We talk to the author of This Vicious Grace, a fantasy novel about human connection and community.
This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede. Wednesday Books. pp. 446. $18.99.
Konstantin Rega: Can you tell us about your background growing up in Virginia?
Emily Thiede: I moved here as a high schooler when my father took a job at the University of Virginia. I also went there for college and then taught down in the Hampton Roads area for about 3 years. Now I’m back in the Charlottesville area. There’s something about the Blue Ridge Mountains that struck me in the heart, especially since I grew up in an area that was flat and suburban. And I realized that I don’t think I could live anywhere I couldn’t see them; it’s just a part of me now.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve always been a voracious reader. But I believed you needed to have a whole story already. I also have ADHD, so I have trouble clearing my mind. When I was little, I told myself stories at night to help me fall asleep. Like little movies playing in my head. A sort of mental fanfiction from a scene that I’d seen and wanted to explore more. But I still didn’t have a whole story.
However, after my first child, I wanted a hobby, and so went back to my love of books. It was my mother who actually challenged me to write a book, during National Novel Writing Month. Writing everyday, it’s almost as though I’m watching a movie, and I can trick my brain into forgetting that I’m the one coming up with it. If I wrote fast enough, my brain started to anticipate what would or should happen next. At the end of the month I had something book-like. I then started taking classes from Writer’s House in Charlottesville.
So where did the characters in This Viscous Grace come from?
When I was a student at UVA, I was always fascinated by research of human interaction and human touch. So the idea of a character, Alyssa in this book, who couldn’t touch others for fear of hurting them created a problem in my mind, and so I decided to explore this and see what it would be like for her to have that connection. Alyssa is a savior who is chosen to protect her island. But she needs someone to help her figure out her powers. And as humans we can’t do anything alone, we need community and support.
Dante, on the other hand, thinks the gods don’t love him and are inherently dangerous. I love the concept of these dangerous grumpy people who think they are incapable of love and friendship, but are actually incapable of walking away from it. Like Wolverine for the X-Men or the protagonist in The Witcher. That overall dynamic and pairing it with a character who is so eager, who wants connection, and in the end they both need each other, is really beautiful to me.
Do you have anything else in the works?
The next book in this duology is mostly written. So I’m very excited about that. I’m always toying with other things, like a Shakespeare retelling. I love the thought of looking at a classic story from a very different lens and putting different characters in the front seat. Perspective is everything in stories.
And what do you want the reader to get out of your work?
I wanted to create a sense of escapism. This Viscous Grace was (in an accidental way), a bit of a magical metaphor for my discovery and then journey with ADHD. Often you need to do things in a different way than other people do to succeed. You shouldn’t feel like a failure because you do things differently than others. That being different is not a weakness. And that there’s strength in building a community and working with other people.
Buy a copy at The Bookshop.
See Emily Thiede at:
Sam Miller’s Restaurant, Richmond. Tuesday, June 28, 2022 – 6:00pm
Bluebird Bookstop, Crozet. Saturday July 9, 2022 5:00pm