Giveaways Inspirations and Influences

Cold Steel: Kate Elliott on Inspirations & Influences (& Giveaway)

“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.

Today our guest is Kate Elliott, prolific author of science fiction and fantasy. To celebrate the release of her most recent release, Cold Steel, the third book in the Spiritwalker trilogy, we are thrilled to have Kate over for a guest post about her Inspirations and Influences. (Thea is a HUGE fan of these books – stick around later for her review of Cold Steel!)

Cold Steel Kate Elliott

Please give a warm welcome to Kate, folks!

In the very first notes and sketches for the project that eventually became the Spiritwalker Trilogy, the two young women–for there were always two young women as the leads in Spiritwalker–were called Katherine and Bianca after the sisters in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

In the play, Katherina is married to Petruchio who tames her out of her shrewishness. Years ago I saw a delightful version of the play in which the director chose to interpret the famous scene where Kate submits to Petrucio by playing it as a joke that the two of them are perpetrating together as equals in order to yank the chains of all the people surrounding them who simply assume that it is a woman’s place to submit to her husband and that Petruchio has, indeed, tamed her when instead the couple express through their acting that they two together have come to a different mutually equal and respectful loving relationship.

One can certainly argue that the play is sexist in its depiction of the relations between women and men, and I’m not going to argue the issue one way or the other in this post. What stuck with me from that particular production was the playfulness, the shrewd banter, the quick comebacks, and the sense of equality. It subverted the usual message of the play.

The clash of equals who engage in a duel of smart comebacks is a narrative device I’ve always loved, and that is why both The Taming of the Shrew and the 1930s screwball comedies are among the influences under-girding the framework of the Spiritwalker Trilogy even if I did change the name of the two young women to Catherine and Beatrice.

In Spiritwalker, Cat and Bee are cousins who are as close as sisters, and one thing they do throughout the story is banter with each other. Their give and take is meant to be funny and to highlight their genuine affection.

But of course they aren’t the only equals in the story. There are a number of characters who can duel with both with words and with swords. For that matter any time The Taming of the Shrew and screwball comedies are mentioned in the same sentence most readers will naturally think of romance, not siblings.

Pride and Prejudice is not so much one of the direct influences for the story. It is certainly one of my favorite novels. But I wasn’t thinking of Darcy when the central male character enters the story; I was playing with a variation on the theme of the proud aristocratic nobleman who is exceptionally competent in his life and his skills, which in this case happens to be magic. This character type is a staple of Regency romances, and I was giving a nod more to Georgette Heyer and her successors than to my beloved Austen in this case.

In my earliest conception Andevai was meant to be about 30 years old and a highborn mage, but (as I have said elsewhere) as I wrote the first draft of Cat and Andevai’s initial journey together, he kept slipping out of that mold. I ended up discovering that his story was quite different because he was engaged in trying to find his place in the world rather than knowing exactly where he stood.

I soon decided I did not want him to be ten years older than the heroine because the age difference creates another sense of inequality, that of life experience, so I collapsed the age difference to four years (when the story opens she is almost 20 and he is 23 going on 24). Of course the moment he became younger certain elements of his personality changed yet again: he became more insecure while trying to hide his insecurities, more likely to allow pride (and his concern about how he looks to others) to dictate his behavior rather than feeling grounded and secure in his own self. The character I first had in mind would have been easier to write–figuring out Andevai took a number of rewrites–and had I stuck with that conception I think he would have been far less interesting than the man who is in the trilogy now.

What all this means to me as a writer is that I have to shake free from *my own* expectations. I have to be alert to the ways in which I default to familiar tropes.

Trying not to fall back into familiar patterns in storytelling is a constant struggle. For example it is familiar to retell another version of Beauty and the Beast (a lovely story with many delightful retellings and versions) but harder to flip the genders, something I also deliberately play around with in Cold Steel: he is the beauty and she is the beast. What does it mean to re-tell an old classic? If you flip it, how do you negotiate the terrain of, say, gender and our expectations of gender without just reversing roles? And what would reversing roles tell us, if we did it? How would it play right back into cultural stereotypes?

