Nicole Galland is the author of: The Fool’s Tale, Revenge of the Rose, Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade and I, Iago. After growing up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduating with honors from Harvard, she divided most of the next 16 years between California and New York City before returning to the Vineyard to stay. During those 16 years she variously made her living in theatre, screenwriting, magazine publishing, grad-schooling, teaching, temping, and random other enterprises. She is the co-founder of Shakespeare for the Masses, a project that irreverently makes the Bard accessible to the Bardophobics of the world.
SF Signal is delighted to have the opportunity to talk with Nicole Galland, author of one of the seven authors of the group-authored trilogy The Mongoliad. She takes time out with us to talk about the evolution of The Mongoliad concept, the delights of cross-country composition via Skype, and how both a methods of writing and storylines evolve over time.
SF SIGNAL: How did the idea of The Mongoliad originally develop?
NICOLE GALLAND: My understanding is that the guys wanted to create a story set in the 1300’s as a screenplay (it was to be called Gallowglass), and somehow that evolved in reverse chronological order to the tumultuous events in Europe, 1241. As that shift was happening, they decided to pursue technological innovation in the way the story was deliverable in non-book form.
SFS: Was it always intended to move from an online interactive experience to a book, or was that only something that happened after Amazon bought the rights?
NG: We did that because we didn’t think it would become a published book (well I didn’t anyhow)… However, at the end of the year-of-serialization, the members of Subutai (Neal, Mark, and some other folks who are not writers) decided to pursue a book deal. I love that Amazon, of all companies, was not only the one to turn it into a printed book, but was determined to get it sold in brick-and-mortar bookstores.
SFS: You have a degree in comparative religion. Considering the multiple religious viewpoints in books 1 and 2, was your background in comparative religion a help when you were writing?
NG: Absolutely. “Comparative Religion” is really an academic way of saying “Comparative Humanity” – we studied history, sociology, geography, philosophy, folklore, mythology, all from the perspective of “consider all the different HOWS and WHYS of how humanity decides to describe itself to itself.” That was very helpful with a project like this.
SFS: As a take off on the last question: it must have been chaotic to write with multiple writers. Can you give us a window into how that process worked? Did all of you have different assignments, or was it more of a bouncing ideas off each other or…?
NG: Yes, and yes. The entire process has been compared, by a number of us, to herding cats.
When Neal invited me to join the process, the guys had been at it for awhile, although not much was actually written. We didn’t originally write this as a trilogy, or even as a book – we wrote it as an experiment in online-only, serialized, collaborative writing. There were 4 “branches” to the story; the general rule of thumb was that each branch had assigned writer(s), and each branch produced 1 chapter a month, for a year.
Theoretically this means that each month you, alone or with your partner, turned out one new chapter of “your” story-arc. In addition to that, we had a writers’ meeting once a week during which we would talk about the developments in the chapters and be sounding boards for each other.
Everyone else lives in Seattle (and is a guy), so they would practice Western Martial Arts for a few hours (“we hit each other with sticks,” is how it was explained to me – but when I saw it in person, those swords were real!) Then they would sit down with coffee and donuts for the story-meeting, and I’d join them on Skype. By the time we finished the whole Mongoliad, I had only met the rest of the group on one 2-day trip to Seattle.
During the Skype sessions, they would torment me by waving coffee and doughnuts in front of the computer screen, and I would torment them by lounging outside in the sunshine.
SFS: The Mongoliad website indicates that there was an interactive component for book 1, for people who were interested in that – noting that 47North was putting out the “definitive edition.” Was that considered an experiment for book 1? Is this the plan with further books?
NG: I assume so but I don’t know. When we originally created it, as an online project, it was definitely interactive – there was a wiki page, and fan fiction, and some beautiful graphics by a number of different artists (as well as an overall gorgeous graphic design by Karen Lauer). Since Amazon bought the project, and morphed it into a trilogy, I haven’t been in on the extra bells and whistles. Which I am actually glad of, because that means they’ll be a cool surprise for me as well.
SFS: Will the world of the Mongoliad stop with book 3? Do we have even more to look forward to?
NG: You definitely have more to look forward to. The trilogy is a complete story with a beginning, middle (a very long middle!) and end, but some of the characters continue on in 2 other books that are currently being written as stand-alone novels (not by all 7 of us, though). There are also a number of short stories and novellas that are pre-Mongoliad.
Also – The Mongoliad is only one of many “big” stories set in the Foreworld universe – that is, our world as we know it, but with a secret/alternate history woven into it, of which the OMVI and the Binders are an integral part, no matter what era. I believe there are stories planned from ancient Rome to the Victorian era, all of them featuring contemporaneous equivalents of the OMVI and the Binders.
SFS: The Mongoliad: Book Two is out Tuesday, September 25. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Nicole, and we look forward to what comes next from the group!