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EXCERPT: “River of Stars” by Guy Gavriel Kay

GUY GAVRIEL KAY is the #1 internationally bestselling author of ten previous novels and an acclaimed collection of poetry, Beyond This Dark House . Today, he shares with our SF Signal readers, an excerpt from his new novel, River of Stars.

What is it about?

In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.

INTERVIEW: Guy Gavriel Kay, author of “River of Stars”

GUY GAVRIEL KAY is the #1 internationally bestselling author of ten previous novels and an acclaimed collection of poetry, Beyond This Dark House.

Kay was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, and raised in Winnipeg. In the 1970’s he was retained by the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien to assist in the editorial construction of Tolkien’s posthumously published The Silmarillion. He returned to Canada from Oxford to take a law degree at the University of Toronto and was called to the Bar in Ontario.

Kay became Principal Writer and Associate Producer for the CBC radio series, “The Scales of Justice”, dramatizing major criminal trials in Canadian history. He also wrote several episodes when the series later moved to television. He has written social and political commentary for the National Post and the Globe and Mail and for The Guardian in England, and has spoken on a variety of topics at universities and conferences around the world.

In 1984, Kay’s first novel, The Summer Tree, the first volume of The Fionavar Tapestry, was published to considerable acclaim in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, and then in a number of countries and languages. In 1990 Viking Canada’s edition of his novel Tigana reached the national bestseller list, and his next book A Song for Arbonne debuted at #1 in Canada.

Translations now exceed twenty languages and Kay has toured and read on behalf of his publishers and at literary events in Canada, the United States, England, Poland, France, Russia, Croatia, Serbia, Mexico and Greece, among others, with his next international appearance being slated for June 2010 in Shanghai and Beijing. He has been nominated for and has won numerous literary awards including the World Fantasy Award and is the recipient of the International Goliardos Prize (presented in Mexico City) for his contributions to the literature of the fantastic. Guy Gavriel Kay’s work has inspired artists and writers around the world to create original music, verse, and art.

Kay lives in Toronto with his wife and sons. You can also find him at BrightWeavings.com and on Twitter

Guy was kind enough to take some time and chat with us about his upcoming novel, River of Stars!


Kristin Centorcelli: Guy, you have an extensive list of credits and your name is synonymous with quality fantasy. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your background?

Guy Gavriel Kay: First of all, thank you. Nice way to get on an author’s good side (I do have one) from the outset of an interview! I usually say I became interested in writing around when I collided with the grim truth that I was never going to make the NHL or play second base in MLB. In fairness to me, this shattering self-awareness arrived around the age of nine or so. I am, however, currently working with a trainer to mount a late push to make it to the Bigs in baseball. Stay tuned.

Um, no. A little more seriously, writing always appealed as an interest, but I never thought I would be able to make a living at it. As an oldest son I prudently took a law degree (criminal law fascinated, Clarence Darrow was a hero) and my call to the bar, for the classic ‘something to fall back on’ … no idea what people thought would happen if I fell forwards. I never practised law. Became involved in radio and then television drama here in Canada while the first books found their readers and I dropped most of the media work around the time Tigana became a commercial break-out. I wake up every morning feeling genuinely fortunate that I can write the books I want to write, at the pace that lets me do them as well as I can.

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