What is Tremontaine, you ask? The full explanation is in this blog post, but the TL;DR version is: It’s a swashbuckling, intrigue-filled fantasy with queer folks, and you read it in 13 serialized installments via the Serial Box app (only for iPhone now but they’re working on an Android version), your e-reader (Kindle, iBooks, Kobo) or on the internet. The best experience is through a subscription via the Serial Box app or the Serial Box website, where for $1.59 per installment you get not only the ebooks, but a beautifully produced audiobook version as well. It’s perfect for reading or listening to on your commute or on walks or curled up in one corner of your couch with a cup of hot chocolate.
Tremontaine is quite different from the other stuff I’ve written because of its collaborative nature, and that’s a big part of why I wanted to do this. When Ellen called me last winter to tell me about the project, I was immediately intrigued because she told me it was going to be kind of like working on a TV show. Each “episode” (really a novella-length story) would be written by a single writer, but the entire “season-long arc” would be plotted out by all the writers. I love TV, and I’ve studied television from an academic perspective and written about it as a critic, so the idea of employing the TV writers’ room structure to writing a fictional serial was irresistible to me. Plus, I’d get to work with Ellen, whom I’d come to know through her Riverside novels, starting with Swordspoint, which was revolutionary in terms of gay representation in fantasy when it was first published in 1987.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Swordspoint, it’s about a swordsman named Richard St. Vier and his lover, a university student named Alec. Their relationship is prickly and heated, but most importantly, it is on the page completely and totally normal in the world they live in. I didn’t read Swordspoint after I’d gotten published ((I have to give a shout out to Joe Monti, currently the Editorial Director at Saga Press, for first alerting me to the existence of Swordspoint. When I visited the offices of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in 2008, shortly after they acquired my first novel, Ash, Joe was working there and came to meet me, bearing a paperback edition of Swordspoint, which he gave to me. Years later, this is what came of Joe’s gift!)), but as I came to know the fantasy and science fiction community and learned more about the genealogy of queer speculative fiction, Ellen Kushner’s name and Swordspoint cropped up again and again. For many readers, Swordspoint woke them up to the possibilities of queerness in fantasy, and it has been a wonderful honor to be able to write in Ellen’s world.
The story that we are telling in Tremontaine is set about 15 years before Swordspoint (you don’t need to have read Swordspoint to read Tremontaine), and the series title refers to one of the noble families in the world of Riverside. (Technically, Riverside is only one neighborhood in the City, but it’s been handy to refer to the novels and short stories that Ellen has written in this world as “the world of Riverside”.) Riverside and the City resemble premodern Europe, and one of the practices City-dwellers (especially the nobility) enjoy the most is drinking chocolate in the French manner. But chocolate isn’t native to Europe (or to Riverside); it comes from across the sea. In the real world, chocolate originated in what is present-day Mexico, and was imported to Europe. In the world of Tremontaine, chocolate is imported by a trading family who come from a land inspired by Mesoamerican cultures. This allows us to re-enter Riverside from a non-European perspective; in the case of Tremontaine, from the perspective of a daring young woman named Ixkaab Balam.
Episode 1 of Tremontaine, written by Ellen Kushner and titled “Arrivals,” introduces you to Ixkaab, as well as the Duchess Tremontaine (whose name graces the series title), a passionate young scholar named Rafe, and a farm girl with a skill for numbers named Micah. These characters quickly become entangled in a plot involving a mysterious murder, cross-class and cross-cultural (gay) passions, and the chocolate trade — so much chocolate! I think it’s the perfect series for darkening winter nights, especially if you like swordplay, spies, and drawing room intrigue, but don’t take my word for it. Here are some of the great blurbs Tremontaine has received so far:
“Sharp blades and even sharper wits abound! Delicious new adventures await fans in this welcome return to the world of Swordspoint.” — Jacqueline Carey, New York Times Bestselling author of the Kushiel’s Legacy series
“Lovely! Beneath a froth of silk and lace Tremontaine is finely muscled, rippling with skill and promise.” — Nicola Griffith, author of Hild
“More Tremontaine stories? YESPLEASE. Tremontaine stories by some of my favorite, excellent writers? HELLA YESPLEASE. I can’t wait to read them all! ” — N. K. Jemisin, author of The Fifth Kingdom
And here’s the excellent trailer (it’s great — not your typical book trailer!) which explains not only Tremontaine but the serialized format as well:
Episode 1, “Arrivals,” is now available to read for free. If you like it, you can subscribe to the rest of the series, which releases new episodes every week. I’ve written three episodes for the series, beginning with Episode 4, but you’ll want to read or listen to the all the episodes because it’s totally a group effort of awesomeness.
I hope you’ll enjoy Tremontaine!
P. S. Read Ellen Kushner’s wondrous account of the epic quest it took to bring Tremontaine to life.