Dear Author Book Club: Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh
We are big fans of Nalini Singh’s works here. I’ve been following her Pys Changeling books since 2006, when the first title Slave to Sensation was released. Seven years and twelve books later, we learn some secrets and find ourselves on the cusp of a civil war. It has been an amazing journey. The following Q&A is intended to spark a discussion about not only the book Heart of Obsidian but also the future of the series. We invite you to speculate to your heart’s content. Because of that, the following is a SPOILER RAMA. Don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Most of the questions are from Janine who penned the Heart of Obsidian review here.
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1. In Heart of Obsidian, we learn some horrific things about Kaleb’s childhood in the custody of evil Councilor Santano Enrique. We also learn that Kaleb is the Ghost, and therefore a friend to Judd. Does Judd know that Kaleb was there when Brenna was tortured by Santano Enrique, and that Enrique forced Kaleb to participate? Does Brenna remember this, and if so, how does it impact Judd’s relationship with the Ghost?
Kaleb wasn’t in fact there when Brenna was tortured. In HEART OF OBSIDIAN, we find out that Kaleb was able to block Enrique out of the majority of his mind as an adult – Enrique could still mentally send him information about what he was doing / force him to participate in that way (by making him watch telepathically), but he could no longer compel Kaleb to be there physically
Judd is an extremely intelligent man, and he’s known who the Ghost is for a while, so I’m quite sure that while it hasn’t been shown on the page, the two have bluntly discussed Kaleb’s connection to Enrique. The fact that Judd’s and Kaleb’s relationship is solid to the extent that Judd is willing to call Kaleb a friend, tells me there is no tension on this issue, with Judd satisfied that Kaleb wasn’t involved in any way in Brenna’s abduction and torture.
2.It’s clear from reading Heart of Obsidian that Kaleb was prepared to genocide the Psy race in revenge for what was done to Sahara, the girl he loved. Yes, he would have made an exception for children, but he was willing to kill many innocent adults had Sahara wanted him to. Yet at a later point in the story, it’s also stated in Sahara’s POV that Kaleb isn’t as bad as he thinks he is. Are readers meant to believe that Kaleb would not have carried out the annihilation of the Psy had push come to shove, or that he would have?
Kaleb is not a black and white character, and so there can be no definitive answer on this point. I think any answer is going to depend on each particular reader, and how he or she interprets not only what Kaleb says, but what Kaleb does.
3. As an addendum to the previous questions, was it tricky to fit a morally ambiguous character like Kaleb Krychek into a series like this one, which is so often about good guys vs. bad guys? Did you always know, from the very first time he appeared (in Visions of Heat), that Kaleb would get his own book, or did that decision come along partway through writing the series?
I’ll answer the second part first – I knew I’d opened the original file for this book a while back, and a couple of months ago, I got curious and went looking to see exactly when. It was in 2007, when Visions of Heat came out. The file was titled Kaleb-Sahara, and the first few pages of the first chapter of Heart of Obsidian are pretty much verbatim from that original file. So yes, I did always know he was destined for his own book (and that he was the Ghost).
As for him being a morally ambiguous character – it wasn’t difficult to write him as part of this series, because that was who he was from day one. I simply had to be true to the character and not try to force anything – and I had to be willing to go to some dark places. Also he’s not the only morally ambiguous individual in the series. Nikita Duncan is another, and someone many readers have changed their minds about through the course of the books.
4.Once you knew that Kaleb would have his own book, was it a challenge to find the right heroine for him? When did Sahara first appear in your imagination, and how much of her personality and backstory did you have planned before you started writing Heart of Obsidian?
As you can see from my answer above, I knew from day one who his heroine was going to be. It was one of those moments where there is a click between two characters from the very first instant of contact – and even though Kaleb and Sahara never actually meet in Visions of Heat, I knew their history the instant their names appeared on the page.
So I knew them both very, very well by the time I began Heart of Obsidian in earnest (after having written copious notes for this book during the course of writing the preceding ones in the series).
5. Your books, both in this series and in the Guild Hunter series, can have larger-than-life protagonists, violence, big emotions and striking imagery. They are energetic, vivid books. Does that style come easily to you or does it require a lot of effort? And which is more of a challenge, bringing that world to such dramatic light, or grounding it in just enough reality to give it verisimilitude?