What I find is that I have stereotyped stories in my head that I have heard & read & been told over and over again so many times that, when I write, my thoughts and inclinations channel me down those well-worn paths.

Okay, there’s this girl, and she is an innocent orphan, and so that means she is fearful and hesitant but kind of slightly plucky too . . . No, wait. Is that really what I want? What if she is fierce and loyal and a bit too likely to say something she ought not because she can be rash? What if she laughs a lot and can find the absurdity in most situations? What if she will never give up? Never?

As a writer I have to realize and acknowledge that I’m headed in a direction being dictated to me by stereotypes, where I may not want to go, and then I have to confront the defaults and stereotypes that speak so loudly within my writing brain and figure out what I really want to do so that I do not keep telling a version of a tale I don’t want to tell.

For example, while I have talked about The Taming of the Shrew and Regency romances in this post because I’m discussing influences and inspirations, all along with the Spiritwalker Trilogy I intended to write a story in which the central relationship is between two women. I specifically shaped the trilogy to make sure that the love story element did not become the centerpiece no matter how crucial it is (and it is crucial). One way I did this was by not telling a story in which in the end a strong and competent man rescues the plucky girl. Rather, I tried to tell a story in which people rescue each other at different times because they each have different strengths. That’s because I love stories whose core is love and loyalty and generosity and friendship, no matter what hardships and obstacles the characters face (and I do admit to a certain ruthless authorial pleasure in placing hardships and obstacles and dilemmas and crises right smack in the way of the characters).

In the end I wanted to tell a story about two cousins, as close as loving sisters, who never give up on each other, who support each other ALWAYS.

What was my inspiration for that?

Easy: My sisters, my cousin, my daughter, my nieces and sisters-in-law. My mother and aunts. My dear friends who have never given up on each other, who support each other always, who have kept me going when things looked bleak.

I can think of no better love letter for them all.

About the Author:

As a child in rural Oregon, Kate Elliott made up stories because she longed to escape to a world of lurid adventure fiction. She now writes fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction, all with a romantic edge. It should therefore come as no surprise that she met her future husband in a sword fight.

Follow Kate on her website and blog, or on facebook, twitter (@KateElliottSFF), and on tumblr.

Thanks, Kate!

Giveaway Details:

Cold Steel

We have ONE copy of Cold Steel up for grabs! The contest is open to ALL and will run until Sunday, June 30 at 12:01am. To enter, use the form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  • Raina
    June 24, 2013 at 2:18 am

    Fire and Brigan from Kristin Cashore’s Fire. They help and support each other through everything and it’s just really beautiful.

  • Lisa (starmetal oak)
    June 24, 2013 at 7:53 am

    One of my favourites is Vin from the Mistborn series. She’s also an example of flipping stereotypes: she’s probably the most physically skilled with her powers than any in the series and often rescues her boyfriend.

  • Serenity
    June 24, 2013 at 7:58 am

    SO MANY! But Harry Ron and Hermione come immediately to mind – the trifecta of brains power and bravery. And loyalty, to each other. The entire series is about them saving each other and eventually every person ever.

  • mia
    June 24, 2013 at 8:08 am

    The Halliwells on Charmed. At its core that show was about the power of sisters.

    The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I love seeing how those boys fit together.

  • Patricia Eimer
    June 24, 2013 at 8:21 am

    I’m with Serenity Ron and Hermione all the way. And I love your cover.

  • Amanda W
    June 24, 2013 at 8:43 am

    I’m sure I’ll think of a dozen more before the end of the day, but the first that pops into my mind is Sorcha and her brothers in The Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Marillier. Their unwavering loyalty is just so beautiful and fierce and inspiring.

  • Mary Anne
    June 24, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Always with the favorites! I never have a single favorite, but a list of many, which continue piling up in my mind as soon as I post a response. It goes on forever.

