Interview 111, Noah Lemelson, author of The Sightless City, Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of our interview with Noah Lemelson, author of The Sightless City.

Read Part 1 here.

Airship Ambassador: That strength/fragility aspect comes through before and after each success. Each of them is motivated by something, even when they can’t identify or describe it to themselves. How does their motivation guide and justify them in their actions? Is there a line for them in good vs evil, or noble purpose vs personal selfishness?

Noah Lemelson: Marcel and Sylvaine are driven by the need to prove something about themselves, both to the world and to quiet their own self-doubts. Marcel’s has a desperate need for heroism, and Sylvaine wants prove herself as more than just a Ferral, a beast-person. Marcel’s goals are inherently moralistic, he always wants to do the right thing, while Sylvaine’s is more amoral, (though not immoral) and personal. Ironically the moralistic ideals of Marcel are more easily bent towards darker actions.

AA: Looking behind the scenes, what did you do to increase the reader’s mental or emotional connection to the characters? How did you keep them as relatable yet still grounded in the circumstances of the story?

NL: I think I tried to ground the protagonists’ goals in relatable emotional desires. You don’t have to have been a questionable “war hero” to have done things you have complicated feeling about, you don’t have to be a ferral trying to be an engineer to feel undervalued, or to want to prove something about yourself. I don’t think the circumstances alienate the reader, as long as the characters are reacting in a way that fits their past, relatable experiences.

AA: Sangleum and “The Knack” are big factors the world of The Sightless City. Why are they important in telling the story?

NL: Sangleum is the fuel for everything in the world of the Sightless City, autocars, æroships, factories, war machines, and of course it powers Ætheric Engineering. Ætheric Engineers, at least those with “The Knack,” can use sangleum to warp metal at a touch, construct machinery with a snap, or infuse their inventions with near-magical properties.

AA: What are some of the interesting and important details within the world of The Sightless City?

NL: The world of The Sightless City has been through a lot. A century before, The Calamity ripped a hole in the center of the world turning it into a vast wasteland. A lot still survived, but the scars are too large and too central to be ignored. Underneath the wastes sit not only the destroyed land of Vastium, once the center of human civilization, but ancient ruins beneath that as well, of a civilization who reached far greater heights of technological advancements, before disappearing without a trace. Yet the world they left behind is not only for humanity. Other-folk also exist, such as the crimson-skinned Mutants, the giant horned Salvi, or the furred and clawed Ferrals, each trying to make their way in a world sometimes cruelly dominated by humanity.

AA: The various hints throughout the story definitely lead to more questions about what came before, what really happened, and certainly, what might come next. What passage, paragraph, or scene was really memorable to write? (description of, or copy in text)

NL: Without spoilers, the epilogue allowed me to get way weirder and surreal, and hint at what exists in the seams of the world. It was a lot of fun to write.

AA: Was there any scene-passage-text-etc that you loved but which just didn’t work and had to be cut?

NL: I tried several attempts at a prologue, including a lengthy one from Kayip’s perspective during the Battle for Huile, which I kind of loved, and was hard to cut.

AA: Ouch. Similarly, what kind of back story is there for The Sightless City which didn’t make it into the final book?

NL: Tons of world building that can’t fit in, including two millennia plus of history, as well as cosmology that even the characters would not be aware of. Some of this will sneak into future books, though not all.

AA: That’s potentially a good problem to have, but knowing there’s a solid foundation for the story we are reading means there will be continuity. When people read The Sightless City, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?

NL: The world is a complex place. It’s worth struggling to do the right thing, but it can be just as hard to figure out what the hell that is.

AA: That’s something many people can relate to. Did elements of your own life and experiences play into The Sightless City?

NL: It’s hard to make too strong of a comparison, I live a rather pedestrian and sedate life, but I do love exploring old, ruined buildings, and I think that aesthetic filters into The Sightless City.

AA: What was one memorable story while writing this story?

NL: Originally the trilogy was one book. I remember distinctly being told I was writing a trilogy without realizing it. I stood my ground and confidently stated The Sightless City would always be one book, and never a trilogy. A week later it was a trilogy.

AA: Funny how stories can grow like that. Can you share a little of what is coming up next?

NL: The next book will leave Huile as Marcel, Sylvaine, and Kayip travel into the Wastes, beyond the bounds of civilization, in the pursuit of Lazarus Roache. They will see another side of the world, one harsher, where the ideals and ideologies of the Resurgence, the Principate, and even the Engineer’s Guild are just distant stories, where even the veneer of law has peeled away. They will be forced to fend both with the strange creatures and violent inhabitants of the Wastes, but also with parts of their past finally catching up to them.

AA: Challenges in front and behind. What kind of research and balance went into creating the The Sightless City world?

NL: It’s hard to point to specific research, but I am a voracious reader, and love nonfiction on history, as well as mythology, which deeply influenced The Sightless City. Some ideas also came from a class I took in college, Magic, Science, and Religion, which looked at the strange ways these concepts can blend together, merge and morph, which played a lot into both ætheric engineering, and the religions of The Sightless City.

We’ll break here in our Interview with Noah.

Look for part 3 where Noah talks more about the characters and the details of their world.

Keep up to date with Noah Lemelson’s latest news on his website and on Twitter.

You can support Noah Lemelson and our community by getting your copy of The Sightless City here.

Published in: on January 31, 2022 at 8:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

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