Craving answers about the Recoletta series ? Carrie Patel talks about her books ‘The Buried Life’ and ‘Cities and Thrones’

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Recently I read and reviewed ‘Cities and Thrones.’ Carrie Patel’s second book in the Recoletta series.  It’s a intriguing story about a future dystopia in an underground city called Recoletta.  The gaslight fantasy follows a group of characters across different social classes through revolution.  What she started with ‘The Buried Life’ she built in complexity in ‘Cities and Thrones’  Carrie Patel was nice enough to answer some questions that were driving me crazy.  I’ve shared them below for you in case you were craving the answers like me.
1. The term Whitenail  for the higher society is quite specific.  What is its origin.
In the founding days of Recoletta, the whitenails were the people who kept their hands clean. Many of them were engineers, doctors, mine foremen, and plumbers–people with the practical skills necessary to keep the new city functioning. Thus, while others were doing the dirty work of digging out tunnels and keeping them clean, the whitenails did the prestigious work of planning new expansions. Over time, as these people and their families began to form a specific social class, they began to grow long fingernails as a way of flaunting their exclusion from manual labor.
By the time of The Buried Life and Cities and Thrones, the whitenails are no longer defined by their jobs, but rather by their families and economic resources. And their long fingernails, of course.
2.Economic class is the focus for revolution in your Recoletta books.  Did you purposefully choose not to address  other possible factors that can be a root of discrimination to emphasize this imbalance?
Economic inequality isn’t the only disparity in the books, but most (if not all) kinds of inequality eventually express themselves economically–people with more advantages, prestige, and connections find the best economic opportunities and share them with others like themselves. The basis for the social classes in Recoletta was the job distribution of the founding generations. Over time, the people with the most important roles accumulated the best wealth and connections for themselves and their families. It wasn’t necessarily malicious–it was just the natural flow of resources.
But over time, the obvious divisions between the classes in Recoletta tend to boil down to things like income, education, social prestige, and neighborhood of residence. For the farmers, who live outside of the cities, the discrepancies are even greater. They’re fighting for many of the basic opportunities available to the cities and for the right to own the goods they produce.
3. There are multiple themes in the book.  What main message are you hoping your audience will take away with them after they read these books.
Jane and Malone both face challenges that force them to question what they believe about themselves and the world around them. Both characters change quite a bit between the two books, but I don’t want to spoil the specifics. Most of all, I hope readers find a story they can enjoy and characters with whom they can identify.
4.  Will the books eventually explain what caused their society to flee underground?
That will be a larger factor in Book Three. As the characters define the future of Recoletta, Madina, and the other cities, they’ll learn more about their past, too.
5. So many books choose to gloss over or ignore entirely the realities or challenges that go with Revolution.   What made you choose to dedicate an entire book, if not more, to these issues?
As you say, it’s a topic that gets overlooked quite frequently. Oftentimes, replacing corrupt leaders with someone more well-intentioned is assumed to lead to a happy ending, but that’s often a simplification. There are challenges to rebuilding a government and changing a culture, and these challenges are ripe with many of the conflicts that I find most interesting–the clash between idealism and expediency, the competition between postwar narratives, and the ongoing battle between social and political groups whose positions have changed.
6.  Are you working on other projects currently?  Do you have an end date in your mind for the stories of Recoletta or are you willing to extend the story for as long as you have ideas surrounding it and your fans continue to have interest.
I’m working on the outline for the third book in the Recoletta series, and my plan is to finish the stories of the characters and the cities in this one. I’ve had a lot of fun writing about the underground cities and their revolutions, but I’m looking forward to telling new stories about new settings, too!
As part of my job at Obsidian Entertainment, I’m also writing and doing narrative design for The White March, which is the expansion to the RPG Pillars of Eternity. I’m having a lot of fun extending the world that we’ve already built up in Pillars, and I’m looking forward to introducing players to some exciting new characters.
7.  How long and what did you do to gain the interest of Angry Robot?  Did you ever consider self publishing?
I had the pleasure of meeting Lee Harris (who was Angry Robot’s senior editor at the time) and Mike Underwood in San Antonio at the 2013 Worldcon. I’d seen Mike on a panel, and when I started talking to him, he graciously gave me the opportunity to pitch. Since I didn’t have an agent at the time, meeting them in person gave me an opportunity to present my book that I might not have otherwise had.
I’d heard a lot about self-publishing, but I wasn’t ready to pursue it. I didn’t have a platform or an audience of any kind, and I didn’t feel that I had the resources or the marketing knack to get those things on my own. I felt that the best use of my time would be revising The Buried Life, working on new material, and trying to break into the market with a traditional publisher. I’m happy with the decision I made, but I recognize that many people find self-publishing rewarding, too.

BIOGRAPHY:  Carrie Patel was born and raised in Houston, Texas. An avid traveller, she studied abroad in Granada, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina.She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas A&M University and worked in transfer pricing at Ernst & Young for two years.She now works as a narrative designer at Obsidian Entertainment in Irvine, California, where the only season is Always Perfect.You can find Carrie online at and@Carrie_Patel on Twitter.


About Steph

As C. S. Lewis said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” I am an indiscriminate reader. I can find a way to enjoy almost all books. I find they are like people – you can find something endearing in almost every one of them. I love to write reviews. I hope you enjoy them and find them useful. View all posts by Steph

2 responses to “Craving answers about the Recoletta series ? Carrie Patel talks about her books ‘The Buried Life’ and ‘Cities and Thrones’

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