Ahem. Yes, that's right Dear Readers! The very exciting news I have been teasing you with basically forever (don't hate me!) is now finally mine to reveal! And incidentally when I said 'very exciting' I actually meant THE MOST EXCITING THING EVER. Here's the official press release:
Walker Books acquires a new YA fantasy novel The Hand, the Eye and the Heart from Zoë Marriott
Marriott’s new YA explores themes of gender fluidity in a fantasy setting
Walker Books are delighted to announce the acquisition of The Hand, the Eye and the Heart, a new YA novel from award-winning British author Zoë Marriott. Commissioning editor Annalie Grainger acquired world rights in all languages from Nancy Miles at Miles Stott Children’s Literary Agency. Zoë Marriott is the author of many critically acclaimed and beloved books, often inspired by myths and fairy tales, including The Swan Kingdom, which was longlisted for the Branford Boase award. Shadows on the Moon won the prestigious Sasakawa Prize and was an American Junior Library Guild Selection. The book will publish in Spring 2019.
In the tradition of bestselling and beloved writers like Tamora Pierce and Ursula Le Guin, The Hand, the Eye and the Heart is a rich and lavishly detailed YA fantasy that draws on explorations of gender fluidity and identity. Zhilan was designated female at birth. Marriage and children are the future, not war. But when a warrior rebel begins to ravage the empire and threatens Zhilan's family, they are determined to fight. The only choice is to dress as a boy and to take on a boy's name: Hua Zhi. In a world where love and betrayal are two sides of the same smile, danger lurks everywhere, and Zhi might be the only one who can save the Emperor ... but only if they can save themselves first.
Annalie Grainger said:
“Zoë is such a talented writer. Her books are always intricately plotted and beautifully written, and they draw on such complex pertinent themes, all within diverse and well-constructed worlds. Her latest builds upon this powerful legacy of diverse stories. Its world-building is glorious and the exploration of gender fluidity is important and sensitively handled.”
Tl:dr: My new book is coming out from Walker Books next year, and it is a high fantasy called The Hand, the Eye and the Heart.
For more details about the journey of writing this book and the challenges it brought, you can read my post HONESTY IS A DANGEROUS POLICY.
Bringing The Hand, the Eye and the Heart into the world was not easy. It was, in fact, dangerous. And uncomfortable and frightening. The fact that it exists anyway is testament to the support and vision of The Royal Literary Fund and Arts Council England, both of whom believed in me and helped buy me the time (over two years) required to research and write this book.
And of course, a massive thanks are also due to the steadfastness of Super Agent, whose regular doses of encouragment and good sense helped pull me out of periods of hopelessness more times than I imagine she ever realised.
Time for a little Q&A!
Q: Is it true this book is a retelling of 'Mulan'?
A: Not exactly. It isn't a direct retelling of any one story. It is heavily inspired by several different versions of the Ballad of Mulan - including the original poem and many subsequent, ever-evolving retellings within Chinese culture such as the Chinese Opera. But the main character of The Hand, the Eye and the Heart is not Mulan. The protagonist of this book is Zhi. It's really important to me that this is clear, because Mulan is such a revered and significant figure and I'm not seeking to mess with her. So I'm not claiming to retell 'the true story of Mulan' or anything sensational like that. Zhi's journey definitely echoes Mulan's in some ways - but that is about paying homage to a legendary heroic archetype, not subverting or revising Mulan's story.
Q: Is the book set in China?
A: It's set in an imaginary place called The Land of Dragons or the Red Empire. This (again) is heavily influenced by Chinese history, especially the Tang Dynasty - but only in the same way that, say, George R. R. Martin's Westeros is influenced by England in the Middle Ages. It is not intended to be a historically accurate portrayal of China. It's a fantasy. There's magic and all kinds of made up people and places and events, as well as many people and places and events which take history as a jumping off point for fantastical extrapolation. The Big Bad, for example, is a mixture of a bandit King referred to in one version of Mulan's story (a man called Leopard Skin) and a real general who rebelled against the Emperor during the Tang Dynasty.
Q: So is the main character really trans?
A: I think of their gender identity as falling under that umbrella, and wrote them with the intention of presenting them to my readers that way - personally, I believe Zhi to be what contemporary westerners would probably call gender fluid or maybe, more broadly, non-binary. But readers are free to interpret the character's gender in any way they like (so long as they don't try to say that they're cis! Definitely not cis).
Q: Did you have sensitivity readers who were Chinese or trans?
A: I've been lucky enough to have advice from two trans people at different stages. One was a young reader who reached out to me through my blog and offered his help right from the start. The other is a dear friend and fellow writer who read the 'finished' version (although it's not really finished yet). I've tried my absolute best to act on and incorporate every comment or suggestion that both of them made. I also had really valuable help and advice from several readers (and friends and family members of readers) of Chinese and East Asian heritage. I'm hoping that the book will get more feedback and more opportunities to be improved before publication.
Q: Is it true that you're an LGBTQA+ writer? Are you trans?
A: I identify as queer, yes. But I don't really think that writers should have to offer up a list of their marginalised identities on demand as part of discussion of their work, so even though I'm happy to talk about my queerness at other times, I'd prefer not to go into it now. I will say that the book is not #ownvoices.
Q: When exactly is the book out?
A: Spring 2019! Can't be more exact than that at this point, sorry.
Q: When can we see the cover?
A: I don't know - but you can bet your sweet bippy I'll post it here the millisecond I'm allowed to. It doesn't actually exist yet. They're working on it. Honest.
Q: Can we read some of it?
A: I'm still revising it with my editor. When she's happy and it's copy-edited they might let me post some extracts, or maybe a free sample will go up somewhere. I will ask, I promise. I'm excited to share it with you.
Q: Is this the never-ending manuscript that just keeps getting longer that you're always moaning about on Twitter?
Q: How long is this thing anyway?
A: Currently? I mean, it's hard to really say, we're still editing so...
Q: Just spit it out!
A: It's a bit over 100k, all right? That might come down. Or it might go up. I don't know, I'm just the writer. Anyway, it's in the same general length bracket as Shadows on the Moon.
Other stuff that might be of interest! Some aesthetics I made on Twitter the other day and the Spotify playlist for the book. Also, some of you may remember that this book has been referred to (even in the tags of this post) as Codename: DTH. That's because the book's working title was 'Deceive the Heavens', which is a quotation from Sun Tzu's The Art of War.
That's all for today, muffins! Feel free to toss any more questions in the comments - I'm interested to hear what you think!