By Emily Allen.
We are very happy to welcome Kelly Robson to The Reading Corner to discuss her upcoming release “High Times in the Low Parliament”, out August 9th!
Join Lana Baker, the best scribe in Aldgate, on delightfully warm and rich cavort through evocative Georgian London into the heart of Parliament, as danger creeps ever closer.
Warm-hearted and sharp-witted Anglander Lana is sent to Low Parliament to transcribe their debates. However, in the case of a hung parliament, the chambers will flood, and the country will return to war.
With the help of feisty fairy Bugbite, beautiful dancer cum deputy Eloquentia de la Barre, and vision-inducing hallucinogens, Lana must work against time to ensure a resolution to the never-ending parliamentary discourses, and save the inhabitants from a horrific death by rising tide.
Flirtatious and fantastical, the adventures of spirited Lana and her partners will take you on a magical journey through a politically driven modern day fairy-tale.
Hi Kelly! Firstly, thank you so much for your time, and for this fantastic novel! I absolutely lovedreading High Times in Low Parliament and fell in love with the fantastic Lana from page one.
Thanks so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed my book.
Lana’s assertion of her time in Parliament as “Just petty squabbling, like children fighting over cake”, could be read as a parallel to Parliament in modern-day Britain, and indeed politics around the world. How much was your description of Parliament in the novel influenced by the current political states in Britain and globally?
Like many people, I’ve been struck by the polarization of politics and rejection of compromise that has reared up over the last — shall we say — thirty or forty years. Brexit was top of my mind while writing High Times in the Low Parliament, but we see polarization everywhere. I wonder if it’s a reaction to increasing complexity and fast rate of change? Subconsciously, maybe people want to slow down change, and having political and social systems stuck in a constant tug of war is a great way to bog it down.
Lana also observes that politics is a game of endurance. The winner is the person who is able to argue the longest – who is essentially willing to be the most stubborn and controlling. In that case, it’s no surprise that we are exhausted by and alienated from politics.
However, it’s also worth mentioning right away that this is a comedy. Sometimes life is just so ridiculous, laughter is the only possible reaction.
The novel explores the events fully through Lana’s eyes. Which scene would you like to touch on in more detail, or give a different perspective to, if you were writing from the point of view of one of the other characters? Perhaps Eloquentia, Bugbite, or one of the other scribes?
The beautiful Eloquentia is a true believer in Parliament. She’s a rare example of a straight-arrow politician, one who plays the game by its rules, so it’s easy to imagine her perspective on everything. What’s more interesting is the perspective of fairies like Bugbite, watching a Parliamentary brawl from on high and trying to stay out of the way of flying fists. In the past, Fairies suffered from the human habit of war-making and they’ve had enough. To control humans, they created Parliament and are enforcing its use. Fairies take the long view, because they know when humans make war, Fairies suffer. I’d like to have delved more into the Fairy perspective on human violence.
You are an award-winning author of several fantastic books. When writing and growing the stories and personalities of your characters, do you ever change your mind about the plot? Did you always know what the ending of High Times in Low Parliament was going to be?
When I draft a story, I almost always know the beginning, ending, and a few points along the way. How we get there depends on the interaction of character and problem. I like to joke that plot doesn’t exist – <Yoda voice> Plot? Plot? There is no plot. Character, that is all. When I find myself unable to move forward with a story, it’s usually because my character has taken action that doesn’t make sense to them. The solution is always to go back to the essentials of the character and make changes there when necessary.
The story contains references to multiple global languages and makes reference to previous countries and landmasses, such as Doggerland. As a history and language geek myself, is language and world history of interest to you? What influenced the fantastical historical setting and depiction of 18th century London and England?
I read tons of history and geography non-fiction. We are living in a golden age of non-fiction – so many terrific, revolutionary books being published right now, many of them with true global perspectives. And on top of that, we also have unprecedented access to primary sources of historical research. While researching a previous story, I read the 1863 memoir of a 90 year old man, which was available through Project Guttenberg. It was surprisingly readable, utterly fascinating, and allowed me to see Georgian Liverpool through his eyes. It almost felt like time travel.
In High Times in the Low Parliament, I wanted to emphasize that Europe is not a monoculture with only a few languages, and that the borders we impose on the world are not natural and unchangeable. Even nations we think of as being homogenous are simply not. The world is a heck of a lot more complicated than we like to think, and there is so much richness to be had by embracing that complexity. And though this book focuses on Europe, I hope there’s a sense that it shows only one small part of the world.
What do you think the principal theme of the novel is? Redemption? Justice? How do you want the readers to feel when they finish the final chapter?
I hope readers feel that they’ve read a satisfying story, and that High Times surprised and delighted them. As for theme, I suppose it’s as simple as humans are ridiculous, but we really shouldn’t give up on them.
One of the most poignant moments in the novel is Lana’s and Bugbite’s discussion of war, and Bugbite relating human’s past horrific treatment of fairies. Yet, if votes end in a hung parliament, it is the fairies that will drown the humans. Who do you think is more morally culpable? Do you think it is black and white?
Absolutely not black and white. But on the other hand, why should fairies (who are essentially an indigenous culture) suffer from the violence of human colonizers? The fairy solution is to flex their magical power and give humans an ultimatum: Cooperate with each other or else. Now, wherever one group of people exercise power over another, there will be ugly problems. The world I’ve created here is not simple. There’s a lot of back and forth.
How do you think the character of Lana changes throughout the novel? How does her friendship with Bugbite and Eloquentia change her outlook and character?
Lana’s perspective on life and love expands hugely. She used to be the finest scribe in Aldgate. Now she’s a woman with a more sophisticated understanding of the world and the way it works. She might be a teeny tiny bit more serious than she was at the beginning, but not much! It would be sad to slow down a character as free-wheeling as Lana.
And last but not least, where can everyone get a copy of this energetic and heart-warming story?
High Times in the Low Parliament will be in bookstores August 9, and of course will be available in ebook and audiobook, too. Also in libraries! Remember: If your library doesn’t have the books you want, you can request them.
Kelly Robson is a Canadian short fiction writer. She was awarded the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and both the 2019 and 2016 Aurora Awards for best Short Story. She has also been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, Locus, Astounding, Aurora, and Sunburst awards.Kelly consults as a creative futurist for national and international organizations. After twenty-two years in Vancouver, she and her wife, writer A. M. Dellamonica, now live in downtown Toronto.
Kelly’s Website: http://www.kellyrobson.com
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