The Other Side of the Sky is another stunning collaboration between Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner. It is published by Allen & Unwin.
It is a dual narrative featuring a duel between science and magic. It traverses power and politics, climate change, romance, identity, prophesy, colour, music and light.
Thank you for speaking to PaperbarkWords, Amie and Meagan.
Like your other works, I was engrossed in The Other Side of the Sky – its world and character-building and your audacious, unexpected twists.
With two of you writing – Amie writing the character of North and Meagan the character of Nimh – how did you compose the story in The Other Side of the Sky – mapping out most of the plot or reacting to what the other wrote?
One of the challenges we face – and the advantages we have – is that we both approach plot in our books very differently. When writing solo, Amie plots her books meticulously, whereas Meg sits down at the keyboard and discovers the story as she writes. When we write together, we meet in the middle, and we both feel we find the best of both worlds (pun intended!) in mixing our approaches. We benefit both from structure and from spontaneity. Generally speaking we have a rough idea of where the plot might go, as if we could see landmarks on the horizon, but we don’t know the road we’ll take to get there. Together we’ll map out each section as we reach it, with that final destination in mind. And sometimes, of course, one of us lays down a little breadcrumb, and the other spots it and picks it up in the next chapter!
What is unique, or you are particularly pleased about, in your worldbuilding or worldview in this book?
When we began this book, we set ourselves the challenge of creating a story that would have the reader arguing with themselves throughout the novel—and throughout the series, in fact—as to whether this was a science fiction or fantasy story. We’re really proud of the way we achieved this, and of the fact that the reader still isn’t entirely clear on the answer at the end of book one, though without feeling duped, or cheated. Both our characters start out certain that magic or science must rule the day… and each grows less and less certain as the book goes on. So it goes for the reader, as well!
What plot thread or character trait written by the other surprised or delighted you?
We both write primarily for the other, so we’re constantly delighting each other.
There are so many to choose from, but one of Amie’s favourite parts of what Meg did for the book is the collection of stunning settings in Nimh’s world on the surface. From the forest-sea to the salt-plains covered in water that mirror the starry sky, to the crowded market by the river, Meg created some incredible places for the characters to travel.
Meg loves the way Amie injected gentle humour into North’s voice—creating a modern-sounding voice in a fantasy setting that doesn’t jar the reader is no mean feat, and taking a prince out of a world where he has everything at his fingertips and dumping him in a world where he knows nothing and nobody could have resulted in a lot of complaining—instead, North shows us why he’s worth falling in love with.
How have you reinvented or subverted the archetypes of goddess and hero prince here?
This is the sort of question we mostly leave to our readers to answer, but it’s certainly one we think about. Goddesses are often all powerful, but one of Nimh’s defining feature is that her powers have failed to manifest. Princes are often dashing, daring and absolutely confident, but one of North’s defining features is his willingness to admit what he doesn’t know, and try to learn about this new place he finds himself.
Archetypes appeal to us for a reason, and upending them carelessly often makes it harder for a reader to connect with a story—but shifting them sideways and challenging what we think we know can be a lot of fun, when it’s done thoughtfully!
What symbol is integral to your story?
Water comes up in the book in many different ways. It floods the forest-sea, it carries Nimh and North’s boat to escape along a river, it reflects the stars on the salt flats where they meet, it vanishes from riverbeds. It’s constantly shifting, it’s flexible, it’s vital to life, but it will kill you if you’re not careful… rather like the mist, and Nimh’s magic.
The Other Side of the Sky is Amie and Meagan sixth collaboration. They are particularly well known for The Starbound trilogy, beginning with These Broken Stars, and The Unearthed Duology.
Thanks very much for your responses, Amie and Meagan, and for the great pleasure that you give your readers through your storytelling, amazing characters and epic worlds.
All the very best with The Other Side of the Sky.
Amie Kaufman’s website
Meagan Spooner’s website