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message 1: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey (lindseymichaelmiller) | 154 comments Mod
This is where we'll discuss the book The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable. Please feel free to share any of your thoughts here.

Here's an overview of the book:

Tremaris is a world where song (chantment) has the ability to control the elements and nature. Living within the safety of the ice walls of Antaris, a novice ice priestess named Calwyn is intrigued by the world beyond, though of it she knows little. One night, as the ice priestesses sing the chantments of ice in order to fortify their wall, she encounters a young man who is injured and unconscious. Feeling empathy toward the stranger named Darrow, she breaks the rules regarding outsiders and brings him to their village to be nursed back to health.

Enchanted by his stories of the lands outside the wall, Calwyn finds herself joining Darrow on his quest to purge the world of a great and dangerous evil, a man who seeks to become the singer of all songs and control Tremaris. On their journey through the various lands, they encounter people to help them on their quest, eventually pitting their skills and strength against their powerful enemy.

message 2: by Kelly (new)

Kelly RAley (kraley) I just finished the audio version which was annoyingly punctuated with strange singing and bird noises. I give this book 3 stars. It is a debut novel, so I will give points for that. The characters were a little too wooden for me. I couldn't see the purpose for all of the characters on the quest which is why she killed some off, I guess. I would have like there to be a little more clarification in the romance too. Also, why is it that characters can't be closer together in age? I mean, 16 and 30?? Ewwwww

message 3: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey (lindseymichaelmiller) | 154 comments Mod
Some good thoughts Kelly. I felt the same way about this first book in the trilogy, but as I continued to read the other two books, I liked them increasingly more. I agree that many aspects of the story overall could certainly have been stronger, but I love to immerse myself into the worlds of distinct fantasies, like the Abhorsen trilogy, so I did enjoy that aspect of these books.

message 4: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 10 comments I love when a secondary character "steals the show" so to speak, and I feel both Trout and Tonno do that in this book.
I'd like to know from Kate if that was always her intention, or if they just took on lives of their own?

message 5: by Kelly (new)

Kelly RAley (kraley) Why was the inventor kid so surly? I know he didn't believe and all, but it's like ge never was really redeemed as a believer. I would have liked to have seen him invent some more things. I also really wanted the girl to be the true Singer of all Songs. That was what I was waiting for, but never really got it, oh well. I guess I'll stick with McCaffery's Crystal Singer.

message 6: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey (lindseymichaelmiller) | 154 comments Mod
Kelly...interesting thoughts. This book is actually the first in a series of 3 books. I think some of the things you may be disappointed by will be answered by the other two books. You should give them a read! :)

message 7: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey (lindseymichaelmiller) | 154 comments Mod
When I first read Singer of All Songs, I honestly wasn't that impressed. It's not amazing writing, and the story is a little flat. However, after reading the two sequels, it's obvious that Constable meant this to be one story spread over 3 books. I believe that this is why the first book feels a little light, and both the story itself and the writing get better over time.

As for the story overall, I really love reading original fantasies, and this series couldn't be more so. I like how Constable developed the fantasy backstory, not giving it all away right at one time, but allowing it to blossom as the story itself moves along. It's certainly not going to change your life, but it's a fun fireside read.

message 8: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey (lindseymichaelmiller) | 154 comments Mod
Here are the answers from my Q&A with Kate:

1. What inspired you to write a story involving song/dance as the catalyst for magic?
You may or may not be surprised to learn that I am totally untalented as both a singer and dancer, so writing about dance and song as vehicles for magic was really just simple wish fulfillment! Seriously, I have always longed to be able to sing, and I especially adore group singing (Christmas carols, hymns, even the national anthem) where my weak voice can be lost in glorious sound. It struck me that singing was the perfect method for creating magic, and I loved the idea that individuals could sing and make magic, but groups of singers could combine to make an even stronger magic. the power of co-operation was a theme I was keen to explore, and singing seemed the ideal metaphor for that notion. Thinking of the word 'chantment' for 'enchantments' was pure serendipity -- one of those moments when everything falls into place!
I'm really surprised that more fantasy novels haven't exploited the idea of song to create magic. It seemed such an obvious and simple idea, but strangely it hasn't often been done.

