Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guest Post & Giveaway with Rachel Aaron

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My guest today is author Rachel Aaron, whose debut fantasy series (The Legend of Eli Montpress) is being released over three consecutive months. The first two books, The rachelaaron-authorphotoSpirit Thief (Oct 1) and The Spirit Rebellion (Nov 1) are already out and the third book, The Spirit Eater is out November 30.  Rachel is currently working on the fourth instalment, The Spirit War which will be out in 2011.

The series is centred around Eli Montpress, an irrepressible professional thief who is variously described as charming, brilliant, incorrigible, degenerate and the greatest thief of the age - and he's also a wizard. Sounds like fun?

Fabulous Giveaway

Rachel is offering 5 chances to win a signed copy of your choice of the three titles, The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion or The Spirit Eater. For those that select the unreleased book, Rachel has copies and will send it via fast post so that you can get it before it hits the shelves.

Contest guidelines at the end of the post.


You can find out more about Rachel Aaron and her writing by visiting her at: 


Rachel has put together a wonderful post on Main Character Syndrome delving into why character-driven protagonists are superior to plot-driven ones.

Rachel will drop in to respond to comments, so please welcome warmly and feel free to ask her questions. Also as a simple qualifier for the giveaway, and following the theme, if you were the world’s greatest thief, what would you like to steal?

So with no further ado, WELCOME RACHEL!

Main Character Syndrome
 
Today I wanted to take a moment and talk about a serious affliction affecting fantasyland and its boroughs – Urbania, Historiana, and, most grievously, the Epics. I am speaking of Main Character Syndrome, perhaps you've seen it? It happens when an otherwise unremarkable person suddenly finds themselves caught up in the swirling center of a larger story. After some initial struggle, they swiftly end up going along for the ride with little ambition or flare other than what is required of them by the plot. These boys and girls after often likable and can show moments of great heroism and selflessness, but rarely if ever do they upstage their far more interesting rag tag crew of misfits.

MCS mostly affects the young: farm boys who take up their father's swords to defend their homelands. Young girls who suddenly discover they have the talent for magic and must either hide it or use it to prevent/solve a crisis (sometimes both), those whose ambitions are best described as “wanted nothing more than to live a normal life, but...”

To see a standard case of MCS in action, one need only look at our most popular fantasy story and universal example piece: Star Wars (yeah, yeah, there are spaceships. There is also magic, and magic swords, and destiny. It's totally fantasy).

character_luke_skywalker Luke Skywalker is your quintessential MCS victim – young, likeably earnest, good looking, remarkably talented, and ignorant enough to where the finer points of the world building can be explained to him without testing the audience's suspension of disbelief. Like all MCS cases, Luke has little say in where his life will go. By the time the story begins he is already swept up in something larger than himself with little choice other than to go along for the ride. Like all MCS sufferers, he is a passive victim of his own destiny, which he will be forced to stand up and meet at the climatically appropriate time.

Tatooine MCS is rarely fatal. In fact, many of the best pieces of genre fiction have featured leads afflicted with it. But it is still tragic, because, in nearly every case, MCS diminishes a story's potential. Let's go back to Luke. Take him out of the destiny maelstrom that is Star Wars and what do you have? Nothing. A novel about a disaffected young man who longs to escape his dull life on Tatooine. Certainly not movie material. This is because MCS has removed anything genuinely interesting from Luke in order to make him a tool for the larger story. Han Solo, though, is a different fish all together. Take Han out of the main sweep of the Star Wars plot and you'd still have a pretty interesting and awesome story. In fact, I'm pretty sure there are books about Han's life as a smuggler before he got involved with Jedi or the Rebellion. This is because Han is an interesting, well developed character with his own goals and motivations. He was going places all by himself just fine before the plot picked him up.

solo_leia This is the difference between a real character and one suffering from Main Character Syndrome. Take a real character out of the book they were written for, give them a new set of circumstances, and they're still interesting and fun to follow. MCS characters can't migrate to a new setting. The story is their character, take that away and they've got nothing left to offer. One can't help but wonder, what would Star Wars be like if Luke was as engaging as Han? Or Leia? Or... really anyone else? And I'm not the only one who's thought about this. Consider the extended universe novels. When the writers came in and took on the task of expanding the story, Luke's character was the first to be dramatically deepened. Han and Leia got on fine in the new books, but Luke's MCS had to be cured before the saga could continue, else he would die with the end of the plot supporting him.

