Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and he resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary. But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.
Shadow Run features a whole troupe of awesome space pirates – or, at least, that’s how I think of them. Can you tell us a little about the crew of the Kaitan Heritage?
Michael and I wanted an interesting group dynamic in the crew, even if that meant tension (or maybe especially if it did), which led to some fun brainstorming sessions about how to piece it together to maximum effect. I had to have Basra from the beginning (I mean, a genderfluid accountant/trader with a mysterious past… who can resist?), and then we slowly built the rest of the crew — the hacker, the bruiser, etc. Eton had his penchant for both cooking and heavy artillery from his first conception, as well!
Shadow Run features magic and space and royal families and thievery and different planets. Can you tell us a little about the Shadow Run universe – or, at least, what your favorite part of the universe is?
I’m a sucker for royals, and space royals are ten times more fun. From the beginning, Michael and I wanted to combine elements of traditional fantasy with the far-flung future, which led to the whole concept of the Great Collapse — the loss of technology that sets this society back into their version of the Dark Ages. Then voila! You have space ships and royalty, faster-than-light-flight and swords, brutal family traditions that should be outdated but drones that are instead. That has to be my favorite element of the universe.
Shadow Run features a canonically genderqueer side character. Can you explain a bit about incorporating that into the writing process? Were there any worries that you wouldn’t be able to pull off asserting gender identities outside of that character’s head?
Ah, Basra. Like I said, he was there from the beginning. Maybe it’s because I’m genderfuild, but the first time Michael and I really started talking about the crew, I was like, “I want a genderfluid character.” But gender is a tough thing to show, and definitely tricky incorporating into the text, especially since we used a “he” pronoun (Basra’s kind of the flip-side of me, primarily using “he” out of convenience, but he’s often neutral and also frequently female). I myself have few changes to show the different facets of my gender, but we didn’t want to entirely leave that up to the reader’s imagination, since I think people would just default to male. So we had more obvious markers — like Basra wearing dresses or using more stereotypically masculine or feminine gestures and behaviors. Gender has a lot to do with performance, but it’s also incredibly nuanced. Oversimplifying it is/was my worry.
Which of the crew do you most relate to?
I think I’ve made that obvious… but Basra is also more badass than I could ever be! I relate to Qole a lot as well — her temper and jadedness, but also her tenacious hope and persistence in the face of an often-crappy universe.
Which of the crew would you most want to have on your side in a heist?
Telu, definitely Telu. She’d just deactivate the cameras and open all the doors for me.
If you could steal any character from any other media – TV show, book, movie, comic – and add them to the crew of the Kaitan Heritage, who would you throw in the mix?
Book: Lila Bard from A Darker Shade of Magic. She’d fit right in.
Movie (I can do two, right?): Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Because GROOT.
Promos for Shadow Run compared it to “Firefly” and Dune. What media inspires you, either because it’s fantastic, or because you know you can do better? (Please say “Jupiter Ascending.” I love that movie.)
“Firefly,” definitely, though that’s obvious. And I don’t know that we tried to do everything better (that’s impossible), but I definitely wanted a more diverse crew than what “Serenity” had. And then of course “Star Wars” and “The Fifth Element” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” inspired us.
“Jupiter Ascending,” while it has the perfect visual aesthetic, didn’t come out until we were done writing and polishing our first draft! We got our agent with Shadow Run in February 2015, just as it hit theaters.
What else do you want people to know about Shadow Run?
We might not have done everything perfectly (well, I’m certain we didn’t), but we hope you at least have a rockin’ good time reading it. That was the primary goal!
What YA books would you recommend to people who loved Shadow Run?
The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and also Amie’s and Meagan Spooner’s Starbound series. We’ve been compared to the Lunar Chronicles, as well, though I (*gasp* I know, I know) haven’t read those yet. And I’m REALLY excited to read Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, which came out a month before Shadow Run!