Interview: Fran Wilde for The Jewel and Her Lapidary

Fran Wilde’s The Jewel and Her Lapidary is one of a string of fantasy novels and novellas that’s finally opened the door to a genre I’ve always struggled to connect with. It’s combination of character and unique world building makes it a formidable entry in Tor’s novella series and another in a long string of excellent work from Fran. I talked to her about the book and what she’s working on next.

Tell us a little about the world of The Jewel and Her Lapidary.
The gem universe is being told through short stories — the first, “The Topaz Marquise” appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #152 , and The Jewel and Her Lapidary, which is a bit longer, just came out from Tor.com Publishing.  “The Topaz Marquis” takes place in a different region (a walled city) and time period than Jewel.
The Jeweled Valley has a long and varied history, and was known as a very dangerous region until the Deaf King discovered how to bind the gems found within its borders, and to control them. Prior to that, rulers who could hear the gems wielded enormous power, but were also likely to fall under the gems’ sway. The Deaf King declared that a Jewel (who could not hear the gems) and a Lapidary (who could, and who was trained to set and bind the gems to control their more troubling effects) would rule side-by-side. In the generations since, there have been shifts of power, the current Jeweled court is in trouble, and the army of the western mountains is looming in hopes of gaining some of the powerful gems, and perhaps a Jewel as well.
Were there any challenges in working to this sort of length?
 I’m a poet by training, and a novelist by fate… novella length feels like a perfect middle-ground sometimes.
Did anything surprise you during the writing process?
I worked on Jewel for several years, off and on, and it didn’t feel “finished” until I set the story within the framework of the traveler’s guide. That surprised me, but it also made me very happy, that the form the book took was reflective of the narrative in a way, while also allowing me to touch on one of my favorite themes – the secret histories of places.

One of the things that struck me about the book was how dense and real the world felt. What sort of research went into it?
I have a lot of tables about trade and economics for this world, as well as the education of younger siblings of royalty in many different places, but the major research was hands on: I worked as a jewelers’ assistant early in my career and did a lot of gem research them. I actually did a couple of talks  for the tor.com youtube channel on Jewel and this was one of the subjects I discussed.

Likewise this felt both like a complete story and a slice of a complete history. Are there other stories set in this universe?

Yes! The BCS story and more to come.

Is this a universe you’re done with or do you have plans for more?

I have plans for four more short stories and two novellas. 

Did anything not make it into the story that you wanted to put in there?

Oh, interesting question! I don’t think so… but that may be because the story will continue.

What’s next for you?

Cloudbound – the next novel in the Bone Universe comes out September 27 from Tor. I’m looking forward to this because it’s a shift in narrative voice, and I love the story. I’m also working diligently on the third book in the Bone Universe, so that will be ready soon.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Fran. Fran can be found online here and go subscribe to her excellent podcast, Cooking the Books, too.

The Jewel and Her Lapidary is out now from Tor and can be found at Amazon UK here and Amazon US here.

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