PW: You've indicated that it was while working for a year in a London bookstore after college and traveling throughout Europe that you realized you wanted to be a writer. Were you bubbling over with ideas?
Jacqueline Carey: I was, most of them not terribly original, I'm afraid.
PW: Terre d'Ange, the world inhabited by your heroine, Phdre, in Kushiel's Avatar, seems to correspond to Renaissance Europe.
JC: Chronologically, I would put it earlier, but I wanted the d'Angeline civilization to have a Renaissance sensibility.
PW: Did you think long and hard before making Phdre subject to Kushiel, the god of pain?
JC: I did. It was a very scary prospect. I knew there was risk of having their sado-masochistic relationship appear exploitative or sensationalized, and I wanted it to come off without doing that. I thought long and hard whether I wanted to take that risk. Part of it was that challenge of thinking that this might be something new under the literary sun. That was a definite part of the appeal.
PW: Phdre's elaborate tattoo on her back is part of the pain syndrome. Do you have a couple of choice ones of your own?
JC: I do not.
PW: That's not fair!
JC: I know. When people meet me who know me only from the book, they try and check me out. They peer over my shoulder. I feel pretty guilty over that.
PW: At book signings, do your fans expect you to be a dominatrix or whatever its opposite is?
JC: I think they expect me to be a, I don't know, leather-clad? I've had a few approach with great trepidation.
PW: In this world like and unlike our own, you add some unusual theological figures, most of them seemingly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Did you invent any of them?
JC: All of them except for Blessed Elua, who preached only love, are something one would find in a dictionary of angels, and the Apocryphal books talk more extensively about the sons of God falling to earth and going into the daughters of Man. The one true name of God in Kushiel's Avatar comes out of kabalistic lore.
PW: How hard was it to sell this story?
LC: I tried to get an agent first. Having written earlier work, I'd been through the agent hunt and I felt I had honed my querying skills to a fine edge. Having a literary agent makes a huge difference in submitting work. My agent has access and tremendous passion. It was the right manuscript connecting with the right person.
PW: Phdre's strength and resolve come through in the jacket art on the books, though she's no Hollywood beauty. Does this portrait satisfy you?
JC: I wouldn't have given her bangs. Otherwise it's fair enough.
PW: One of the most interesting characters is Melisande, who seems to go from villain to sacrificing mother. Did she honestly care when she gave up her son, Imriel, to Phdre in the last book?
JC: I think she did care, a great deal. To some extent I wanted there to be a redemptive quality in the third book and that included Melisande. She is certainly not forgiven, but that is her one good act.
PW: You've stated that this is the final book in the trilogy. Might another character take over, like the boy, Imriel?
JC: Yes, I've had some ideas teasing around the back of my mind. Any follow-up would have a lot to do with exploring the flip side, psychologically, a completely different character. I haven't committed to anything one way or another, but I haven't discounted it. What I really need is a rest, but I am considering a stand-alone novel in a Tolkienesque vein.