This is very much me – my very first published book, Desert Warrior was set in a fictional desert kingdom, and is a story with huge emotions and intense passion, so I’ve been this kind of a writer from the start and I love it!
As for grounding it, I think the emotions do that, no matter if they’re dramatic or lower-key – for me, it’s important that readers connect with my characters. The stakes might be higher within the Psy-Changeling world, but we all know what it is to be sad or happy or heartbroken etc – and so we understand when the characters feel these emotions, regardless of the fact that we might never find ourselves in the same specific circumstance as in the book(s).
6. Will Aden and Vasic get their own books? What about Alice Eldridge? Nikita and Anthony? What’s next for the Psy/Changeling series?
I’ve promised readers that I’ll reveal the hero of the next Psy-Changeling book in July. As for what’s going to happen with the characters you’ve mentioned – where would be the fun if I just told you? ;)
I do think Heart of Obsidian makes it clear where the series is headed, however. The Psy-Changeling series is a planned series, in that it has always had a defined story arc – I’ve always known where I wanted to take it, and we’re heading to the end of that original arc in the next couple of books, so there shall be much happening.
After that, I have plans to explore aspects of the world, including characters who have been mentioned earlier but don’t fit into the main storyline except in secondary roles (for example, the falcons).
I think the Psy-Changeling world is rich enough that there will be plenty of fantastic stories to tell within it, even after the main story arc is complete. Also, I see my worlds and characters as organic, so they’re constantly changing and growing, and I find it fascinating to document that growth – so even when there aren’t big “world” things happening, I think the smaller more intimate growth in the characters lives would be just as much fun to explore.
7. How do you keep track of the series details? When did you conceive of the romance between Kaleb and Sahara?
I’ve answered the latter above (2007 :)), so I’ll focus on the former. I’m quite old-school in that my series bible is just a simple folder with a page for each character. Everything is linked through characters, as that’s how I find it easiest to make sure I have access to the information I need. I also have maps, notes about particular words or locations, basically anything I think I might need to refer back to.
But, over the past year, we’ve also set up a private wiki, which is quite useful (I still go old-school most of the time, but it’s nice to have the wiki there as another resource).
A lot of the information is actually still in my head. What I have to be careful with are deletions – ie. I may have written something, then deleted it from the book, but the info will still be inside my head. So sometimes, I have to double check that readers know something by going back to the text. The books are always my first resource because that is the information readers have.
8. What’s next?
Many, many wonderful things! I believe Heart of Obsidian gives readers of the Psy-Changeling series a real payoff in terms of what’s revealed and the events that take place. The next book is going to continue that – more of the pieces that have been laid in place over the course of the series will come together until the entire jigsaw is near complete.
Also, for readers of the Guild Hunter series, I want to mention Archangel’s Legion, out late October. This book has Elena and Raphael as main characters again, and is as critical a book in the GH series as Heart of Obsidian is in the Psy-Changeling series. The Cascade, which was mentioned in Archangel’s Storm, is starting to have real impact – the blurb mentions “rivers of crimson and nightmares given flesh” and that’s not hyperbole. The world is changing in dark and unexpected ways and Elena and Raphael are in the center of events.
However, like the other books in the series, the darkness is balanced out by the light – we get to see more of Elena’s friendship with Sara, Raphael’s interaction with his Seven, the loyalty and laughter between the hunters, the same within the Seven.
And of course, Elena and Raphael’s love story continues – I’m finding it incredibly fascinating to explore the development of a relationship between an immortal and a mortal thrust into a world beautiful and dangerous for which she has no roadmap. My aim has always been to tell the story of their relationship without manufacturing fractures or conflicts – that comes naturally from the stresses of the world in which they exist, and those stresses are shoved into high gear in this book.
However, their love, to paraphrase something Raphael says in the book, is never in question – that, of course, doesn’t mean they don’t have an incredible number of challenges to face. Oh, one more thing – the dinner with Elijah and Hannah finally takes place in this book. I know many readers have been waiting for that. Elena even does the “hostess deal” and is pretty awesome at it in a very Elena way!
I’m working on the copy edited manuscript now, so an excerpt should be available July/August.
Thank you for the book club questions, and I hope you enjoy reading and discussing Heart of Obsidian!