No one can dispute the success of Star Wars, MCS or not, but the question of how much better it could have been niggles me every time I watch it. In my mind, the main character should be the most interesting person in the story, not a vessel for the plot to be upstaged by the rest of the cast. This is the MAIN character, the one with whom the audience spends the most time and has the most invested. They are the voice for the story, and that voice should be interesting in its own right.

When I started The Spirit Thief, I was absolutely determined that Eli Monpress would never suffer from MCS. Heck, before The Spirit Thief had a title, it was simply “the Eli book.” This book was always his. There's no destiny in the Eli Monpress world, no great hand of fate. Every problem Eli faces is his own damn fault. Take Star Wars away from Luke and he's got nothing. Take the plot of the Spirit Thief away from Eli and he would just charm himself into an even bigger mess. That's because Eli Monpress's character is the story, not the other way around.

Any story worth reading isn't about the plot, not really. It's about the characters. There have been worlds more interesting and better built than that of Star Wars, but a cool setting simply isn't enough. Flash and concept may draw us to fiction, but characters keep us there. Star Wars had amazing characters, and that's why it was a tragedy that our main character, who should be the most important, was sacrificed in the name of plot. It worked, obviously, but the lost potential is staggering. So let's stop the cycle. Support strong, interesting, self motivated main characters. Together we can end MCS and make fantasyland a better place. 

thief Eli Monpress is talented. He's charming. And he's a thief. But not just any thief. He's the greatest thief of the age - and he's also a wizard. And with the help of his partners - a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls - he's going to put his plan into effect. The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he'll need to steal some big things. But he'll start small for now. He'll just steal something that no one will miss - at least for a while. Like a king.
* * * * *
rebellion Eli Monpress is brilliant. He's incorrigible. And he's a thief. He's also still at large, which drives Miranda Lyonette crazy. While she's been kicked out of the Spirit Court, Eli's had plenty of time to plan his next adventure. But now the tables have turned, because Miranda has a new job -- and an opportunity to capture a certain thief. Things are about to get exciting for Eli. He's picked a winner for his newest heist. His target: the Duke of Gaol's famous "thief-proof" citadel. Eli knows Gaol is a trap, but what's life without challenges? Except the Duke is one of the wealthiest men in the world, a wizard who rules his duchy with an iron fist, and an obsessive perfectionist with only one hobby: catching Eli. It seems that everyone is hunting for Eli Monpress.
* * * * *
eater With the pressure on after his success in Gaol, Eli Monpress, professional thief and degenerate, decides it's time to lie low for a bit. Taking up residence in a tiny seaside village, Eli and his companions seize the chance for some fun and relaxation. Nico, however, is finding it a bit hard. Plagued by a demon's voice in her head and feeling powerless, she only sees herself as a burden. Everyone's holiday comes to an untimely close, though, when Pele arrives to beg Eli's help for finding her missing father. But there are larger plans afoot than even Eli can see, and the real danger, and the solution, may lie with one of his own and her forgotten past. If only Nico could remember whose side she's on.

* * * * *

53 comments:

  1. I'd steal the crown jewels of England

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  2. I'd steal the 'Starry Night' painting.

