Tim Pratt is the contributor for this week’s Take Five, a regular series where we ask authors and editors to share five facts about their latest books. Pratt is the author of Venom in Her Veins: A Forgotten Realms Novel.
A yuan-ti child — a pureblood who looks entirely human except for some very subtle snakelike characteristics–is found alone in a jungle ruin by a passing (and heavily-guarded) caravan of traders who harvest a rare addictive flower from the jungle for trade in a nearby city.
The head of the caravan takes in the child, not realizing its inhuman origins. The child grows up with the caravan believing herself to be human and learning both tradecraft and how to survive in the jungle, but she begins to have dreams of snakes and other racial-memory things, possibly even visions from a deity. After forcing her mother to admit she’s adopted, she runs away from home to seek out her origins, but she is pursued by her adopted human “brother” who wants to bring her home.
They find the ruins where she was discovered as a child, and she discovers her true nature. She’s horrified, but also enraged when she discovers denizens of the Underdark stole away the other yuan-ti from her settlement, including her real family, to use as slaves. She ventures into the Underdark to try and rescue any survivors from her “real” family.
1. I wanted to address the whole issue of entire races being dubbed “Chaotic Evil” – including how much of being evil is nature, and how much is nurture. Though it’s harder when there are literal gods nudging your characters toward literal destinies.
2. I drew on my childhood experiences poking into caves in West Virginia, and on visits later in life to caves used by Confederate Army deserters as hiding places, for my depiction of the underground world of the Underdark.
3. My main character, Zaltys, is an archer, and I read a bunch of non-fiction about archery as research – but I learned the most about archery and bowmaking and the physics of shooting arrows from K.J. Parker’s supremely creepy and wonderfully twisted novel The Belly of the Bow.
4. In my high school D&D game, I sometimes played a yuan-ti (evil snake person) who could pass for human. A character like that plays a major role in this novel as well.
5. I engaged in some automatic writing – the old Dadaist technique of writing without the intervention of the conscious mind, letting the subconscious generate words – to create some of the surreal dialogue used by the insane underground slaving race the Derro, who are some of the major villains in the book.