A Bowl of Questions Featuring Tremontaine

A Bowl of Questions with Tessa Gratton

This season of Tremontaine sees a few new faces in Riverside as well as the Writer’s Room! Amongst them is Tessa Gratton, who took a break from her wizardly ambitions to join Ellen Kushner and co. for Season Two. We just had to sit down with her immediately to learn more, so read on to find out what her secret power would be – and why she’s rather fond of things both ugly and glorious.


Welcome to Tremontaine, where ambition, love affairs, and rivalries dance with deadly results.  In this serial, Ellen Kushner and a team of writers return readers to the world of scandal and swordplay introduced in her cult-classic novel Swordspoint. Readers familiar with the series will find a welcome homecoming while new fans will learn what makes Riverside a place they will want to visit again and again. Tremontaine follows Diane, Duchess Tremontaine, whose beauty is matched only by her cunning; Rafe Fenton, a handsome young scholar with more passion than sense; Ixkaab Balam, a tradeswoman from afar with skill for swords and secrets; and Micah, a gentle genius whose discoveries herald revolution. Sparks fly as these four lives intersect in a world where politics is everything, and outcasts are the tastemakers. Tread carefully, dear reader, and keep your wit as sharp as your steel.

Released in weekly episodes, Tremontaine is currently in its second season and is written collaboratively by Ellen Kushner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Racheline Maltese, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Tessa Gratton, and Paul Witcover.

Read it or learn more at SerialBox.com!

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Tessa GrattonCan you describe your most recent project in one sentence?

Lately I’ve been working on LADY HOTSPUR, Tor 2019, which is a gender-flipped fantasy retelling of Henry IV, part 1.

If you could live in one fictional world, which would it be?

Valdemar, from Mercedes Lacky’s Heralds of Valdemar series. I loved these when I was a teen because of the amazingly complext magical systems, queer romance, and talking magical horses. They also had decent plumbing and a variety of ways for women to deal with menstruation, both of which are always my primary concerns when I imagine living in a fantasy world.

Who is the author or book you will always recommend?

Melina Marchetta: she wrote my favorite fantasy trilogy, The Lumatere Chronicles, which are full of intense relationships, complicated characters, and very real, important, hard politics. (Some themes are similar to the Riverside novels, too, fellow fans! Re: violence, webs of politics, and people who aren’t all good or bad.) Besides that, Marchetta also writes contemporary books for adults and teens that are just as emotionally realistic and complicated.

First Love: Book edition. What was it and when?

Beauty by Robin McKinley. I was eight or nine, and wandering the stacks at a local indie store that I could walk to from my house. I’d been shifting into the adult sections of the bookstore, and spied this one face out in the romance section. The title shone silvery pink and on the front was a woman looking down in this way that just fascinated me. I noticed the “retelling of Beauty and the Beast” and bought it immediately.

I read it so many times I had the first five pages memorized entirely. I used a tape recorder to make an audio book for myself, yes, reading it out to myself. I listened to it while riding my bike or walking to school. It captured my imagination with the simple story that just glittered with details of world and character, and this winding narration that drew me inexorably in.

I still have that copy, though I keep it wrapped in a plastic bag because it’s so crumbling. I have three newer copies for rereading.

If you could have one magic spell up your sleeve, what would it be?

Flight. I’ve always had dreams that I can fly, and sometimes when the wind is right, I can almost believe it’s real. That’s the magic I’d want first.

Where is your happy place?

My back porch, sipping coffee or wine, looking out at the field behind my house, wind blowing through the leaves of the sycamore, the maples, the cottonwood trees, as the sun rises or sets, casting the sky in pastels.

If your soul was manifested outside your body in the form of an animal, what would it be?

My patronus is probably a vulture. I need something chthonic, after all. They’re ugly and grand and glorious, and they fly high, soaring without flapping their wings. They’re not afraid to get dirty, and eat amost anything, including the dead. Pretty useful, and connects them to the underworld. 

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