2. Have you explored more of the backstory? Where did this technology come from? Where are the original beings that brought it? What was the world like before?
Some of the backstory is explored in more detail in the third book of the Chanters trilogy, The Tenth Power, so I'm wary of giving away too many spoilers. Suffice to say that the Voiced people arrived on the world of Tremaris from elsewhere (another planet) many generations ago, while the Tree People, the Unvoiced, are indigenous to the world. The Voiced and Unvoiced peoples need to learn to live together harmoniously for the health of Tremaris, and the wise and proper use of magic turns out to be critical for the future of the world. The 'alien' technology was brought to Tremaris by Calwyn's ancestors.

3. Why such a big age gap between Calwyn and Darrow?
Um... I don't really have a good answer to this one, except that the relationship between Calwyn and Darrow is strongly influenced by the relationship between the Doctor and his human companions in the British sci-fi series Doctor Who, of which I have been a huge fan for many, many years. I always enjoyed imagining what it would be like to have the Doctor land your backyard and whisk you away to amazing adventures - which is more or less what Darrow does for Calwyn. He whisks her away from her comfortable (but suffocating) home and shows her the wide world outside the Wall.
In Doctor Who, the Doctor is over 900 years old -- now that's a real age difference! A few years between Darrow and Calwyn is nothing!
Another factor was that I didn't want a romance between Calwyn and Darrow to be at the forefront of the story, and a biggish age gap was one way of keeping some distance between them. In the first book particularly, he acts as her mentor and teacher; and it interested me to play around with that relationship and have him realise that she has a lot to teach him. He was always a child prodigy himself and a talented chanter, it's quite confronting for him to have to face the fact that Calwyn may be more gifted than he is.

4. In creating the world, were you inspired by any cities/landscapes that currently exist? Did you take anything from other books that you've read?
Oh, heavens, yes! I'm almost embarrassed to tell you how influenced by other books I have been. Two particularly huge influences on the Tremaris books were Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books and The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. The latter book was a strong influence on the creation of the community of Antaris, in particular. The deserts of Merithuros were modelled on the Australian desert; I really wanted to include an Australian-type desert, flat and red and rocky, rather than the yellow dunes of a North African, Sahara-type desert. The city of Mithates is loosely based on Oxford. The canals of Kalysons were inspired by Copenhagen and Venice. The Palace of Cobwebs in The Waterless Sea was inspired by a mixture of the Taj Mahal and the Alhambra Palace in Spain. In The Tenth Power, when I wrote about Gellan, the Red City, I was thinking of a medival European town, very crowded and cramped. I'm sure I've stolen from heaps of other places, too, without even being conscious of it.

5. If these spells were actually sung, what sort of music that we know do you think it would sound like?
This is an interesting question! When an audiobook of Singer was being made, the producer of the recording actually rang me and we had several long conversations about what the music would sound like. He employed a composer to create some music specially for the disc, and when I heard it, I was really impressed, even though I hadn't really been able to imagine exactly what the chantments might sound like (due to my total lack of musical ability). The chantments of Iron were inspired by the throat-singers of Tuva, and the chantments of Seeming are sung in a (usually male) falsetto. If you ever manage to get hold of the SOAS audiobook (you might be able to pick it up cheaply on ebay!), you can hear many chantments throughout the story, and especially at the beginning of the recording, you can hear the Sisters of Antaris singing together. It sends chills down my spine.

6. Do you have some sort of basis of language that you've created that has been used for the names of the regions and towns?
Not really, it's quite arbitrary, just based on sounds that I like, basically. Most of the place names in Tremaris actually originated in a world I made up when I was in high school, called Kalysons (from Kate Louise Constable). Gellan, Spareth, Antaris, Merithuros, Mithates all came from that world. Which goes to prove that nothing is ever wasted, and also that daydreaming during maths class is not always a waste of time... Tremaris itself was a combination of Trees and Maris (Ocean) becasue I imagined it as covered in ... trees and ocean. (I did Latin at school, so I enjoy playing around with Latin roots sometimes.)

