Queen’s Book Asylum is happy to bring you an interview with Dan Koboldt, scientist, author, editor, and bowhunter!
Courtesy of Angry Robot Books, we chat about his new fantasy novel, Silver Queendom, an exciting addition to the almost subgenre of fantasy heists. Silver Queendom follows a found family of soft-hearted criminals, as they plan an impossible heist to steal an impossible target.
Dan Koboldt is the author of the Gateways to Alissia trilogy (Harper Voyager) and the Build-A-Dragon Sequence (Baen), the editor of Putting the Science in Fiction and Putting the Fact in Fantasy (Writer’s Digest), and the creator of the sci-fi adventure serial The Triangle (Realm).
As a genetics researcher, he has co-authored more than 100 publications in Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, and other scientific journals.
Dan is also an avid deer hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in Ohio, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard.
Connect with Dan Koboldt
Some jobs are too good to be true…
Professional con artist Darin Fields rarely passes up the chance to relieve wealthy fools of their coin. When he’s not out rigging horse races or planning jewelry heists, he slings ale in the Red Rooster’s common room and pretends the silver doesn’t call to him. Metallurgy is a curse, no matter what the old witch Seraphina says. Besides, he’s spent most of his life learning how to avoid attention. Not so for Evie, who grew up in the trappings of wealth before her family fell on hard times. She knows how to talk and act around high borns, a useful skill for any grifter. If she or Darin gets in too much trouble, Big Tom can usually make it go away.
The Red Rooster crew only takes a job if they can get away clean. So when a stranger offers them a fortune to boost a shipment of imperial dreamwine, Darin knows they should refuse. But thanks to a string of bad luck, they owe money to dangerous people. The payment for this heist would get them square and then some.
Then again, there’s a reason no one has ever managed to steal imperial dreamwine.
Welcome to the Asylum, Dan! The inmates are quite excited to see you. Since we already have your bio, care to describe yourself in 3 books?
Sure, I’d say Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton) because I love science and dinosaurs; Into the Wild (Jon Krakenauer) because that’s where I like to go, and Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak), because I’m a father of three.
What inspired the world and story of Silver Queendom?
It started with Darin, the main character, who’s a lifelong thief and confidence man. The first scene I wrote with him, he was in the midst of a fancy gala, his pockets heavy with pilfered jewelry and coins, and looking to make his getaway. The idea was that he was under cover and out of place, a wolf among the sheep.
The next scene I wrote with him was quite the opposite: he was hiding like a rat belowdecks on an old ship trying to get himself smuggled out of harbor. In both scenes, Darin had a rather jaded outlook on life and a snarky way of talking about it. The rest of the story grew around him.
What themes does the book explore?
Found family is the most overt theme I had in mind for this story. It’s the idea that people who lose or don’t get along with their biological families can find new ones brought together by shared experiences (and often shared suffering). Some early reviewers also pointed out that the theme of wealth inequality is pervasive in Silver Queendom.
You’ve got these thieves who barely scrape together enough coin to survive, and they steal almost exclusively from merchants and nobles who have more money than they know how to handle. It’s not exactly a Robin Hood story because they don’t go spreading around their stolen goods with the poorest members of the community. But they do try to help out people in bad situations because they’ve all been there.
As readers, one of our favorite things about heist plots is the diversity of characters and the bonds between them. What makes the book’s cast intriguing?
The thing that brings this crew together – other than the fact that they’re all criminals – is that they’re all products of troubled childhoods. Darin, the mastermind, watched most of his family die in oppressive indentured servitude. Evie, the grifter, grew up in the lap of luxury before her father lost the family fortune. Big Tom learned to fight in the most brutal environment you can imagine. And Kat was orphaned by the blood plague but managed to survive when most of the other children starved.
They don’t ask one another about the past, but they’re united by a desire to move on from it. Just as they’re equally incapable of escaping it.
What’s one piece of worldbuilding in Silver Queendom you’re most proud of coming up with?
Well, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for, but I designed the world map in the front of the book. I spent a significant amount of time working out the geography, political boundaries, and even the rivers so that the story could work. I don’t claim to be an artist, but I love making maps for my stories so I’m glad they let me include it in the book.
Hey, I like being surprised by what I’m not looking for. And that’s awesome; I always admired multifaceted authors! Speaking of which, authors are notoriously known for having cool interests. How did you get into bowhunting and do you have any stories you can share?
Is that what we’re known for? Here I was thinking it was coffee addiction and spending a lot of time alone. Bowhunting, for me, is just another excuse to get into the outdoors. I love working to improve my woodcraft skills and learning the patterns wildlife. Plus, I enjoy the simple pleasure of stalking through the woods while carrying a historic weapon. As bowhunters go, I’m not terribly successful. But I enjoy the time I spend and always feel restored after spending time in nature.
Well, that too… Can’t have words without coffee… Tell us more about Putting the Science in Fiction. How was your experience editing this book?
I’ve edited two books, as a matter of fact. Putting the Science in Fiction was published in 2018 and Putting the Fact in Fantasy was published in May of this year. Both of these were developed out of my long-running Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy series. The full experience of editing is way beyond the scope of this interview, but overall, I really enjoyed it. One of the best parts about putting those books together is that I got to read and learn so much about the many different aspects of science fiction and fantasy. In other words, I use these books as much as anyone else does.
Before we let you go, what future projects do you have in the making and where can readers find you online?
Believe it or not, I had another book published two weeks after Silver Queendom came out. Deploying Dragons is the second installment in my Build-A-Dragon Sequence with Baen Books. The series is about a genetic engineer who goes to work for a company that designs living, breathing dragons made-to-order. In other words, it’s like Build-A-Bear Workshop meets Jurassic Park. The best place to find me is online – you can join my mailing list to get regular updates on my books and blog posts, or you can find me on Twitter (@DanKoboldt) which is where I spend a lot of time when I should be writing.
Grab a copy of Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt