Interview with RoAnna Sylver, Author of the Chameleon Moon
Hello ladies, gentlemen, and nonbinary friends! I hope you like my author interviews because today we welcome the sweetest, most beautiful author-writer of my entourage (I have an entourage now, apparently): RoAnna Sylver!
The second book in the Chameleon Moon series, The Lifeline Signal, was the first I had the honour of editing, and it released on March 21st! So we’re here to talk about that amazing bit of fiction.
1. The Lifeline Signal is the second book in the Chameleon Moon series, but it picks up the story with completely different characters. Without spoiling too much, can you tell us a bit about how the two novels are linked?
I’ve been sitting here thinking about how to answer this, and a lot of connections really are huge spoilers, so… this is the smallest iceberg-tip I can share.
This is the world outside Parole. That city was quarantined and buried. Those in power tried to make Parole disappear. But of course, Parole refused to die. And a few on the outside (secret, underground, mostly mocked as conspiracy theorists) believe it still exists. They know it’s hidden but there, like a modern Atlantis, but so much more desperate because people are alive in there.
Nobody in Parole knows what’s waiting for them outside. They hope for an intact, ‘normal’ world. When a few lucky souls escape Parole in the devastating collapse in Book 1’s finale, they see that the outside is devastated in its own way, difficulty increased and stakes raised—but they’re not alone either.
You might remember Shiloh’s name coming up in Runtime, connected to the elusive, famous/infamous revolutionary nerd-rogue CyborJ. (Xir uncle!) And Annie, the incredibly cool/badass/vulnerable/neurodivergent-as-hell girl with a flying motorcycle and badass magic jacket, from the short story ‘The Library Ghost’ and ‘You’re Not Going That Way’ (HIGHLY recommended reading). She’s on a quest to jet across the poison-wasteland, ghost-filled Tartarus Zone to meet brilliant Tartarus expert Maureen Cole (and her kid Shiloh!), whose secret plans might save Parole. Like everything Chameleon Moon, what seems straightforward at first… isn’t.
I think it’s gonna be fun.
2. How did it feel to start over with so many new faces?
So exciting. Terrifying. Overwhelming, because I have to show how these new faces are connected to our old friends in Parole. They are, so much, and everyone is so important—but we don’t see how immediately. But that’s the nature of the mystery at Book 2’s core, just like Book 1. The fun is in figuring it out, and the reveals. (Gosh I love surprise reveals.)
And so, so good. I’ve wanted to tell these stories for so long. Now you’re finally going to know everyone I’ve loved for years and wanted to share. Shiloh, Annie, Indra, Rowan, Jay, Aliyah, Stefanos, Brianna. I hope you love them too.
…And there might be a couple I hope you hate. 🙂
3. One of my favourite part of The Lifeline Signal was how it thoroughly expands on Chameleon Moon’s universe. We get to see what’s outside Parole! How did it feel to go from writing a crumbling city to a vast wasteland? What’s your favourite part of the “new” setting?
The Lifeline Signal is one of the most ambitious projects/risks I’ve ever taken, because it expands what I started in Book 1 so incredibly, and I honestly just hoped to pull it off! The perspective zooms out from a single city, a cramped and tense pressure cooker, a powder keg on the verge of change… to an entire country, huge and sweeping. While keeping the tension, urgency, and believability/personal connection at the exact same fever-pitch level.
It’s been a ride.
And my favorite part of the setting is… Tartarus is so atmospheric and intense (or should be!) that it’s really become a character unto itself. Its moods and changes, the ghosts who haunt it, the predatory SkEye presence like pirate ships on a stormy sea. Like Parole’s fiery urgency and immediate terror, it should be clear. But it’s also a huge open space instead of a prison-bubble. Eerie, mysterious instead of explosive. Relentless.
Ghostly, you might say. Buried things do not stay buried in the Tartarus Zone. I play a lot with light/shadow in Book 2, and no, light is not necessarily good (just ask Shiloh!). But some secrets shouldn’t stay in the dark. Sometimes you need a spotlight.
Like all my characters, there’s a lot more to Tartarus than we see at first.
Other fave is just learning so much more/deeper about old friends and new. This story is far richer, more complex, and connected than I even knew. Parole isn’t the only important part, but it’s so important, particularly to Jay and Rowan (from The Library Ghost and Always Be You). Their conflict, worry, intense need to find Regan, Zilch, and everyone who disappeared, their loss and hope is so powerful. Same for Radio Angel, who we meet in person (again!). Her feelings I show for the first time, the desperation and fatigue, missing and hoping… If I’ve done my job right, it will be palpable. And painful/cathartic.
But like everything I write, it’s the process for healing.
There’s so much love, and I can’t wait to show you.
Also, an accurate depiction of me writing Chameleon Moon:
4. Let’s talk about Shiloh! Because, I mean, Shiloh. How does it feel to have a nonbinary protagonist with neopronouns? What has the reception been so far?
Writing Shiloh’s NB identity and yes, xie/xir/xirself pronouns, was so important. So good. More than I can even say. I’m going to share a tiny bit, the part about xir pronouns, and the relief of finding them/knowing xirself.
Shiloh smiled back, pulling the hat’s floppy brim down and immediately feeling better when shaded from the harsh sun.
There were a lot of words that didn’t work and searching for one that fit had taken a long time. Finally finding one was worth it, because it felt something like this— but a thousand times better.
Some words could be worn like healing armor. Some brought the cool relief of putting on sunglasses at high noon.
Out of several prescription pairs, Shiloh’s favorites were round and mirrored.
When xie looked into them, xie saw xirself, and smiled.
And, I’m so glad to say—and a little surprised, honestly, given the internet/world in general—that the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. I haven’t heard a single negative thing about any of this, and that’s… refreshing, unexpected, and wonderful. (Though if another NB person does have a representation crit, I’m 100% open/listening!) I know at least two people who have read this, and been able to go public with their pronouns for the first time.
That’s why I write.
5. Being nonbinary isn’t all you share with Shiloh, is it? Can you talk a bit about xir disabilities and in what ways they reflect lived experiences?
Totally. Shiloh has something called Arnold-Chiari Malformation, a skull/spine structural condition where essentially your brain/stem are squeezed or pushed into the wrong shape/place. I also have it, and let me tell you, Shiloh’s right. Arnold is a jerk.
It can give you extreme head/neck pain, and include or overlap with powerful migraines. Flares can make you dizzy, faint, pass out, give you tunnel vision or vision blackouts. It can also come with extreme photosensitivity; bright light is incredibly painful, and can set off a flare/generally ruin your day. So a common thing here is to wear cool prescription sunglasses. You might have seen my avatars various places—the shades are functional. And awesome.
The above isn’t the entire experience (since I only know mine!) but it’s what Shiloh and I go through every day. I think xie handles it better than I do most days.
…Xie also can shoot LASER beams with xir hands and do other cool things with electronics/frequencies, but I wouldn’t know about that as much.
6. ANNIE!!!! (that’s it, that’s the question). No, but really, this wouldn’t be my blog if we didn’t talk more about your absolutely badass aro-ace protagonist. What’s your favourite part of writing her?
Oh wow, I’m so glad you like her. Anh Minh “Annie” Le is also incredibly important, and many facets of her, like her orientation and chronic illness/neurodivergent brain, are personal and amazing to write.
I love her extreme, sometimes blunt honesty. (This can be hilarious or painful.) She has zero censor/says exactly what she thinks/feels—but it’s because she needs to cut through the social bullshit and get to the point everyone seems to dance around. She doesn’t always get spoken/interactive conventions, because why doesn’t everyone just say what they mean?
I love her badass apocalyptic-looking armor—actually braces to keep her unstable joints from dislocating. (Like me, Annie has EDS/Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and our joints are wobbly and dangerously hypermobile. Someone else in the book also has this, and she handles it in a different way, but just as valid-ly.) I love her cool black leather jacket with ever-changing studs that spell out what she has trouble expressing, or just fun commentary. I love her motorcycle helmet she wears whenever she has the choice. Like Shiloh, she needs the shade.
Annie gets overwhelmed easily with social interaction, and with sensory input. This world, especially the world outside Parole, is too big/loud/bright/intense. So that helmet is a little sensory-deprivation module; it dampens, quiets, dims a painful existence, keeps her calm and focused and safe. I wish I had one. (And her jacket. And swanky motorcycle.)
And yes, I love writing her aromanticism and asexuality.
She’s a kick in the face (with big combat boots) to anyone who says aro/ace people are unfeeling, inhuman, cold, broken. That they don’t care about anything or anyone but themselves, that they don’t love, even if that’s not in way commonly meant. In the entirety of the Chameleon Moon series so far… I don’t know if anyone cares so completely, and desperately as Annie.
(I’m listening to ‘Walk Through The Fire’ from the Buffy musical right now, a song I’ve connected to CM a lot. Thinking about Annie and almost crying because I’m an emotional wimp. But that’s what she does and who she is. She will walk through the fire not because she wants to, but because she needs to. She needs to save the people she loves, and save herself. She is valued and protected and important and loved. And she’s not alone.)
Okay, less crying, more interview-ing!
7. The Chameleon Moon series manages to combine so many different elements–strange superpowers, airships, a city crumbling into flames, a wasteland haunted by strange ghosts… It’s like nothing is beyond you! How do you make it all work?
Seriously, though—I wrote CM the way I did, specifically so I can basically do whatever the heck I want. It’s set on Earth, but that is the only restriction. It’s technically science fiction (I like the term science-fantasy. Also dys-hope-ia, obviously). But if you read, you know it’s full of fantasy and mythological imagery, especially Greek.
The secret is that Chameleon Moon is a fantasy world full of legends. The original superheroes, you might say.
You know here be dragons. And here be so much more.
In Book 1, there’s a Chimera, a banshee/muse (Calliope), a dryad with roses in her hair, a valkyrie who forges metal into victory, a wandering (edgelord) Puck/Loki-styled ghost, a ‘zombie’/Frankenstein’s not-Monster with their tender heart locked away, an all-seeing Radio Oracle/Greek Chorus, and a siren-voiced Prometheus in a top hat and tails, who gave un-ready mortals the power of the gods. A sweet witch who plays with the strings of fate. A seer named Cassandra who refuses to be ignored, in a doomed city that refuses to fall.
Book 2 gives us a demi-deity/child of heroes with lightening in xir fists, who feels like an NB ‘princess’ in a tower, and confronts a dragon to escape. A knight in joint-brace armor on a fast motorcycle-horse. A rogue who wears a Comedy Mask that hides so much more.
Also, there’s Tartarus. (And a ship that sails across the sea of the dead.) Her captain is a winged protector who knows not to fly too close to the sun. Jay, the smiling, trickster-esque, many-masked sage who walks in the aether of cyberspace. And an actual satyr-faun healer, because I’m steadily losing the ability to give a crap about subtlety. Cerberus is also here, sort of. He’s a good boy.
Parole will not be another Troy. But it might be a Pandora’s Box. (Remember the ending? We always have Hope.)
8. The first book also featured the most extensive networks (yes, multiple!) of polyamory I’ve ran into in fiction, and it’s strongly hinted there is more! Can we expect that to expand with the new cast? Is there a particular aspect of writing polyamory you enjoy a lot?
Ha ha ha, oh wow
(Please refer to the Accurate Writing Depiction above)
…Yes. Yes, you can very much expect for the ever-growing poly web/tangle/mess/celebration to expand, in several ways and dynamics. Queerplatonic/ace/aro lovelies absolutely have a place. If they want one. Some do, some don’t. This is a large part of the Connections I mentioned, and this web/everyone in it is so incredibly important to the story (and each other).
And I think my favorite part of all is the different dynamics. They’re complex and each one is different. Some are romantic but not sexual. Some are sexual but not romantic. Some are queerplatonic (yes, I say the word, you know how important this is by now), which may or may not have romo/sexual elements because this is such a huge spectrum, every orientation is! And don’t even get me started on gender. (Or do, because I love how nonbinary/agender chars fit into these dynamics! Or don’t! Which is also cool!)
I feel like we as a society, often even among queer/trans communities, can fall into limited, still essentially hetero/monogamy/romantic/sexually-normative concepts of relationships and… That’s not how it works, buckeraoos. That stretches my suspension of disbelief. It’s just not realistic.
The limit does not exist. (I’ll stop meme-ing when they stop being surprisingly good descriptors. BTW, none binary with left girl.)
I’ve said before on Twitter that sometimes, when relationships are hard to define or explain how they feel/are different from others, that they’re on a different ‘frequency.’ This is the best way I can describe QP ships, for instance. Are they romantic at all? Sexual? No, prob not (but can be/overlap). But they’re just as real and valid. For me at least, it’s like tuning a radio channel a little to the right/left. Even if there’s some static, it’s still a major connection, just on a different frequency. And it’ll come in clear eventually.
9. Final question! I know you have tons of other projects on your plate–writing or otherwise. Tell us what’s next for you!
