Ann Sei Lin is a writer, librarian, and book nerd with a love for all things fantasy. Though London is now her home, she spent several years in Chiba, Japan, living in a rickety apartment block next to a rail station where the rush of the midnight train would make the walls shake. When not writing, she is often studying, gaming, or trying to make that origami rabbit for the one hundredth time.
Rebel Skies Trilogy: Rebel Fire (book 2) (Walker Books)
Enter a world of paper creatures, flying beasts and floating cities in Ann Sei Lin's astonishing Rebel Skies and its sequel, Rebel Fire! As civil war threatens and rebellions mount, Kurara and her best Haru must find a way through the conflict to the truths hidden behind the magnificent creatures of paper, and rediscover their own forgotten stories.
Review: ""This is a rollercoaster read, it has so many plot twist and turns it will leave you breathless."
Ann Sei Lin, ReadingZone's Author of the Month, tells us how Asian myths and culture helped inspire this remarkable world, and she reads from a short section in this video:
Q&A with Ann Sei Lin
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what brought you into writing, and writing fantasy? Are you following another career, too?
I always loved reading books so it was a natural step from reading to trying to make up stories of my own. I remember the first time I cried reading a book, I thought it was amazing that reading could elicit such strong feelings. I think fantasy appealed to me especially because it was a way to escape from the stresses of life for a few hours and get lost in a completely different world.
During the day, I'm a librarian, although not the fun kind of librarian. Though some of the books I get to work with in my day job are very interesting, I think there's only so much enjoyment one can get from reading about hedge funds.
2. What happens in your debut, Rebel Skies, and the follow-up, Rebel Fire?
Rebel Skies follows the story of a girl called Kurara, a servant aboard a floating restaurant in the sky, who also has the power to control paper. When her home is attacked by an origami dragon, her best friend Haru is hurt, and she has to travel to the sky cities to try and save him. On the way, she learns more about herself, her powers, and these mysterious origami creatures called shikigami.
Rebel Fire continues where Rebel Skies left off, in which Kurara will learn exactly how shikigami are made and more about her past.
3. How did this world of origami creatures and magical crafters - shikigami and ofuda - grow? How tied is the concept to Asian mythology and culture?
The origami creatures and paper magic are drawn from a number of inspirations. The use of paper talismans in the supernatural has always been a part of Asian culture so it wasn't a huge leap to expand the use of paper into the kind of magic that Crafters perform. I've always been a bit obsessed with paper so I really wanted to create a magic system based on it and to share my obsession with others.
The choice to make all shikigami in Rebel Skies and Rebel Fire from origami is actually based on a pun. The word shikigami is made from two characters, the second of which is a homophone for paper. It just fit very well.
4. If you could create your own shikigami, what form would it take and what kind of character would it be? And back in the real world - what are your own origami skills like?
I would like a shikigami that's big enough to ride so maybe a bear or a tiger. I love origami, but so far the only thing I can create are cranes, foxes and butterflies. I'm still working on that origami rabbit.
5. From floating cities to underground communities - which part of the world in Rebel Skies and Rebel Fire would you visit if you could, and what would you use to get around?
I would absolutely love to visit the sky cities and fly around on a hovercraft! I do have a slight fear of heights, but I'm willing to endure it if it means seeing the sky cities. I think Tomoe would be a blast to hang out with, although she might be a bit too much of a trouble magnet.
6. How did your team aboard the Orihime airship grow? What do they each bring to the story?
The Orihime is a working ship so it's filled with people who keep the ship and the crew functioning - engineers, pilots, cooks, deckhands and so on. Sayo is Kurara's roommate for much of Rebel Skies, and I wanted her to be a navigator because it gives her more of an overview of the entire ship and what is going on outside the Orihime. I really like how she's not overly impressed with Kurara when they first meet - it's important to keep that ego in check!
Tomoe is more of a social butterfly and through her we see the relationships between the crew. She helps fill Kurara in on how things work on the airship. I didn't make the conscious decision to give her the role of engineer though; I think she just appeared fully formed in my mind with that job!
7. You also explore a lot of questions around leadership, othering and making the right choices. What would you like your readers to take from Kurara's experiences?
I think one of the wonders of books is that different people take away different things from the same reading. However, if there was one thing I hope readers to take from Kurara, it's the courage to stand up for what they think is right, and the knowledge that sometimes 'what is right' is a nuanced conversation.
In Rebel Skies and especially Rebel Fire, I wanted to showcase people on all sides of the divide with different points of view and motivations. I think Kurara often goes through the same struggles that we all do of trying to deal with the messiness of a world that lives in shades of grey.
8. There are lots of questions about the characters and their histories raised in each of the books - so did you have each book plotted out, to solve these questions, through the series?
When I first started writing Rebel Skies, I had the events of all three books plotted out. Some things have changed over the course of writing, but I still like to know where I'm going in advance. I have always been a plotter; I can't write unless I have a framework in front of me.
9. What do you have planned for book three? Has there been film interest in the series?
In Book Three, the conflict between the groundlings and the Sorabito finally reaches its climax, and Kurara is desperately trying to help the shikigami while juggling with the different desires and opinions of those around her.
Book Three is the last of the series and then I unfortunately have to say goodbye. I would love to come back one day though. I'm sure there are still plenty of stories to tell in this universe and lots of characters to dive into. As for film interest, my lips are sealed!
10. Do you enjoy having adventures in the real world, or prefer to write them? What's been your most adventurous experience to date?
I like hiking, which is about as much fun as I ever get. I don't think I've been on any particularly exciting hikes - I've not encountered any wild animals, or gotten lost, or discovered buried treasure - but I've lived through a few minor earthquakes!
Day to day, I enjoy sleeping, playing video games and reading. Right now, sleeping is my favourite thing to do!