    Gen from “The Thief” series by Megan Whalen Turner. Lois McMaster Bujold’s characters Caz and Ista from the first and second Chalions books, respectively. Also Fawn and Dag from her Sharing Knife series. Tanya Huff’s Tony from her not-Vicky-Nelson vampire/Smoke series. Also the Newfie boyfriend Dean from her Keeper series. Robin McKinley’s Aerin (“The Hero and the Sword.”) Almost every character from Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Tigana.” Harry Dresden. Constable Peter Grant from Ben Aaronovitch’s series, along with his mentor Thomas Nightangale. Ward, from Patricia Brigg’s Hurog books (I like those books even better than Mercy Thompson, which I like a lot.) Wen Spencer’s Tinker, even though I am still a bit dismayed by how well she took being screwed by Wolf who Rules. Rabbit from Lorna Freeman’s series. (I wish she would finish it!) Actually, all of Rabbit’s many mentors are extremely awesome.

    Are you sorry you asked yet?

  • Bethany
    June 24, 2013 at 9:15 am

    It has got to be Fitz, the Fool and Nighteyes from Robin Hobb’s Farseer series for me. Three parts of the whole.

  • Gerd D.
    June 24, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I guess it’s a tie between Samwise from LotR, for the amazing, never faltering loyality and friendship he shows to Frodo, and Tanya Huff’s Vree from Fourth Quarter/No quarter for the simple reason that I have a minor crush on her (Vree, that is, not Tanya – and yes, I’m shallow like that).

  • Cecelia
    June 24, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Oh, I think my favorite central characters in a fantasy are Harry and Corlath from THE BLUE SWORD. But there are so many more that are amazing… it’s difficult to *pick*!

    Love this post on inspirations and influences – I see all of that in the series, and now I’ll be on the lookout for these elements in the final book.

  • Greg
    June 24, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Though its been a long while since I read the early books in the Malazan book of the fallen series Ganos Paran and the Mage Tattersail come right to mind for me.

  • Greg
    June 24, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Oh and damn the relationship between Jamie and Brianne in The Song of Ice and Fire is one I truly love though it fraught with the memories of what Jamie is capable of…

  • Herenya
    June 24, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I find it so hard to choose favourites – too many choices!

    But I’m going to go for the main characters in Diana Wynne Jones’ Year of the Griffin – Elda, Lukin, Olga, Claudia, Ruskin and Felim. I love how they support each other, and work together in order to do so. There is a real joy to their teamwork. And they’re so accepting of each other’s differences, in a really matter of fact way.

  • MarieC
    June 24, 2013 at 10:42 am

    I love the relationship / partnership between Mercy and Adam from Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. They seem to balance and ‘ground’ each other so well. In each of the books, they seem to grow closer, to accommodate the needs of each other, so as not to stifle; it’s really a toss up of whom is saving whom.

  • Linda W
    June 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I love Sabriel and Touchstone in Sabriel by Garth Nix. I also looooooovvvvvve Amy and Peregrine in The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye.

  • Catherine
    June 24, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I have many favorites, but I’ll go with Sherwood Smith’s gigantic Sartorias-deles series (many many books; many still unpublished): Senrid, Claire, CJ, Yustnesveas, Liere, Detlev and his boys. I think these are central to most of the main part of the series (it’s complicated lol). I love them because they seem so real; none of them are stereotypical/archetypal (which I don’t necessarily mind, it’s just not to my taste always), and because they are trying to deal with having power and their responsibility to truth and goodness. But they’re not typical fantasy quest books, so the ‘search for truth’ will occur as an underlying theme that comes across in some of their thoughts, while the stories are adventure/some romance sometimes. The characters make real mistakes with real fallout. It’s honestly just as much the other supporting characters and story as it is the central characters which make this series amazing, because the central characters are constantly interacting with their world, affecting it and being affected by it. This is what I mean when I say they are so REAL. I may be kinda bad at describing it though haha.
    One of the things I adore about the spiritwalker trilogy is how real Cat, Bea, Andevai are too me. They are definitely not stereotypes!

  • Marie-Claude
    June 24, 2013 at 11:49 am

    There so many character I love.

    I love Kat from Jennifer Armentrout Lux Serie because she’s strong and doesn’t take crape from Deamon.

  • jo
    June 24, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    one of my favourite central characters are definitely lucy dervish & ed skye (graffiti moon by cath crowley), because they try to break out of the mold and strive to be more than what people think them to be. and they are just so human and their actions so relatable it’s heartbreaking and you instantly connect and you literally can feel/see/hear how the pieces fall together.

