Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not planning Shadow Campaigns, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts. Visit him online at djangowexler.com.
Django was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the 2nd book in his Forbidden Library series, The Mad Apprentice!
Kristin Centorcelli: The Mad Apprentice, book 2 in your Forbidden Library series is out this month! What can we expect from Alice and the gang this time around?
Django Wexler: Now that she’s settled in to her role as Geryon’s apprentice, Alice gets introduced to the larger community of Readers and their students. When one of the old Readers is murdered, Alice and a number of other apprentices are sent to apprehend the culprit. The apprentices, though, can have just as difficult a time working together as their masters do, especially when the supposedly dormant labyrinth they’re exploring turns out to be much more dangerous than expected.
KC: Is it usually easier to write the 2nd, 3d, etc book in a series, since you’ve already got the “world” established a bit? Did you do any specific research for this book?
DJ: A little bit. These books take place mostly in magical worlds, so they don’t require a lot of research, but they are set in the early 1930s so I try to get some of the flavor right. Alice remembers visiting Central Park with her father, for example, so I read about what the park was like back then. (A dump, it turns out. It was wrecked by homeless camps during the Depression and not really repaired until 1934.) It’s also important to keep my language straight — since we’re tightly in Alice’s point of view, I don’t want to use any metaphors or references that would strike people as anachronistic.
It’s not always easy, even when you get things right. I had one reviewer refer to my world as an “alternate history” because it included both gaslight and electricity during the Hoover presidency, which was a detail I actually lifted directly from an actual history book!
KC: Speaking of “worlds”, what are a few of your favorite literary “worlds”?
DJ: I love intricate worlds with well-thought-out systems, so that you can ask logical questions of them and get logical answers back. Any time someone has put some thought into where the food and water for that giant city come from, or how people manage to trade across the monster-haunted wilderness, I’ll be happy. Some recent examples include the obvious — George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire — as well as the worlds of The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie and The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone.
KC:Are there any new supporting characters in this book that you particularly enjoyed writing?
DJ: Quite a few! Alice meets up with a party of other apprentices for her adventure, and the great thing is they all come from very different backgrounds. Each of the old Readers has a very particular, heavily biased view of the world, and they all do their best to teach their students in that tradition. So they range from the confident Garret to the sunny, slightly oblivious Dexithea to the gloomy Soranna, who was raised to be part of a living weapon. Doing the interactions among the group was a lot of fun. Dex in particular has a slightly antiquated manner of speech that I find hilarious at times.
KC: It’s been a while since we caught up. Have you read any good books lately? Is there anything that you’re looking forward to this year?
DJ: I got the chance to read Alex Marshall’s A Crown for Cold Silver before it came out, and it was fantastic; the same goes for Max Gladstone’s Last First Snow, which releases later this year. Just now, I finished Cixin Liu’s fascinating The Three-Body Problem. I’ve got such a stack of things already on my shelves to read I rarely get the chance to look ahead very far!
KC: next for you, and for Alice and Co.?
DJ: I’m writing the third Alice book now, which will — assuming all goes well — be out sometime early next year. The plan is for there to be five books in total, which will wrap up at least this part of Alice’s story.
In terms of releases, it’s a busy year for me! I’ve got a short story in the latest issue of Asimov’s that I’m really proud of — they were the first market I ever submitted to, at age 16, so getting an acceptance there meant a lot. I’m also in a number of anthologies coming out this year — Blackguards, Operation Arcana, and Press Start to Play all have stories of mine. For my military fantasy series The Shadow Campaigns, I’ve got a novella called The Shadow of Elysium releasing in May, and then the next novel, The Price of Valor, comes out in July.