To some people associative barriers do not seem to exist. Author Naomi Novik is an excellent example. Her Temeraire series is a historical fantasy series set in the Napoleonic era. This genre description may sound like a contradiction, but Novik likes to play with the idea of “what if…?” and this is a good way of finding new creative paths. In some ways the series is a conventional historical drama, but fantasy elements, like dragons, are integrated as if they were an undisputed part of European history. It is an unorthodox way of treating the fantasy novel as well as the historical novel but when she explains it in one interview it sounds very simple:
- I liked the idea of having an air force of dragons on the Napoleonic Wars. It fit very naturally as a military force, she says.
With that kind of open-mindedness it actually sounds quite easy to be innovative.
But an even more interesting intersection in Naomi Novik’s work is found on another level. She used to be a game designer before she became an author and her experience from that field gave her a method of improving her writing. Before a game is released on the market it has to be tested by beta players. Their task is simply to play the new game and to report flaws in the program. Since this concept was natural to Novik she thought it would be a good idea to do the same thing with books. Although they do not include software flaws she believes that there are always things that can be made better. Therefore she lets fans read her script before a new book is published and then she listens to their feedback.
She does not only make minor adjustments according to the beta readers’ input; she makes enormous amounts of changes and sometimes she allows herself to be pushed in new directions where she wouldn’t have gone otherwise. This interactivity has huge impact on her creative process and she is convinced that it has enabled her to write better books. Her readers obviously appreciate the stories; she is an award-winning and best-selling author and none other than Peter Jackson has bought the film rights for the Temeraire series.