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  3. I'd steal some untraceable gold that I could then sell to fund the lifestyle I dream about ;)

    Was going to steal a racehorse but you can't do anything with them once stolen so better to steal a way to get the funds hehe

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  4. Hypothetically speaking, I'd steal from the rich and give to the poor. (Yes, I know how much I sound like Robin Hood now... but that's what I'd do.) ;)

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  5. I'm not sure, but it'd probably be a piece of traditional Japanese art. I love that stuff and would lock it away to look at in wonder every chance I got. :D

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  6. So far you all are much more artistically and culturally inclined in your thievery than I would be! Of course, Eli only steals things worth stealing. Personally, though, I think I'd steal... into the world monetary exchange fund and send myself 0.01% off every currency exchange with no one the wiser. After that, it's nothing but world travel and writing novels ahahaha.

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  7. Hmmm... I'd steal books. Lots and lots and lots of books. :)

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  8. Um that is such a hard question. Maybe Johnny Depp because seriously.....who doesn't want to bask in his presence?

    Dawn R.
    love2read28@gmail.com

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  9. I would like to clean out the secret vaults of the Vatican. Mostly to see what they are hiding down there.

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  10. If I really was the world best thief I would simply steal the heart of the most handsome, caring and brave man on earth.

    Oops , sorry, I forgot.

    I have already got him
    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

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  11. My own island with a mansion and all the goodies. Perhaps I would steal the butler and maid too ;)

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  12. I'd steal enough untraceable funds to keep me in books for the rest of my life. I'm addicted to books

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  13. selfless? enough money to run an enormous no kill shelter...

    selfISH? there's a Monet painting at a museum in Paris (Musee d'Orsay?) that literally made my knees go weak when i looked at it. would totally steal that.

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  14. I'd steal Aladdin's lamp or some magical object :)

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  15. All the books (Limited Edition Or Rare) and maybe some art pieces , from paris :)

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  16. I'd steal all the rarest rubies and gems...and to make myself jewelry or sell it.

    Van
    Littopandaxpress(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  17. Wow, can I say I'd steal all of the above? I was going to say I'd steal Neil Gaiman, I mean, he is Neil Gaiman, but I think he probably does better out in the wild. Mmm, I'd probably just shop the Louvre. Oh, and books. I'd steal lots of books.

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  18. I'd steal the David statue.


    Lane

    moiraethefates(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  19. I'd rob a vial from the safe of a wealthy pharmaceutical company that contains a vaccine for AIDS and distribute the vaccine for free.

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  20. Money to feed my hopeless book addiction and live comfortably. But also to help those that need it.

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  21. Thank you for introducing me to Rachel Aaron & her writing.
    Her books are intriguing.
    "If you were the world’s greatest thief, what would you like to steal?"
    I'd steal the sealed documents about the JFK assassination.
    All the best,
    RKCharron

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  22. 1) Eli is absolutely fabulous. He's irrepressible and charming and well I'd probably want to kick him a lot, but there' something about him that even though he endangers everyone around him routinely, I just want him to keep going to see how much worse the problem can get XD

    2) If I was the world's greatest thief, I'd steal a person's heart. Not their literal heart, I'm not like some sort of murder okay?, but their emotional heart. David Tennant's maybe. Or Joseph Gordon Levitt's. Someone who's not married (since I wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings in the process). If I have to be more materialistic...the pope mobile. Because that thing is rocking.

    Lexie C.

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  23. If I were the world’s greatest thief, I'd like to steal fabulous jewels. They're small, but worth a lot and lovely to look at.

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  24. If I were the world's greatest thief, I'd not only make it a mission to steal anything touted as unstealable, I'd make it my mission to do it TWICE.

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  25. I would steal a kiss from george clooney, steal enough money to pay off my bills, then give the rest away to the poor.
    twoofakind12@yahoo.com

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  26. One of the busts of Hatshepsut in the Met. I have my eye on just the one...: )

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  27. Cash in unmarked bills :) I'm not very exotic.

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  28. I'd steal the Pink Panther, heehee.

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  29. Got to say the The Spirit thief delivers on more then just a good caper... It's a different take on fantasy from the grim and gritty I've been reading and it is a good deal if fun.

