Authors are influenced by all sorts of things – their favourite writers, their childhoods, the amount of caffeine consumed at any one time. Sometimes though the influences that shape a book can come from stranger places, or show themselves in unusual ways. The Ninth Rain was a book that formed through an alchemy of oddities, so here are a few of the things that have their fingerprints on the first volume of the Winnowing Flame trilogy.
I am very fond of this underrated gem. A complete and spectacular turkey at the box office, it’s actually a really fun (and funny) fantasy adventure romp, with a bad-ass science-princess and a lot of really cool jumping. John Carter encapsulates the sort of fast-paced fantasy I like to write, but the reason I have included it here is that at one point John Carter and Princess Dejah Thoris are looking for something called ‘the ninth ray’. I misheard it as ‘ninth rain’, and I thought, ‘Oh, that would make a really cool title for a book’. So there you go.
I am a big Studio Ghibli fan, and Spirited Away remains my favourite film of all time. I’ve flagged up Princess Mononoke specifically here because there is no doubt that the enormous forest gods and the strange amorphous creature that threatens to overwhelm everyone at the end had a huge impact on me. In The Ninth Rain, the forests and plains of Sarn are haunted by deadly, unthinking spirits, and I suspect they owe their genesis to this remarkable film.
Voltron: Legendary Defender
Okay so this Netflix Original cartoon (a remake of the 80s classic) started airing around the time I was writing The Ninth Rain, and I was immediately obsessed with it. I have always had a deep love for cartoons, and Voltron is like every amazing Saturday morning cartoon ever, turned up to 11. What I particularly loved was the bond between each Paladin and their Lion – a mystical connection that allows each to become more than they are alone. In The Ninth Rain, the mysterious (and now largely dead) Eborans had their war-beasts, mythical creatures born from the god Ygseril to drive off their ancient enemies – the part of me that thinks Voltron is cool definitely wants her own griffin to ride around on.
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
This is one of my favourite books ever, so I’ve no doubt it has influenced me in many ways I will never quite be able to pin down. However, specifically in this sense I enjoyed reading about Kay’s alternate version of Imperial China so much that I tracked down Bamber Gascoigne’s Dynasties of China, a short and brilliantly absorbing little history book. In it, Gascoigne briefly describes a great city, abandoned by its people and left for the wolves and weeds. I immediately fell in love with this image, and that was really where The Ninth Rain was born – I wanted to know what had happened to this city in my head, and why all the streets were empty.
We Slept at Last, Marika Hackman
I listened to this album over and over again while I wrote The Ninth Rain, and I’m sure its eerie songs sunk their sinister folk-fingers into every page, somehow. If you want to check it out, listen in particular to ‘Skin’ and ‘Animal Fear’ – consider it my gift to you.
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces — talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.
When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.
But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall…