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Interview with K.S. Villoso on ‘The Ikessar Falcon’

Author K.S. Villoso flanked by two of her books: The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and The Ikessar Falcon

K.S. Villoso is the author of the acclaimed Chronicles of the Bitch Queen fantasy series, which began with The Wolf of Oren-Yaro and continues with a sequel this fall. I sat down with her to discuss the Filipino influences in her worldbuilding, writing heroines, and her approach to character-driven storytelling.

Plus: A peak at Book #2, The Ikessar Falcon.

Fantasy Books With Filipino Worldbuilding

Cover of The Ikessar Falcon by K.S. Villoso depicts a sword-bearing woman with an intense, focused face. Another warrior stands off behind her.Brianna: Can you tell us about some of the Filipino influences in your worldbuilding?

K.S. Villoso: My worldbuilding is Filipino-influenced because I’m Filipino, with a worldview influenced by my life living in the Philippines and later on, within the Filipino immigrant community in Canada. This isn’t a world with places swapped out for real places, but a mosaic of struggles, hopes, and dreams. I have islands scattered in the northern part of the world that deals with colonization from a powerful empire, from which I heavily take inspiration from our history as a colonized country. But I also have nations I created while thinking what if we weren’t colonized? I have very classic medieval European-inspired places to show the movement of different types of people. There are many different countries because I don’t think of the Philippines or the Filipino experience as a monolith, and I am hesitant to say one country is representative of it as a whole. We are so much and I wanted to show exactly how.

So it is a very fully realized fantasy world where certain nations will occasionally use Filipino traditions or stories based on Filipino mythology. I make up a good portion as well, so I don’t think this is something I can easily quantify with a list.

Writing Messy, Unlikable Characters

Brianna: Sometimes, writing a complex, unlikable heroine gets push-back in ways that don’t seem to happen for male characters. What are your thoughts on this?

K.S. Villoso: I find it fascinating how many of the people reacting to these kinds of heroines will go around and praise very similar characters who just happen to be male. Or: it’s okay if she’s female, so as long as she resembles a male. I’ve heard from men who admit that it’s conditioning: a complex, unlikable heroine in a position of authority is not seen very often and so elicits a knee-jerk response. That said, I feel like the more of these sort of heroines we see, the more normalized it becomes to just see women as fully fleshed out characters capable of a wide range of personalities—unlikable or otherwise.

Brianna: What challenges and advantages come with writing character-driven stories?

K.S. Villoso: The way I define it, character-driven stories rely on character arcs. It’s not enough that things happen to them. The character must go through a series of changes, moving towards growth (or descent). The way they think, the way they talk, their opinions and decisions, all hinge on these changes. One of the most challenging things is to make sure their actions reflect who they are as a character at that point in time. How a character might act in the beginning of the novel will not necessarily be how they will by the end.

Now, since my books are also quite plot-heavy, that means I have to do a fair amount of juggling. I need them to move with the plot, but the decisions have to be organic—they have to be based on where the character’s mindset is at that point in the story.

So it’s very hard, but the advantage is a story that can connect with the right reader deeply. They not see the characters going through the motions, but actually experience their struggles for themselves. It gives readers a chance to empathize with their decisions—even if they don’t agree with it!—and to really feel the impact. Immersion, in other words.

Brianna: Not all heroes are, well, heroic. What draws you to writing messy, imperfect characters?

K.S. Villoso: I’m always interested in people. What makes us tick, why we make the choices we do, the relationships we have. My stories are very much focused on how these people—with all the glorious baggage that comes with being a human in this world—will react in a fantasy world, confronted with a fantasy plot. Crazy as it sounds, I want to dig deep and explore their minds.

Brianna: As much as you can answer, what are some things readers can look forward to in the sequel, The Ikessar Falcon?

K.S. Villoso:

  • Digging up the bodies of corrupt government officials.
  • A fish fight.
  • More confidence tricks.
  • So much dragons.
  • Death by rock.

You can keep up with K.S. Villoso on Twitter, Instagram, or on her website.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is available wherever you get your books. The Ikessar Falcon is available for pre-order (also wherever you get your books).

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As a devout reader of fantasy novels, Brianna has always felt the call to put pen to paper and will be embarking on her greatest adventure yet — releasing her debut novel, City of Reckoning in 2021. When she’s not writing, she can be found behind the camera directing films or behind the computer screen working on multimedia design projects. Brianna’s path has led her to contribute digital illustrations to SBA.gov and motion graphics for a multitude of nonprofits, and freelancing while traveling the world. Follow along to see what’s next on her journey at briannadasilva.blog.

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