    And me the greatest thief... What would I steal ? I
    might try to find a way to steak a bit of time each day for myself to write since I never seem to have enough to dovthe things I want to.

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  30. Oh boy - definitely something sparkly....after I stole enough money to live comfortably on. Then I could simply look at my stolen sparkly, shiny thing - probably a big cobalt jewel. :)

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  31. Tough question.

    First I'd steal enough money to pay all my bills. Then I'd steal answers to all conspiracies, such as Area 51.

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  32. Eeeaack! Too fun! Hmmm. What would I steal (***taps chin***) Wow! That's not an easy question!

    if I was the world greatest thief, I'd steal some money!

    lmao! I know! Not very original! But dang! Times are tough right now and I could sure use a vacation from those bills!

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  33. I would probably steal something from someone who doesn't need it and do something with it to benifet the people who could use it.

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  34. I would take documents about gov't "cover ups" to get the real story about what happened.

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  35. I'd steal an island so I could get away from it all! :-)

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  36. I would steal a valuable and rare piece of jewelry. A necklace or ring with a big diamond!

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  37. I'd steal Princess Diana's ring that William just gave to his lovely fiance. :-)

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  38. I would steal... I would steal...I would steal time to do all the things I wanted to do all the while...
    greetings, Ina

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  39. I would steal a lot of money, I would buy books, and books....

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  40. I would steal the Declaration of Independence. I'm a huge history buff and it would look great in my living room. ;)

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  41. Money and lots of it. Unmarked and untraceable and a teleportation device from area 51 and go anywhere I wanted :)

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  42. Definitely something sparkly, most likely diamonds but other jewels are pretty too. Or I'd just raid the local bookstore...

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  43. REALLY enjoyed The Spirit Thief, and I'm looking forward to reading the other books! No MCS for Eli!

    If I were the world's greatest thief? Hm. Depends on whether I'm a magical thief or not. Magical, oh, I'd find something unstealable and make off with it...perhaps an entire city or something.

    If I weren't magical, well then, I like the idea of stealing a code. Probably the security codes or program for a Swiss bank, so I could loot the various accounts in peace...

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  44. I would hate to say jewels or some cliche thing, so I'm going to have to go with horses. Yes horses. Why? Well because I love them, and I can see myself with a cavort of horses on my private ranch in the middle of like nowhere. lol. Yes I know that sounds very selfish, but I'm an animal person and there's some horses out there that would love to get away from their owners.

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  45. Heeh, I think I'd steal everything from the book depository ...and several trucks to carry my loot! :P

    Thanks so much for the interview & giveaway! ^_^

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  46. I'd steal the crown jewels of the UK or the Koh-I-Noor just to set the world abuzz with the news that somehow managed to breach through that top security and now they have no idae where the crown is :-D

    Thank you for the great giveaway!

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  47. Congrats on the debut series Rachel! Not just a book, but a series!!

    I don't have a particular desire for any one thing, so I'd like to steal a million or two in cash to get things as I want/need them.

    Jeremy S. has an interesting idea. I bet there's a ton of interesting stuff the Vatican doesn't want to share or let other see. (Big fan of Dan Brown's books)

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  48. If I were the world's greatest thief, I would steal every ARC by every author I can't wait to read. Then I would assuage my guilt by buying the book anyway for a reread copy and locking the Arcs away to bring out and look at with a greedy glow in my heart.

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  49. I'd steal a Monet... oh who am I kidding, I probably couldn't steal anything. The guilt would eat me up!

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  50. I can't think of anything really that I would want to steal. I'm hard-wired to not want to do that kind of thing. But, in the spirit of fun I'll say...the keys to a holiday house so I could live like a queen while the owners are at their regular home.

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  51. If i was a thief the one thing i would steal would be something that would create the greatest challenge. Anyone can steal gold or a great peice of art, you can steal a person of course a king would be challenging enough but can one steal immortality? How would one go about doing so? so the ability to steal immortality would a great challenge, one in which could take a life time to accomplish, sad thing is that failure mean certain death. lol

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