie Kaufman’s sci-fi novels Illuminae and These Broken Stars. Her newest book, The Isles of The Gods, is out now but this time, it is a fantasy novel. Following Selly who is asked by a handsome stranger to cross the Crescent Sea without detection so he can complete a ritual on the sacred Isles of the Gods, this first book in a new series has everything you want in a fantasy novel, from magical cities to very strong and distinct POVs. We are honoured to have Amie Kaufman here today to chat about The Isles of The Gods.
You are well known for your sci-fi novels. What made you decide to write a fantasy book this time?
I’ve always loved, and read fantasy – and some of my books, like The Other Side of the Sky, Ice Wolves, or The World Between Blinks, have strong fantasy elements, or simply are fantasy! This particular story needed to be told in a particular way – and so it fitted best into a fantasy novel. I expect I’ll return to sci-fi again in the future at some point, though.
And what was your biggest worry when you first embarked on this project? And did it materialise? How did you overcome it?
My biggest concern about this book was always being good enough to pull it off – although it feels like a fast-paced adventure story, there’s an enormous amount of information readers need to absorb, from geography to politics, religion to trade to conflict. I knew I’d have to do a really good job of weaving that in – and the way I overcame it, in the end, was to take nearly a decade to write the book, returning to it often.
And of course we have to chat about the map. How did you decide where things are located in The Isles of The Gods?
Isn’t the map absolutely gorgeous? It was drawn by the incredibly talented Virginia Allyn. She was my first choice, and I was so thrilled when she said yes. I drew up a rough version of it early, because I knew with the sailing that takes place, I’d need to have a firm idea of where everything was, and the prevailing winds. From there, the needs of the plot dictated the distances involved.
When you were creating the cities, such as Port Naranda and Kirkpool, which cities from real life or fantasy worlds were you inspired by?
When I was creating Port Naranda, I thought a little about 1920s New York, and a little about other harbours I’ve loved, like Nyhavn in Copenhagen. I wanted a sense of hustle and bustle. When it came time to create Kirkpool, I wanted something that felt more old world, and I thought a lot about London, by way of Oxford, with perhaps a touch of somewhere like Bath. Neither of my fantasy cities are really anything like the places I’ve named – but vibes are often a good place to start.
In The Isles of The Gods, we have 5 POVs. Was it an easy decision to make?
Definitely. One of the things I love to do with my stories is take you deep into a character’s point of view, and then flip things around, so you’re forced to consider things from a new angle. To do that here, I had to include multiple points of view. As one character says in the book: “Everyone tells the same story different ways, and the only one we’re the hero of is our own.”
How did you ensure their voices are distinct even when the characters might be together for the majority of the book?
This is definitely something I worked hard on – each of the characters has a voice that’s shaped by their upbringing, their experiences, their education, and where they’re from. I thought a lot about what kind of vocab they’d use, what kind of metaphors – Selly’s world is framed by the sea, for example, and so her comparisons reflect that.
And finally, we are asking on behalf of everyone, how soon will we get book 2?!
I’m wrapping my draft up right now, so you’ll definitely have it next year! I can promise some incredible outfits, some new characters I absolutely love, and a visit to the most incredible library on the Crescent Sea.