Emily Tesh Interview

A powerful debut that plays with gender roles and fights against society’s expectations.

Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh. Tordotcom. pp.448. $28.99

Winner of the Astounding Award and a Crawford Award finalist, Tesh is the author of the World Fantasy Award-winning Greenhollow Duology, which begins with the novella Silver in the Wood and concludes with Drowned Country. Some Desperate Glory is her first novel. 

April 13Fountain Bookstore in conversation with TJ Klune.

Konstantin Rega: What was the inspiration behind this book?

Emily Tesh: Some Desperate Glory was born from a lot of things. I studied ancient history at university once upon a time, and I never forgot the lectures on Sparta—a militarised ethnostate that knows the power of its own image, with its primitive eugenics and its commitment to breaking down family bonds in favor of loyalty to the state, all through the insane education system for citizen boys that they called agoge, cattle-raising. And then, of course, I was following the news in 2016, and watching the rise of authoritarian populism around the world with increasing despair. And I watched a children’s TV show with an incredible redemption arc for the male villain (Avatar: The Last Airbender, check it out) and thought: “why do female villains never get those chances?

What do you want the reader to get from this reading experience?

Lots of things! I would be delighted if the book made someone think a little harder about propaganda, radicalization, and the abuse of power. But more than that, I would like the reader to enjoy themselves and be entertained. I wrote a book that deals with some serious and heavy topics, but I don’t think that’s incompatible with a reading experience that’s full of excitement, emotion, and catharsis.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

About three years after getting published. To write stories is one thing and I have done it since I was a small child. To “be a writer” requires, I think, some knowledge going in. Creative careers can be financially precarious, the publishing industry is opaque and frightening for a newcomer, and having your work distributed beyond the audience you wrote it for is nerve-wracking. It took me a while to decide that all these risks—financial, professional, emotional—were worth it to me.

For you, what does it mean to be able to write and tell stories?

It’s joy.

Is there anything else that you’re working on?

There’s a secret collaborative project that draws on my love of ancient history, dead languages, queer romance, and necromancer princesses. I am dying for a chance to tell the world more than that, but the time has not yet come! Before we get there, there’s my next book after Kyr. It moves away from dark and epic science fiction to something much more light-hearted, back in the realm of fantasy, with wizards and demons and sensible adults making good choices. Chaos bisexuals are over; highly competent career-focused bisexuals are coming soon.

Get a copy at The Bookshop.

Konstantin Rega
A graduate of East Anglia’s renowned Creative Writing MA, Konstantin’s been published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Poetry Salzburg Review, www.jonimitchell.com, the Republic of Consciousness Prize (etc.). He contributes to Publisher Weekly and Treblezine.
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