You might have heard me be Mysterious on Twitter or elsewhere about my next project… and I’m so excited to share.
I will be taking a break from Chameleon Moon after Book 2 to work on something else. Less superpowers. Exact same amount of rep/inclusion, hope vs. despair, trauma vs. healing… and ofc, Elaborate Polyamory Webs.
In my first venture with the amazing Kraken Collective, I’ll be writing two serial stories about poly vampires in Portland OR, punk rock, magic, opera lesbians, witches, tarot cards, awesome harlequin mask aesthetics, ace/aro/agender/nonbinary/queerplatonic/trans/disabled folks kicking ass and surviving, even if they are technically dead/undead at the time…
Stake Sauce, and Death Masquerade.
Both of those titles are puns, yes. It’s me writing them. And I think it’s gonna be fun. <3
Here’s a little sneak peek/back-of-the-book preview.
STAKE SAUCE ARC 1: The Secret Ingredient Is Love. No, Really.
IN WHICH: A cute punk-rock vampire and a disabled firefighter-turned-mall-cop with a dark past join forces to battle the forces of evil.
Jude used to leap out of helicopters to rescue/protect people from terrifying infernos. Now, by day, he protects the local mall from rowdy teenagers who ride their skateboards inside. By night, he protects the the parking lot, and the rest of Portland, from undead, bloodsucking creatures of the darkness. Or would if he could find them.
But he’s just about ready to give it up (living with PTSD and pain from the traumatic event that cost him a leg, a friend, and a lot more is hard enough), when something crashes into his life. And his window.
It’s one of these creatures of the darkness – and he’s a lot less scary than expected. More cuddly, with dark fuzzy wings, and neon-bright hair.
His name is Pixie, and he refuses to bite anyone. Assault/murder/draining fluids isn’t punk, even if being a vampire really kind of is. He’s very hungry by now, and the much bigger, meaner, deadlier vamps kick him around on the nightly. Jude would love to find and fight some actual undead bullies. And Pixie could use some help staying… ‘alive.’ Time to make a deal.
Together they fight crime. And maybe even heal.
(Of course, life still sucks when you’re a vampire who refuses to suck blood. Fortunately, there’s a really interesting new barbecue restaurant in the mall, with an intriguing new recipe. We hear that the secret ingredient is… love. No, really.)
I hope that sounds fun by itself. But like everything I write, it’s connected—to a second series in the same universe, taking place long ago and far away…
DEATH MASQUERADE, ARC 1
We pick up in 19th-century Venice, Italy, where we follow Letizia, spell-slinging, rooftop-leaping witch/seer/bounty hunter specializing in vanquishing hordes of the night, and her fabulous opera-star paramour, whose name burns in the brightest lights as she lights up the stage. MonaLisa holds records for most sold-out shows in a consecutive season, and longest full stage name. Her smile will melt your heart… and reveal some very pointy pearly whites. (Letizia knows. She’s cool with it. More than cool.)
When the no-nonsense Investigatore Giovanni is called in to address the ominous spike in Venice’s deadly murders, the last thing he wants to hear is that the culprit didn’t have a pulse. These ritualistic killings, all in front of or near cathedrals suggest occult serial attacks, not a monster-of-the-week… but he has to admit, things are getting pretty strange, and he could use a guide on this journey through the city’s underworld.
Letizia is that tarot-reading, deadpan-snarking, fiendishly effective guide, and she thinks it’s pretty obvious who/what’s behind these grisly scenes. And it’s not like she’s never dealt with fangs before. She’s got the situation under control… Until another body shows up right outside MonaLisa’s opera house – dedicated to the “Sweet Night Goddess.” Looks like the opera-world darling has an overzealous fan. Or maybe someone knows her secret.
Giovanni has a lead. Letizia has an Incentive. MonaLisa has a show to put on, no matter who ends up dead on her doorstep, or who’d like to see her rising star go down in flames. And like in all good masquerades, nothing is as it seems.
This story also contains Sweet Priest Nerds, Nonbinary Fire Witches Who Kick Butt, Plague Doctor Masks for Aesthetics and Practicality, More Polyamory… and Bears.
Thank you so much for interviewing, Claudie, and everyone for reading! I hope you all enjoy what’s coming up next. I know I will.
I am supremely excited about all of this. Seriously. Can’t wait to dive into my The Lifeline Signal reread, and to discover the dual-new-project! So I’ll leave everyone with these feels and hype!