From The Writers' Room Featuring Tremontaine

Ellen Kushner Joins the Reader-Side of Riverside

With Tremontaine Season 3, I’m having the same experience you are.

After my Episode One, I’m reading right along with you, thrilling to the events as they happen, wondering at the writers’ inventiveness, and screaming as they mess with my head.[1]

With our previous two seasons of Tremontaine, I was down in the trenches with the writing team: in on all the meetings as the season progressed, reading multiple drafts of each story, commenting, even sticking my paw in and revising.

But this year, I went on a little trip.

A long trip, actually: My wife Delia Sherman & I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and spend a year in Europe—specifically, in Paris, France. So we have taken up residence on the Left Bank, close by the Latin Quarter, the old student section that definitely inspired parts of the Riverside city and its saga.

I am regularly posting photos on my Twitter and Facebook pages, and have just taken up Instagram—plus am sending reference pics to the Tremontaine writers with notes like “A house on the hill! Only with bigger staircase” and “Middle City street. Note cobblestones with gutter down the middle” and (from the metro, when people aren’t looking) “Davenant??” because to be honest, all my characters to me have those strong and quirky French faces.

Getting ready for the year abroad was a bear. We had to sort out everything from medical coverage to longstay visas . . . and figure out a way to get our winter coats to Paris while we spent the summer traveling from Scotland to a wedding in Singapore to a writing retreat in New Zealand to the World SFF convention in Helsinki (but that’s another story).

Suffice it to say that, after the Tremontaine writing team’s usual intense weekend Season Brainstorm last winter, I wrote my Episode 1 and then bowed out, content to leave the plotting, planning, writing, rewriting and editing to the team (including wizard series editor Juliet Ullman, who never misses a trick!).

It did feel a little weird to relinquish total control of my world and its people. But I was buoyed by my complete faith in this season’s writers. Joel Derfner, has been on the team since Season 1, and knows a lot more about swans and aristocrats than he used to. Tessa Gratton survived her debut in Season 2 last year, giving us the dashing Lord Reza to play with—and convincing me that, if she hasn’t actually lived in Riverside, she’s visited it in the same dreams I have. Delia Sherman, of course, wrote the third Riverside novel, The Fall of the Kings, with me—and edited all of Season One—and her collaborator, Liz Duffy Adams, created the beloved SerialBox historical Whitehall. Racheline Maltese and Paul Witcover have been guest-writing from the beginning, as well, and have contributed not just character love but their fabulous knowledge of swordplay to the mix.

And this season we welcome Karen Lord, an award-winning writer of SF and fantasy, a woman from Barbados who has traveled the world, read all my favorite swashbucklers, and utterly won my heart with her wisdom, insights and elegant prose. I am so proud to have her on the team, and I know you’re going to love her work as much as we do.

They really are a team, you know. I read their notes to each other on Slack, and I watch them helping each other over the hard parts (like always hating your own first draft!), brainstorming on plot points that looked great on paper 3 months ago, but suddenly don’t actually work . . . and bringing life to a set of characters and new cultures I didn’t even dream of when I started this project.

We’re in good hands, all of us.

Ellen Kushner
October 2017

[1] OK, I exaggerate a little for effect: I actually read them all in final versions about a month before we launched. I still screamed, though!

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