Inside Too Many Curses

Hello, Action Force.  Today, we’re going to take a closer look at one of my older novels, recently re-released in mass market paperback.  Too Many Curses came out in 2008.  It was my last book with Tor Publishing, and probably because of that, it was initially only released in trade paperback.  No slight on Tor for that.  But now that it’s finally out in mass market, I thought it might be worth revisiting.

Too Many Curses is probably my most “Family-Friendly” story.  It doesn’t have much in the way of naughty language, absolutely no sexual content, and it takes place entirely in a magical castle filled with all kinds of intelligent, non-human characters.  Of all my books, this is probably the one that could most easily be adapted into some sort of traditional animated film, but traditional animated films were on the way out (timing is everything) by the time it shelves.

I wrote Curses with a couple of ideas strongly in my mind at the time.  I wanted to write a story where an ordinary (yet competent) character manages to be the hero by remaining mostly ordinary.  I wanted to include as many strange characters as I could reasonably fit into the story.  I wanted to use only one location.  And I wanted to explore the virtues of community and those qualities in others we consistently rely on that we also consistently undervalue.

This was where Nessy the kobold housekeeper sprang from.  Nessy is as far from a traditional heroic fantasy character as I could get.  Oh, I know a lot of people would think the villain is the opposite of the hero, but the hero and villain are usually more alike than most people realize.  Nessy is decidedly non-heroic on the surface.  She lacks most qualities of protagonists.  She isn’t unhappy with her lot in life, nor does her life really get turned upside-down at the start of the story.  She isn’t powerful.  She isn’t smarter than everyone around her.  She’s just quiet and practical with an attention to detail.

While I’ve created a lot of cool characters, I still think Nessy stands out to me because she is probably the easiest to overlook.  She isn’t flashy, and her character arc is one of the subtlest I’ve attempted.  The story isn’t about Nessy’s redemption or her rise to power.  She doesn’t conquer any obvious character flaws, doesn’t reach some startling realization about herself.  Nessy is perfectly aware of herself.  She knows who she is and what she’s good at, and she has no grand ambitions to achieve or terrible flaws to overcome.  Even writing this paragraph, I understand why some might find her difficult to relate to.

Nessy isn’t perfect, but in the end, Too Many Curses isn’t meant to be a story about one character, but about many.  While all my stories tend to be about the power of teamwork and how we’re all stronger together than apart, Curses is the one where community is at the heart of it.  The reason it has so many characters is because, despite being a single (albeit huge) location, the castle is meant to me a thriving place, a metropolis in itself full of people.  Most of those people aren’t actually people, but that doesn’t change that they’re all there, wrestling with their own dilemmas, dealing with life as it comes, day-by-day.

It isn’t always an easy premise to grasp.  Especially in America, where we tend to value individual achievement over communal effort, whether we realize it or not.  Yet the heroism of Too Many Curses doesn’t belong to any single character, but to the community as a whole.  The story arc is all about a group of characters, with vastly different backgrounds and abilities, coming together to achieve what they couldn’t do on their own.

All of the above sounds great, but it wouldn’t mean much if that’s all the story was about.  A consistent theme is cool, but there is another, more practical reason I had for writing the story.  I really like writing stories about weird creatures.  This probably comes as no surprise considering what I’ve published before Too Many Curses, and especially considering what I’ve published after.

Curses gave me the freedom to stretch the bounds of creative character ideas.  Margle’s castle is full of weird creatures, ranging from the undead to animate objects to talking animals and other strange things.  And they are, universally, an unglamorous collection.  Yet that lack of glamor is what binds them together and makes them such unlikely heroes.

That’s Too Many Curses in a nutshell.  If you haven’t read it yet, then, hey, maybe you might consider picking it up.  Pretty please?  And if this still hasn’t convinced you, thanks for reading anyway.  Appreciate your time.

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

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4 Comments

  1. Posted September 25, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I have about 10 paperbacks piled up on my shelf that have been there for about a year or in the case of Game of Thrones closer to 2 years. Yay, Kindle!

  2. theBibliomancer
    Posted September 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m not ashamed to say that Too Many Curses is actually my favorite of your books.

  3. John
    Posted September 25, 2013 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Too Many Curses is my 2nd favorite book that you’ve written (the first being A Nameless Witch). I originally found it at the local library and checked it out. After I had to return it, I went out and bought my own copy. It was the first e-book that I bought when I got my original Kindle, along with The Automatic Detective which I think was your new book at the time. I took them with me on a business trip to Sweden.

    I think the Castle is one of the more fascinating worlds of the many that you have built. You can turn a corner in a corridor and literally run into just about anything that you could imagine. Curses is one of your books that I have re-read several times and I find something new each time. I think it is one of your best stories.

    /John

  4. Sarah H
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Just wanted to tell you the “Curses” is my favorite of your books. I adore Nessie and her world.

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