  • Justine
    June 24, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Yup, ditto what Serenity said!

  • Genevieve
    June 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    One of my favorite fantasy novel characters is Alanna from the song of the lionesss , I admired her for her strength, perseverance, wit and even her temper which was a lot like my own

  • Lozza
    June 24, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I really love Tobin/Tamir from Lynn Fflewelling’s The Bone Doll’s Twin and the rest of the trilogy. Main character is shown as both very strong and very vulnerable, and both very dependent on friends and needing to be a lone wolf of sorts at times.

  • Lee Lee
    June 24, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I have to say my favorite central characters in a series are Kate and Curran. They are both aware of how hard their relationship is and accommodate accordingly.

  • Hann1bal
    June 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Hmm, so many characters to pick from. I’ll go with Tarma and Kethry from Mercedes Lackey’s Vows and Honor series. I don’t have anything profound to say about them, I just think they’re awesome characters.

  • Heather
    June 24, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Well, the first two who jumped into my head were Antryg and Joanna from Barbara Hambly’s Windrose Chronicles. It’s a kind of stubborn lonely geek meets equally stubborn, lonely wizard (in a parallel universe) and together they accomplish big, world-changing things that need both of their strengths to succeed. There’s adventure and romance, but balanced just right. Awesome. (Start with The Silicon Mage.)

  • Jacqueline C.
    June 24, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    I love Gen from Megan Whelan Turner’s Thief series because he so underhanded yet so loyal, Anna and Charles from Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega series because they are not an obvious pairing but they make such a great team and couple, and Kate and Curran from Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series because they are both incredibly strong and hardened people who never stop fighting alongside, with, and for each other.

  • JenM
    June 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I have to vote for Buffy. She made it acceptable for a teenage girl to be the rescuer, the strong one, the one who kicks the bad guy’s butt, instead of being the one who always has to be rescued. She inspired a whole generation of young women to stand up for themselves.

  • Anonymous
    June 24, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Check out Rarity from the Hollow for a powerful female protagonist.

  • Scarlett
    June 24, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    A favorite would have to be the Eleventh Doctor. A popular one, I am sure, but I love him all the same. He doesn’t have easy choices to make, but he is still loyal, still loving, still willing to put himself on the line for any (person, species, planet, fill in the blank). He has his enemies, true, but they became his enemies for a reason. *sigh* So amazing, yet so sad! Don’t leave Matt Smith!!!

  • Mary Preston
    June 24, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    I’ve been re-reading the series A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George RR Martin. Too many to mention them all, but Tyrion, Jon and Arya stand out.

  • Kelley
    June 24, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    One of my favorite characters is Kate from Ilona Andrew’s Magic series. She’s kickass, sarcastic and loyal, often to her own detriment, and I’ve loved reading her slowly evolve over the course of the novels.

  • erinf1
    June 24, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Kate and Curran from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews 😉

  • Liviania
    June 25, 2013 at 9:35 am

    That’s a big question! I’d have to say Attolia. (And Eugenides.) She manages to take control despite all the odds against her and makes Gen prove that he can be a king.

  • Lexi
    June 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I like Gen from The Thief series because you see how he grows from Thief to King.

  • Dovile
    June 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I really liked Liath and Sanglant from Crown of Stars series.

  • Katy K.
    June 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Well… the triumverate in Harry Potter, of course. And just recently loving Dierdre and James in Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament and Ballad. So much working through what could so easily have ended their friendship and saving each other a lot.

  • Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books
    June 25, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    I read Cold Magic last year and really enjoyed it, but decided to put off reading Cold Fire until I could also access Cold Steel right away. My absolute favorite part of Cold Magic was the relationship between Cat and Bee, so I loved having the opportunity to read her thoughts behind it.
    Some of my favorite relationships in fantasies are between Will and Lyra in His Dark Materials (I love how they learn about love and how love doesn’t mean sacrificing yourself as much as allowing another person to be a part of you) and of course Harry, Ron, and Hermione in Harry Potter (I love how unconventional their friendship is and how they all come to accept and understand one another).
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Serena
    June 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    So many to choose from! Firstly, the obvious answer from my favorites are the much-mentioned Harry, Hermione, and Rom. I also really liked Katsa and Po, in that she was this incredibly powerful character who often saved Po, but she came into situations where she had to learn to step back and allow him to save her. It was a nice reversal and I liked the attention put into the struggle Katsa felt with having to acknowledge her own weaknesses, while Po seemed comfortable with knowledge that in most ways Katsa would always be the superior.

