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Women In Speculative Fiction: Raven Oak, author of AMASKAN’S BLOOD and CLASS-M EXILE

Hello, readers! Today we’re going to chat with Raven Oak, author of Class-M Exile and Amaskan’s Blood (Boahim Series Book 1), among others. Raven is one of the hardest working fantasy and sci-fi authors I know, and I’m pleased to be able to share her work with you.

Raven, what books would you like to talk about today, and what are they about?

I’ll chat a bit about Amaskan’s Blood since book II (Amaskan’s War) is slated for 2017 release—

Amaskan’s Blood is fantasy—sometimes labeled as epic fantasy that flirts with dark fantasy in the closet—and is probably one of the most personal books I’ve written. I didn’t realize it at the time, but a lot of Adelei’s conflict with her new “family” was influenced by own familial conflicts after my mother popped back into my life after 30+ years. Adelei is an Amaskan, Boahim’s version of a holy assassin, and is tasked with protecting the people of the Little Dozen Kingdoms, people who don’t have a king or senator in their pocket to help them. She’s sent into the hands of her worst enemy—her father—and tasked with protecting him from the Tribor, a merciless group of hired hands who will kill anyone for anyone. The best comparison I’ve seen is, “If George R. R. Martin wrote [Disney’s] Tangled, it might be like this.” Amaskan’s War (Book II) really kicks up the level of political intrigue and suspense.

Cool! You are known for writing strong female protagonists, which I greatly appreciate. Can you tell us why you think it’s important?

One of the best things ever said to me was by the folks at Seattle Geekly. When they were interviewing me at the Amaskan’s Blood release, they said (I’m paraphrasing here) that I wrote strong female characters without emasculating or weakening the male characters, something that is rarely done. I felt that was a good assessment as I proscribe to the Joss Whedon school of thought: Why am I writing them? Because people still ask that question.

Equality in fiction is critical. That means protagonists that are women, people of color, LGBT, etc. All of it. Until we reach a point where we still have to answer this question, I (and others) will still create these characters.

Class-M Exile is ultimately about prejudice, but wrapped in a funny, clever, Doug Adams-like tale. What inspired you to write it, and what do you hope fans will take away from the reading experience?

When I was in middle school, I met a girl who was the complete antithesis of Texas (where I lived at the time). She was a feminist and liberal (both sins in the Bible belt) but also an atheist who played with tarot cards. She was the child of a single mother, who arrived at school amidst a car full of dogs and cats. Her first day of school, it was like a stampede of afraid kids as they reacted to this girl sporting tons of hair braids, pentacles, and hippie-style clothes. I like to tell people that this was a town where even the Catholics pretended to be Southern Baptists. You were either a church-goin’ Christian, or you were Satan himself. It didn’t take long for them to jump into bullying and harassing her. Ostracizing her. She became one of my best friends and introduced me to the world of science fiction and fantasy. I am the writer I am because of her, and I wanted to tell her story.

I was at a writing workshop with Sci-Fi Grand Master Connie Willis and Chris Barzak, who wanted us to take a real life event and flip it on its head. I took that moment when my friend stepped out of the car and people fled, and turned it into the opening scene of Class-M Exile. The story grew from there, but it’s essentially my thoughts about how everyone is capable and guilty of prejudice. I would hope that people would look a little deeper at themselves and their own misconceptions and prejudices, to learn that we share more in common with “Them” or “Others” than we think.

You and I were scheduled to read together at the WOMEN IN SPECULATIVE FICTION event at Seattle’s At the Inkwell, but you unfortunately had the flu and couldn’t make it. Who are your favorite women in spec fic, and what gains do you hope to see women making in the industry in the next five years?

That flu was a gnarly flu, let me tell you! I was very sorry to miss that reading. L My favorite women in speculative fiction are quite varied! In terms of old school, I grew up on Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Melanie Rawn, Andre Norton, Elizabeth Anne Scarborough, Elizabeth Moon, Diana Paxson, etc. More recently, I’m a huge fan of Rachel Bach, Anne Bishop, Connie Willis, Fonda Lee, Nancy Kress, the marvelous G. G. Silverman (of course!), and so many others. Way too many to name.

I hope we can reach a point where major reviewers don’t assume that I’m male when I’m writing science fiction. (True story—it happened. Twice!) I hope that women aren’t disregarded as science fiction writers or delegated to the realm of soft-sci-fi only. I want to see a time when gender doesn’t matter in terms of publication and cover art.

What exciting new thing are you working on now? Any new book releases we can count on in the near future?

I’m currently in rewrites and revisions for Amaskan’s War and a sci-fi book titled The Eldest Silence. Both were slated for 2016 releases but life got in the way. Amaskan’s War is now slated for late 2017 release. Hopefully we can toss TES in that schedule as well. I’m working as fast as I can to get everything to my editor.

In the meantime, Amaskan’s Blood will be coming out in a box set titled Daughters of Destiny in March (and is available for pre-order now). It’s 10 books featuring kick-butt female protagonists in speculative fiction works by USA Today and Amazon bestselling authors.

That’s sounds great! Good luck on the new releases, Raven, and thanks so much for joining us today!

Fans, please connect with Raven at the links below:
WEBSITE: http://www.ravenoak.net
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Raven-Oak/e/B00P5PT4AM/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/raven_oak
Facebook: http://facebook.com/authorroak
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/raven_oak
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/kaonevar/
Google+: https://www.google.com/+RavenOak

Bestselling science fiction & fantasy author Raven Oak is best known for Amaskan’s Blood (2016 Epic Awards & Ozma Awards Finalist), Class-M Exile, and the collection Joy to the Worlds: Mysterious Speculative Fiction for the Holidays (Foreword Reviews 2016 Book of the Year Finalist). She also has several published short stories in anthologies such as Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology and Magic Unveiled. Raven spent most of her K-12 education doodling stories and 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet.

When she’s not writing, she’s getting her game on with tabletop games, indulging in cartography, or staring at the ocean. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband, and their three kitties who enjoy lounging across the keyboard when writing deadlines approach.

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