7. Do you think you'll ever write other stories that take place in this world?
I do want to write at least one more book set in Tremaris, because I feel as if I've left some characters dangling at the end of The Taste of Lightning, and I haven't finished Calwyn's story. I'd like to write a novel centred around Calwyn's daughter, because I don't think it would an easy life, being the daughter of The Singer of All Songs! I might even self-publish it one day if my publishers aren't keen... I don't know. I'd better write it first!

8. Did you create the world and story for all three books before you started writing the first, or did you sort of invent as you went along? How much time did you spend formulating the world and the story? How long did it take to write the books all said and done?
I did spend some time inventing the world and its history, and working out what all the different chantments were. Having said that, it was a fairly quick process, I think I worked out the nine chantments in about half an hour. At the time I started to write the story, I was only writing for my own amusement and didn't think I'd even show it to anyone, so I didn't spend too long nutting it out. (I wish I could write so quickly now!) I didn't really plan out the plot though. I left the story fairly open at the end of Singer, in case anyone wanted to publish it and in case they thought it could be a trilogy -- and the answer to both those possibilities was yes, so then I had to think pretty fast! I had vague ideas about where I wanted the story to go, and the settings (Book 2 -- desert? Book 3 -- snow?) and it was really as vague as that. One big plot twist didn't come to me until halfway through the second book -- luckily I hadn't written anything to contradict it up to that point... I wish I'd had more time to work out the story of The Tenth Power as I feel it's less strong than the other two, but I realised I was going to have another baby, so I had a pretty strict deadline.
Each book took me about a year to write. SOAS took a year and a half because I did a lot of rewriting and working with my editor. I learned heaps about writing during that rewrite, it was a great experience.

9. How did you come upon the type of character that Calwyn would be? Is she anything like you, or did you model her after someone else? How about Darrow?
Again, because I basically sat down and started to write, I didn't think very hard about Calwyn's character. I suppose that means she is fairly close to my own personality (except she's a lot braver than I am), she reacts to things the way I would myself, though I wouldn't always make the choices she makes. She does some pretty dumb and pretty mean things sometimes. But she is close to my heart. As for Darrow, I suppose he started as a cross between the Doctor (the Fifth Doctor probably) in Doctor Who, and the character of Avon in Blake's Seven, played by Paul Darrow (check out YouTube if you'd like a laugh at some bad 80s sci-fi). But in the end, he just became himself. Probably because that's a really awkward mix of characters! I wanted him to be a little remote and prickly, not too charming. If he was too loveable, there'd be no story.

10. Any other fantasy sort of books in the works?
I have written two other fantasy books, though they aren't the same kind of 'high fantasy' as the four Tremaris books. They are for slightly younger readers and both set in our world ( I won't say the 'real world'!)
Cicada Summer is a time-slip story about a young girl who is grieving for her mother and exploring an abandoned old house and garden. It was short-listed for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards in Australia last year, which was a tremendous honour.
My new book, which will be published in Australia in Spetember, is called Crow Country, and it's about a girl called Sadie who has to atone for a terrible wrong that was committed in the past by her ancestors. It involves Aboriginal magic, and I'm very excited and a little nervous about its publication, because indigenous heritage and mythology is a very touchy issue here. However I have had extremely positive feedback from indigenous leaders, so I'm hoping that other people will like it too.

message 9: by Kelly (new)

Kelly RAley (kraley) Thank you Lindsey. This was a great interview. It made me want to read the next two books. I also love her Andorra about not totally plotting it out first. I am of two minds about this. I feel a book can be much tighter when pre-plotted, but it is also fun to go on walkabout with the author sometimes. I love quest novels and this was great for a good quest. Thanks again for taking time with the interview. Now, I've got to try and find Marcelo.

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