Not many people want to envision a towering labyrinth, filled to the brim with metal decay and dangerous magic, unless it involves a serenade from David Bowie. But not many people are fantasy authors, and only one is Lori M. Lee. Her upcoming novel Gates of Thread and Stone takes place in the Labyrinth, the worst section of the city of Ninurta.
“Rows and rows of towering freight containers formed a giant cube of metal decay. The Labyrinth had been built around and inside it; walls and roofs erected, and hallways and staircases shoved into the spaces to connect everything.”
“The city was founded in the aftermath of what they call Rebirth: a devastating war between the mahjo — the magic users — and those who’d supported the advancement of technology,” said Lee.
Gates of Thread and Stone follows Kai, a young woman who fights to rescue her abducted adopted brother Reev after he abruptly disappears.
“Reev found Kai on a riverbank when she was eight, and since she had no one else, he took her in. He taught her to be wary of everyone, and once they discovered her powers, he also warned her to keep them hidden. She understands the dangers of where they live, but she also thinks Reev is just grossly overprotective. But while she’s secretly defied his rules the way almost every teen does, she also usually feels guilty about it. She hero-worships him so having to face his disappointment is always worse than any punishment,” said Lee.
Kai is one of the mahjo and can control the threads of time. But science-fictions fans shouldn’t worry. While Gates of Thread and Stone falls squarely into the fantasy category, there are very specific rules to keep time aligned.
“The single most important rule is that time should only ever flow forward. Another important element to the concept of all magic in Kai’s world is balance: whenever Kai slows down time, there is a fast forward rebound that immediately follows to counterbalance her manipulations,” said Lee.
Developing the rules of time and the relationship between Reev and Kai both appeared in Lee’s extensive outlines. Clocking in at over twenty thousand words, Lee’s stream-of-conscious outline for Gates of Thread and Stone contained all of the major plot points. Not a single one disappeared during the editing process.
This may be, in part, due to Lee’s inherent understanding of writing. Lee’s blog contains a huge directory of writing posts and guides, from things she herself learned to interviews with authors more experienced than she. The majority appeared in her first few years of blogging about writing and her first participation in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.
“My favorite posts were the series on villains and archetypes. I have so much fun talking about my favorite characters, their complexities, and how it all relates back to writing,” said Lee.
“Do read. A lot. That’s the single most important thing, I think, a writer should do aside from, you know, writing. Much of what I’ve learned about writing — character and plot arcs, prose, even the technicalities of dialogue and punctuation — I learned through reading,” said Lee.
And as a reader, Lee is certain of one thing: she could never live in the Labyrinth.
“I’d hate it there. I’m a bit claustrophobic and many have likened living there to being buried alive. I also don’t think I’d be much use to Kai. She’s way more street savvy than I am!”