The Big Idea: Anna Kashina

In today’s Big Idea for her novel Shadowblade, author Anna Kashina reminds us that behind all the swashbuckling, there’s often a serious purpose.

ANNA KASHINA:

During my Shadowblade blog tour, I have written several posts emphasizing the fun I had writing this novel, and I hope that readers picking up this book will experience the same fun. There is indeed a lot of fun elements in the story that made this book a pleasure to work on, including the blade fights, characters, politics, and of course, the romance.

But let me get serious for a moment.

Shadowblade is a story of a young orphan girl with uncertain heritage, Naia, growing up in the Jaihar Order that trains elite blademasters for the Empire. The Jaihar pride themselves on treating both genders equally, especially in their advanced training. But to get to that level Naia must first pass the lower grounds, dominated by drill masters whose role is to initiate young trainees into the Jaihar ways. Here, bullying is a norm, and incidentally all the superiors somehow tend to be male… Is it beginning to resemble any familiar situations?

Studies show that in male-dominated environments, girls and young women tend to experience subtle but very effective forms of bullying that target, and often destroy, their self-esteem. Fighting for emotional dominance, their peers often label them as incompetent, or negative. This is especially hard to deal with because a lot of this behavior is subconscious, based on such deep stereotypes that neither the bully nor the victim tend to realize them. For someone in training, these issues can permanently affect their future. Naia, a young and attractive girl whose major talent involves weapons, has to fight her way through all this, for a chance to rise to the top.

My big idea behind this book is perseverance. It’s the story of a person who doesn’t give up, no matter what the odds are. It’s about those people around her who recognize this, and help her break through all the stereotypes and bad attitude to come out as a winner. Naia’s life is threaded with challenges, all the way up. First as a trainee, where she has to find her way out of very deep trouble and face different tests at each level of her training. And then as a warrior, whose unprecedented assignment plunges her straight into the grinder of the imperial politics, with a low chance of survival and a very large target on her back.

Perseverance has been very important in my own life and career. It’s definitely the only thing that carried me through to where I am today. When I wrote this book, Naia continued to surprise me. She tackled her challenges in ways I never would have thought of – or so it seemed to me. Getting to know her enriched me as a person. I don’t believe that I’m anything like her, really, but I can relate to her in so many ways. I’ve learned things from her that I never expected to.

Layered underneath all the fun – the glittering medieval setting of a rich Middle Eastern empire, the highly technical blade fights, the food, the romance – this big idea is what drove the story for me.

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Shadowblade: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt (click on “Excerpt” tag). Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

In Which I Learn That I Live In Me

A map with place names replaced by the most notable people from there (according to Wikipedia).

There’s a site out there that scraped Wikipedia entries from the last few years, and then put up a map of the United States where the place names were replaced with the person associated with that place (in apparently whatever capacity) whose Wikipedia article was looked at the most. For Bradford, Ohio, and perhaps not entirely surprisingly, that person happens to be… me. Yes, that’s correct, on this map, I live in me.

I say “perhaps not entirely surprisingly” not because I am in fact hugely notable but a) because the set of people associated with Bradford, Ohio who also have Wikipedia pages is small, comprising as it does of six people, only two of whom, including me, are still alive, and b) of the six of us, I’m the only one with a significant online footprint, and who is still active in the field for which he is notable. I do wonder who came in second, however. In any event, the competition for “the most wikipedia’d person” is much less fierce in Bradford, Ohio, population 1,800, mostly farmers and blue collar folks, than, say, Chicago, or even Dayton.

The map renames also tell you a little about general Wikipedia browsing habits, since there’s a statistically high preponderance of serial killers (see Cincinnati’s new name on the map) and celebrities, and not necessarily the ones you would expect, which is why Boston, as an example, is currently named “John Cena.” Clearly Wikipedia readings tilt toward currently living and currently famous people. Also some folks have more than one city named for them. Stephen King is all over Maine, for example, which is not a surprise, but he’s also the new name for Fort Wayne, Indiana. Apparently he lived there briefly as a child. He’s also the new name for Sarasota, Florida. Pick a state, Steve.

Finally, some people are not where you would expect them to be. Max Yasgur, upon whose farm the Woodstock music festival was held, is neither the new name for Woodstock nor Bethel, New York, but the former Marathon, Floria (and who is the new Woodstock? David Bowie. Who was not at Woodstock! Go figure).

Aside from me I was amused to see a few cities renamed for friends: Sandra Lee (aka “Dr. Pimple Popper”), who I went to school with, gets a city, as do Wil Wheaton, Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson and Neil Gaiman. I suspect there may be more, but the site is not searchable so finding them is not easy unless you already know where to look.

If you want to have a place name named for you on this site, it appears the secret is generally to be alive, currently famous or at least notable, and to live or have lived in a place that is very small and/or has not had any other famous or at least notable people from it, ever. Seems easy enough, and I wish you joy in the work.

In the meantime, I’m happy living in me, existentially and otherwise.