Too Many Curses

I love Too Many Curses, my fifth novel. It is, however, probably my most obscure and least loved. There are a few reasons for this, but most practically, it was my last novel with Tor Publishing, which meant it didn’t get a lot of love from the publisher. They did eventually release it in mass market and on, for which I am grateful. But it was my last book with the publisher, and I can’t blame them for not being terribly excited by it.

Beyond that, I think it’s just a tough book for a lot of people to get because it is so gosh-darned optimistic. Granted, I’m not renowned as a dark or negative writer, but Too Many Curses is deliberately a very positive book about a bunch of characters in way over their head and how through perseverance and pluck, they manage to save the day. It is a tale of genuine heroism through sheer determination and practicality, a theme that runs throughout the story. In a world that equates cynicism with sophistication, that’s always going to be a bit of a tricky sale.

At the heart of the novel is Nessy, as unassuming a protagonist as you can get. She’s small, inconsequential, with no great powers and a reserved stoicism. She has no greater dreams than to tend her castle. She takes pride in her job, and she believes in doing things right. She could easily be a doormat, and at first glance, one might even assume that she is. Many of the characters do, including Margle, her master.

We’re so trained to see heroes as awesome people or people who become awesome that Nessy is an intentional subversion of that. Nessy is awesome, and by the book, she’s become more awesome. But it is a reserved, quiet form of competence. She doesn’t have a magic sword. She doesn’t defeat the forces of evil with a smirk and a quip. By the end of the book, she has grown into a more capable, more confident person, but she hasn’t changed how she acts or views the world.

Nessy is defined by her own unshakable confidence in herself, and her belief that those around her are not her enemies. She lives in a castle full of curses, and she tries to do right by everyone and expects them to do right by her. This sort of optimism isn’t grounded in naivety, but in a belief that the world is a better place to believe in the good in people rather than assume the worst. With almost no exception, she greets every challenge with a dogged (pun intended) determination to rise to the situation as best she can, and by doing so, brings about the best in everyone around her.

The ultimate theme of Too Many Curses is that of family and the power of optimism. The world can be better if we strive to be better, and even a little kobold housekeeper can save the day (with some help of course) if she doesn’t give in to cynicism. It’s an idea that is difficult for people to accept, and reality isn’t always like that. But the job of fiction isn’t to tell us that the world sucks. It shouldn’t always be its job anyway. And in my worst moments, I sometimes think of Nessy and try to be more like her.

(And, yes, I know I created her, but it doesn’t mean she hasn’t grown into something bigger in my mind. She feels like a person, and one I would love to know.)

The entire point of Nessy is that we’re so often told that heroes are larger than life figures, who swoop in and save the day, often with their wits or martial prowess, that it’s easy to forget that most problems in real life don’t require us to be superheroes. I’m all for escapism, and I love a good action hero as much as the next fellow. But Nessy is something else, and I think she’s fairly unique in terms of fantasy literature, where often being able to summon dragons or slay sorcerers is the defining aspect of our heroes.

Nessy doesn’t slay. She doesn’t plot. She doesn’t scheme.

She works. She believes in others. She refuses to back down simply because something is difficult, and she places compassion and honesty as virtues. She’s never preachy about it. She doesn’t demand respect, but damn it, if you don’t respect her by the end of that book, I just don’t know how that’s possible.

I have a feeling that Too Many Curses will always be the obscure work in my catalog, and I’m fine with that. It’s a shame, but the book itself is one I’m immensely proud of. And I love Nessy more every year.

And you should too.

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. Sarah in Boston
    Posted September 4, 2015 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, “Too Many Curses” is my favorite book of yours and Nessy is one of my favorite protags.

  2. Sacrificial_lamb
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    I loved this book because of the character Nessy, she is so downtrodden I feel I could relate to her much beater than say Helen & Troy. I liked her out look quoted in the last post about “think the best of everyone” is very similar to something my Grandmother use to say that stuck with me, and is how I try to live.

  3. Joerg in Munich
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with you.
    Nessy and “Too many Curses” is my favourite book of yours.
    But closely followed by “A Nameless Witch” and “In the company of ogres” 🙂

  4. thebibliomancer
    Posted September 6, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Too Many Curses is my favorite of your works. Sometimes sharing the top spot with Helen and Troy’s.

    Actually, Too Many Curses inspired me to write my own book. So thanks for Nessie and the coterie of cursed characters at the castle.

  5. Mr.KurtisC
    Posted September 7, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree with you.
    “Too many Curses” is my favourite book of yours.
    But closely followed by “Monster” and “In the company of ogres”

  6. David Pegher
    Posted September 7, 2015 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    This is the first of your books I shared with my son and someday I hope to see it used in school. I know I would love to, but third grade may e a bit young.

  7. Posted September 8, 2015 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I’m really glad to hear that you feel this way about Too Many Curses because maybe it means you’ll write more about Nessy, but even if you don’t her values will show up elsewhere in your writing.

  8. Brian
    Posted September 10, 2015 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain is my favorite. Sequel please!

  9. Joyce A. King
    Posted September 11, 2015 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I am a 48 year old woman and I seriously enjoy your books! Monster was one of my favorites, Divine Misfortune, loved Gil’s All Fright Diner…really, I’ve enjoyed them all. I love the way you weave all these incredible scenarios and make them seem like it’s just another day, like they are the norm that people have come to accept. I hope that you are going to have a new book coming out soon, as I am recently working less (by choice) and have so much more time to read!

  10. John
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Too Many Curses is my favorite of all of your books, with A Nameless Witch as a very close second. I’ve lost track of how many times I have read both books. It is at least once a year and I find something new every time.

    I liked the short story set in Nessie’s universe in your Kickstarter collection, but it only had a cameo from Nessie. I feel like there is a lot more to explore in the castle. Now that you are working on a series for your new publisher, maybe you will consider another visit to Nessie’s universe.


  11. Jen
    Posted September 28, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Too many curses was the first one of your books that I read and it remains one of my favorites. I anxiously await another book from you!

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