The Big Idea: Piper J. Drake
Posted on April 12, 2023 Posted by John Scalzi 4 Comments
People are a mish-mash of where they or their ancestors have come from, and where they are now (among, of course, many other things). But as Piper J. Drake makes clear in this Big Idea for Wings at Once Cursed and Bound, these elements of who were are are often in unexpected combinations… and may leave us wanting to know more.
PIPER J. DRAKE:
What does it mean to know who you are? The heroine of Wings Once Cursed and Bound – Peeraphan, or Punch for short – is a Thai American woman in present-day Seattle who has grown up as a human with a blend of Thai and US culture. Her family, her friends, and her mentors are all human. But she knows that she is not.
Peeraphan is kinnaree, a Thai bird princess, a being of myth and magic from legends most people have forgotten. To learn about herself as a kinnaree, all she has are a few folktales and legends, passed down through generations by word of mouth.
That’s not a lot to go on.
Wings Once Cursed and Bound brings readers a contemporary Seattle setting, supernatural characters, and an adventure set off by mythic objects and curses. By the end of the book, we’ve gone deep into underground dragon lairs and off to faraway caves that demand every truth in our souls. There’s a moonlit dance across the night sky for romance lovers and a few saucier mid-air moments too.
What’s bigger than any of those individual hooks is the reality of the way that Asian diaspora experiences differ across a broad range of personal truth.
Many who are part of the diaspora may relate to Peeraphan. Just because someone holds an identity doesn’t mean they know everything about who they are or that their personal identities will fit other people’s expectations.
People often ask me about Thai language and culture. They’re surprised and disappointed that I speak Thai but only read at a very basic level. I don’t know how to curse in Thai and I don’t have a grasp of current slang. This expectation that I know also reaches to other situations. Some have insisted I tell them what the best Thai restaurant in an area is, even if I’ve only just moved there. Some assume I have recipes for their favorite Thai food. They’re disappointed when I don’t have a recipe ready even if I can cook the dish or don’t know how to make the exact version of the dish they love.
In Wings Once Cursed & Bound, Peeraphan and her new friend Marie, a 3rd generation Korean-Chinese-Caucasian witch, discuss what it’s like to explore their personal identities and abilities without having access to generational knowledge or resources. And they’re not the only characters living this kind of learning experience. Thomas, a distant cousin of Peeraphan, is a Thai American werewolf. Who taught him to survive? Ashke is a tiny, cheerful, chaotic winged fae with a bright disposition and an unsettling edge that he reveals to Peeraphan late in the story. How did he learn to be who he is?
None of these characters are here to educate the reader. They don’t break the fourth wall to speak directly to the readers to instruct anyone on the specifics of what it is to be any of their identities. They’re living it, and the story invites readers to live it with them. Discover as they do. Twist in confusion in sympathy with their confusion, maybe. Ask questions.
In a way, all of the supernaturals in Wings Once Cursed & Bound—whether they come from more popular Western mythology or lesser-known folklore from around the world—have learned to fit into the present-day world in a way that’s similar to the experience of diaspora. Their origins, their identities, and their access to generational knowledge or resources to learn about themselves vary. Who each of them are is a personal truth they’ve defined for themselves. For some of them, like Peeraphan, readers get to discover truths about her abilities and her nature right along with her.
That’s the fun of the Mythwoven series. Whether readers come for the mythology inspired elements or the urban fantasy vibes or the paranormal romance arcs or the magical fantasy moments, it’s all there to experience and enjoy. No matter who you are.
Wings Once Cursed and Bound: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s
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Congrats, Piper, on making it to The Big Idea!
I’ve known her many years in another industry. The book is sitting on the kitchen counter, it arrived yesterday.
The first paragraph was interest. The second intriguing….and the meat of the post grabbed me.
This sounds gripping!
I’m about half way through “Wings Once Cursed & Bound,” and I’m enjoying it a lot! I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, some of which is poorly written, with characters who are annoying (for stupidity and single-minded maliciousness), boring, and badly written (poor grammar, repetitive use of unimaginative adjectives, and so on). Piper J. Drake’s writing is good, and the likeable characters are portrayed well. And the story itself – well, things are still moving along!