Read Part One here.
Airship Ambassador: What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of Everfair?
Nisi Shawl: Towards the book’s end, people wear folding hats of oiled paper to keep off the intermittent rains in Everfair’s capital, Kisangani, and they cross the water-filled roadways on hand-cranked swings. And so on. I made sure to include lots of details about what people wore, because I’d love to see some Everfair cosplay!
AA: That would be fun to see, and flattering, too, to see people so engaged with the characters. What kind of back story is there for Everfair which didn’t make it into the final book?
NS: At 30 years span, there’s not much that didn’t make it. The childhoods of Lisette, Daisy, Thomas, and many other characters happened before the book began. One major death takes place offstage, and I’ve caught some flack about that. There’s a 10 year gap between the close of Part One and the opening of Part Two in which King Mwenda attends college.
AA: When people read Everfair, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?
NS: We need each other.
AA: How did elements of your own life and experiences play into Everfair?
NS: Probably in lots of ways. I was only conscious of a few: my experience working as an au pair helped with the passages in which Lisette works as the nurse for Daisy’s children; my time in amateur theater helped with the passages around the play Wendi-La and the revue in Puerto Rico; my participation in the West African-based religious tradition of Ifa helped with describing many of the ceremonies and magical encounters my characters undergo, such as Thomas’s meet-up with Loango.
AA: I always find it interesting to see how the various bits of history and personal experience can be woven together to create something new and engaging. What was one memorable story while writing this story?
NS: Mostly writing this book was just joyous discovery after joyous discovery. I’m sorry, but I have no stories about this story.
AA: Discovering new things is such a reward in itself. Are there any plans for a sequel or spinoff?
NS: I’ve written—and apparently sold—one short story, “The Colors of Money,” which I conceived of as a sort of pilot for a novel which would be a sequel to Everfair. I’m expecting to write a second short story along similar lines in the next month. We’ll see. There actually is a spinoff already: “Vulcanization,” a short horror story from Leopold II’s viewpoint, appeared on Nightmare Magazine’s website earlier this year.
AA: What kind of research and balance went into creating the Everfair world?
NS: Oodles of research, though I wish I’d been able to do more. Sometimes the materials simply didn’t exist. Sometimes I didn’t have the money or time to access them.
I like your use of the word “balance” in this question. I was quite conscious of balancing representation of various demographics in the novel, and I kept track of who got “screen time” and how long it had been since we’d heard from a woman, a European, and so on. My tools for doing this were pretty low-tech: pen and paper.
AA: There’s a lot to be said for the reliability of low-tech. What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the Everfair history?
NS: Every detail of daily life is meant to give readers the feeling of Everfair’s history, from the food to the showers to the beer to the livestock to the loading procedures. Everything.
We’ll end the second part in our chat with Nisi here. Join us next time when Nisi talks about the process of writing and creating Everfair.
You can support Nisi and our community by getting your copy of Everfair here.