  • Ellie
    June 26, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Oh man, I have so many favorites; it’s so hard to choose! I love Eugenides and Irene from The Queen’s Thief series. They have one of the most complicated, nuanced relationships I’ve ever read.

  • Stephanie Burgis
    June 26, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    I love this series! I can’t wait to read Book 3. And my favorite central characters in a fantasy series are Aluna and Hoku from Jenn Reese’s Above World trilogy. I love that their skills (which are totally not the stereotype for each of them) balance each other’s so beautifully, and I love that their friendship is both platonic AND the central relationship in their life.

  • Jesse
    June 26, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    I love Tess and Ilya from Kate Elliott’s very own Jaran the best, I think. I am not like Tess and I could never be with someone as heedless and headstrong as Ilya, but I loved their relationship because it was complex, though not aspirational, and because I felt like I could be friends with Tess, and because I think she really stood up for herself when it mattered.

    And because Ilya is not perfect, and ***spoiler alert*** eventually goes insane (or maybe was always insane), and she stays with him. Because that is what love is, to me.

    I’ve reread the series every couple of years since middle school. I’m going to do another before grad school starts up in the fall.


  • Hebe
    June 26, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    I love Roland from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series: he’s so enigmatic and secretive that when he does manage to form meaningful relationships with his ka-tet it’s just wonderful.

  • Andrea Chettle
    June 27, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I think my favourite characters are Nick, Alan, Jamie and Mae from Sarah Rees Brennan’s The Demon Lexicon trilogy. They are smart, funny incredibly real people with a real connection between them all and I would gladly read anything that involved these four

    Thanks for a great giveaway

  • Tim R
    June 28, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    I’m going to go with Frodo and Sam here. I’ve been thinking a lot about coming of age fantasy novels lately, novels that owe much to LOTR but feature protagonists who turn out to be great in some or many ways, just because. Frodo and Sam aren’t really coming of age in the same way, but they do have the same mighty tasks to perform. They have strength of spirit, but they aren’t harboring devastating hidden powers, and I think this makes them more intriguing.

  • Nicole H.
    June 28, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    I’m really liking Moon from Martha Wells’ Raksura books. He can’t help just being who he is, even if it would be easier to act like other consorts. And I love that Jade never asks him to.
    Chrestomanci (Christopher Chant) from Diana Wynne Jones’ books, all I have to say is dressing gowns!
    And of course Eugenides from the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. He’s so sly and cunning but also rather vulnerable. I just want to give him a hug and then quickly run away before he entangles me in some plot.

  • Lillian Maloney
    June 29, 2013 at 1:48 am

    I love Seraphina, Orma, Lucian, Glisselda, and pretty much every central character from Seraphina. While the main character is an incredibly strong heroine, she’s surrounded by a group of real, loving people and dragons. Everyone has to face their own challenges, sometimes alone, but with the support from each other. It’s absolutely beautiful and heartbreakingly real.

  • Marie Chettle
    June 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Saetan and his sons, Daemon and Lucivar from The Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop. Despite being the most powerful warlords in their world who can kill with a flick of the wrist, they are all afraid of Lucivar’s toddler son and try to bribe each other to baby-sit.

  • Allison
    June 29, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Eddie Dean from The Dark Tower. I loved his story arc, starting as a weak drug addict who was unable to take anything seriously to a strong and really wonderful gunslinger, all the way to his awful end. Eddie Dean is just great all around

  • creare magazin online
    June 30, 2013 at 10:09 am

    I like the romantic touch she is givig to her stories, she’s great!

  • Two Spiritwalker Questions, Answered (Names, and Endings) | I Make Up Worlds
    December 8, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    […] more about the inspirations for the trilogy, and how The Taming of the Shrew figures into it, read this post I wrote on “Inspirations and Influences” at review blog The Book […]

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