Q & A: Robert Jackson Bennett talks ‘City of Stairs’

Robert Jackson BennettCity of Stairs, is any book getting more buzz this fall? I have already reviewed it, and I loved it. Based on the other reviews I have seen around so – did – everyone – else. I admit I am late to the party here, one of those who suddenly finds himself in need of digging through the authors backlog because City of Stairs was my first. In some ways I see Bennett as an indie band breaking into main stream; the people already in the know are just nodding their heads and telling the rest of us ‘I told you so.’

So excited about this new release I was, so nervously I ask the author if he will answer a few questions. Graciously he says yes.  Enjoy.

Thank you for answering a few questions.  I will be honest, I really only had one to start with when I asked if you would answer a few.  Hopefully the rest of them don’t seem too contrived.

1. Review after review talk about Sigrud.  And I get it; he is a great City of Stairscharacter with a great arc.  But Shara is smart, capable, the main character and perhaps most importantly, the one Sigrud respects enough to follow.  Does it bother you that Sigrud has overshadowed Shara in some of the early discussions?  

Not particularly. I could tell when I was writing it that Sigrud was, in a way, the Ron Swanson of City of Stairs, a masculine archetype taken to comical, satirical extremes, without engaging in some of the more unsavory elements of masculinity (rape, groping, misogyny, etc). Sigrud is never behaving as he should in any given scene, and that’s immensely enjoyable to watch.

2. Could you tell us, in a spoiler free way of course, if you have a favorite scene from the book and a give us a peak into it?

Probably Vo and Shara having dinner together. That’s a tremendously enjoyable scene with so much subtext to it. They’re both bruised idealists that have disappointed each other, but still have hope. It was fun to write, and I hope was fun to read.

The Troupe3. From twitter I know that there is a sequel in the works.  I also know Mulaghesh is the main character (Did I spell that right?  I copied it right from twitter and don’t have my copy with me).  Can you give us any other hints about what to expect?

Sure. As I’m writing it, it’s Mulaghesh and Sigrud in the polis that once belonged to the Divinity of war and death, searching for a missing Ministry agent and trying not to interfere in one of the great construction projects intended to bring aid to the Continent. They’re two soldiers and killers in their own right, and both they and Saypur itself are wondering if they can change and move beyond their pasts.

4. I know genre labels are hard.  You wrote an excellent post titled The Genre Fountain that went over the topic.  But I have read several books recently that, if not a genre in their own right, belong in the same category as City of Stairs.  The “Gods are real and influence the world” sub-genre we will call it (for brevity sake, of course).  Have you read any other books that would fit into this very narrow label?  If so, do you have any favorites?

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Not particularly original choices, but true ones. They both write in the same sort of vein, I think. Not all the time, but quite frequently.

Thank you for your time, I am afraid I am out of questions.  I know five or six more will come the second the post is live, but that is the nature of being an unorganized blogger.  Best of luck to you and City of Stairs, I certainly am pushing it on everyone I meet.

One last thing. If you think my questions suck, or just didn’t see the one you wanted to ask, you are in luck. Robert Jackson Bennett will being doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything later tonight (Sept 22).