Interview: Saints Astray by Jacqueline Carey


carey-saintsNew York Times bestselling author Jacqueline Carey might be best known for her Kushiel series but she is far more diverse than that series would lead you to believe.

Enter Saints Astray, her new post-apocalyptic novel! It is is the sequel to 2009’s Santa Olivia and, like the first book, tackles some extremely pertinent issues. Jacqueline isn’t afraid to push her own envelope. She is one of those writers who always wants to learn more about herself and the world we live in, and she uses writing almost as an excuse to explore various ideas about the human condition and why it acts the way it does.

It’s a tall order, but sometimes a book can be quite reflective of ourselves. Saints Astray does just that. Here is a bit more about it:

Fellow orphans, amateur vigilantes, and members of the Santitos, Loup Garron—the fugitive daughter of a genetically engineered “wolf man”—and Pilar Ecchevarria grew up in the military zone of Outpost 12, formerly known as Santa Olivia. But now they’re free, and they want to help the rest of the Santitos escape.

During a series of escapades, they discover that Miguel, Loup’s former sparring partner and reprobate surrogate brother, has escaped from Outpost 12 and is testifying on behalf of its forgotten citizens—at least until he disappears from protective custody. Honor drives Loup to rescue Miguel, even though entering the U.S could mean losing her liberty. Pilar vows to help her.

It will take a daring and absurd caper to extricate Miguel from the mess he’s created but Loup is prepared to risk everything… and this time she has help.

I wanted to ask Jacqueline a few questions about Saints Astray and why she decided to write a post-apocalyptic novel. Here are her answers. Enjoy!


Shawn Speakman: SANTA OLIVIA was published two years ago, a departure of sorts for you. Now with its sequel, SAINTS ASTRAY, you return to the story of Loup Garron. Tell Unbound Worlds readers about both books, its main character, and particularly her role in SAINTS ASTRAY?

Jacqueline Carey: I describe SANTA OLIVIA as a post-punk bordertown fable with boxing and cute girls in love. It’s set in a near-future where the world is recovering from a devastating pandemic, and the U.S. has established an occupied military zone along the Mexican border. Santa Olivia was a small Texas town in the cordon. Now it’s known as Outpost 12, and the remaining civilian residents have no legal rights. The army forbids them to leave and the rest of the world has forgotten their existence.

Loup Garron is the daughter of a local waitress and a long-vanished genetically modified soldier. She’s strong, fast… and incapable of feeling fear. After her mother’s death, Loup and her fellow orphans stage a subversive campaign against their occupiers, disguising Loup as the town’s eponymous patron saint, Santa Olivia. Also, there’s boxing. Oh, and cute girls in love.

In SAINTS ASTRAY, Loup and her sex-kitten girlfriend Pilar are on the outside, trying to navigate their way through a vast new world, all the while scheming ways to shed light on the fate of everyone they left behind. Although it touches on some serious issues, it’s more upbeat than the first volume, and there are a series of capers that are intended to celebrate the absurdity of a pair of teenaged girls out to change the world.

Ultimately, Loup’s inability to feel fear is what I enjoyed exploring the most. SANTA OLIVIA focuses on the idea that this could function as a handicap, while in SAINTS ASTRAY, the emphasis is on the fact that Loup’s innate fearlessness acts as a catalyst on those around her, prompting them to rise above their own fears to become their best selves.

SS: What drew you to write novels set in a dystopian world? What are some of your favorite dystopian novels?

JC: Who doesn’t love a good dystopia? It’s a staple of the genre for a reason. There’s something intrinsically compelling about a vision of the future in which the worst elements of human nature have been given free rein. Anthony Burgess’ A CLOCKWORK ORANGE may be my all-time favorite. Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE, Alan Moore’s V FOR VENDETTA. And I’ll admit it, I thought Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES was quite a ride. Okay, Stephen King went there first with THE RUNNING MAN, but Collins upped the ante by forcing children into mortal combat.

SS: I see a lot of parallels between the world of Loup and some of the political discussions going on today in the United States. As a writer, how much do you think fiction should illuminate current events?

JC: It’s certainly true that contemporary political issues were an inspiration for these books. Obviously, the debate over border control in the U.S. looms large; also, in SANTA OLIVIA, the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, a.k.a. government-sanctioned torture. In more general terms, I wanted to address issues of nationalism, paranoia, fear of “the other,” and the unhealthy clandestine mindset these can engender. And yet, “should” is a fraught word. After all, there’s a place for fiction that provides sheer escapism. Some of my most touching fan-mail has come from readers who found one of my books afforded them respite from reality in a time of desperate need.

That said, although I couldn’t begin to quantify it, I do think the existence of fiction that illuminates current events is important. Our culture of shallow yet pervasive news media creates a barrier of white noise, and I think a lot of people simply get overwhelmed and tune out. But people respond to a good narrative. A well-crafted story with characters the reader cares about has the potential to break through that barrier and render political abstractions personal and accessible.

SS: Will there be a third book in the series?

JC: At this point, no. But as always, never say never.

SS: I know you are working on a contemporary fantasy very different from your previous work. What can you tell us about it and when will it be published?

JC: DARK CURRENTS (yes, it has a new title) will be released in October 2012. It’s set in a small Midwestern resort town where paranormal tourism is a booming business. Daisy Johanssen, an incubus’ daughter raised by a loving single mom, is the liaison between the eldritch community and mundane authorities. Most of the time that doesn’t entail anything more challenging than retrieving stolen goods from a puckish pickpocket or tracking down a tourist led astray by a will-o’-the-wisp, but when a young man drowns in an apparent accident that’s not what it seems, Daisy’s job turns deadly earnest.

It’s my take on urban fantasy, and I’m trying for a blend of whimsy, wonder and creepiness. I have a penchant for synthesizing disparate elements!

Saints Astray by Jacqueline Carey is in fine bookstores now!