Rivera Sun’s novel, The Lost Heir: an Unruly Royal, an Urchin Queen, and a Quest for Justice, is now available in print and eBook formats on her website and all other online bookstores, including Amazon. Thanks for spreading the word! The following Author Q & A appears in the end matter of the First Edition version.
Q: Where did the idea for this book come from?
A: Where does any story come from? It’s a deep mystery. Mostly, I sit down and listen until an idea flashes past like a lightning bug on a dark night. Then I follow those little winking glimmers of inspiration until the dawn of a new novel arises.
The Lost Heir is a sequel, so I knew two things: Ari Ara would go to Mariana Capital . . . and she’d make trouble there! Beyond that,I was – and always am – fascinated by how people organize to transform injustice. As Ari Ara stepped into the world of the nobles, it was inevitable that she’d run into some issues around class, wealth, hierarchy, and exploitation. She’d be in a tricky position as the Heir to Two Thrones. Everyone would be both judging her and fighting to control her. But you know Ari Ara! She doesn’t respond well to being controlled. The thread of the water workers was a surprise development in the writing process.
Q: Why did you choose to make the water workers more like migrant laborers than slaves?
A: All forms of economic exploitation need to be critiqued, challenged, and transformed. In our contemporary times, we are grappling with the ways in which economic injustice propels immigration. Many are trying to turn back migrants at the borders without acknowledging or dealing with the systemic inequalities that fuel immigration. War, violence, and poverty are the drivers of immigration. Until we address those, people will always need to seek refuge in other countries than their original homes. By framing the water workers in the context of migrant laborers forced to exchange work for water, it helps us see the real life parallels that are happening in our world today. In the novel, the Marianan nobles sought to profit from cheap labor by forcing the Desert People to work for water. This, in turn, causes ripples of injustices that end up hurting the Marianan workers and fueling hatred and tension between the two groups. In order to resolve the conflict, both sets of workers have to understand the underlying causes of their conflict and find ways to address it, together.
Q: The Water Exchange forces Desert People to work for water. Where did this idea come from?
A: Water privatization is a rising issue in our world. People around the earth are mobilizing to stop the extraction for profit, and to protect the water. I chose to weave this into the plot to highlight how water is a human right and it causes cascading injustices to try to profit off water while denying people access to it. So many courageous communities are standing up to remind us that water is life, el agua es la vida, mni wiconi. In this fictional story, I wanted to draw attention to the importance of water as a social justice issue.
Q: In The Lost Heir, why is fashion such an important social justice issue?
A: Confession: I love movies with amazing costumes. But the fashion industry is full of sickening injustices. The ways our clothes are made are shocking. So, while I creatively invented a “language of fashion” for Mariana Capital, I also wanted to bring up some of the ways our love of clothing can create terrible working conditions for those who make our clothing. Ari Ara is a shero with a purpose, after all, and as she deepens her understanding of the Way Between, she discovers other ways to put it to use righting wrongs and ending injustice.
It’s important to question where everything in our lives comes from. As much as possible, we should choose things that treat people and planet with respect and care. Making these changes is not easy, but it can be very powerful. When Gandhi was struggling for India’s independence, the movement spun their own cotton, wove their own cloth, and wore it in a traditional style. This provided economic employment for poor people, built solidarity between the rich and poor, and deprived the British of a lot of tax money and profit they were making on imported cloth. Fashion is often full of injustices, but with some consciousness, it can also become a form of right livelihood for many. This is exactly the shift that Ari Ara and her friends encourage among the Marianans.
Q: The concept of honor, called harrak by the Desert People, offers guidance to Ari Ara as she’s navigating conflict. Will you explain that a bit more?
A: Yes. The Desert People have a word, harrak, that means honor, integrity, and dignity all rolled into one. To them, it is the most important thing to “have”, far more important that riches or nice houses. It is a guiding principle for their culture. We all have core principles – things like courage, love, honesty, respect – and they can give us strength and purpose as we take a stand for change. As Ari Ara learns about harrak, she integrates it into her understanding of the Way Between. These ideas give her guidance on how and when to stand up for what’s right even when it’s hard or when doing what’s right will get her into trouble. Harrak offers her a way to stay honest and humble while still lifting her head up with pride. It’s a powerful idea for all of us. All core principles are.
Q: Where did you get the idea for the tension between the street urchins and water workers?
A: Scapegoating is incredibly common in our world. We’re taught to hate other groups of people rather than look for creative solutions to our conflicts. The street urchins and water workers are both suffering from the Water Exchange, but instead of understanding that the nobles’ policy has driven the Desert People into Mariana, the street urchins fall into the trap of fighting with the water workers, who they see as having taken their jobs. Dr. King had a strong principle of nonviolence, to fight injustice, not people. I think it’s an excellent reminder that our “enemy” isn’t people, it’s their actions, behaviors, beliefs, and policies that are terrible. In so many of our conflicts, if we can learn to see past our prejudices to the root problems, we can find ways to work with unlikely allies to resolve the conflict in a way that works for everyone.
Q: Why do you feel it’s so important to write about social justice issues?
A: All fiction deals with social justice issues. It’s just a question of who the author is writing for: the status quo or the leading edge of change. We need to learn to read with a critical gaze and to recognize that all stories are teaching us lessons. Those lessons may lead toward the exploitation of others; or they may lead us into action on behalf of equality, justice, and peace. A novel about a handsome prince is about class issues; generally, it tells the story that inequality is acceptable, even praiseworthy. I choose to challenge notions like that. Any time I set up an inequality in my books, you can almost count on the characters challenging those structures and world views.
Q: Which leads us to the last question: what’s coming next for Ari Ara?
A: No spoilers! I can only say that her adventure continues – and that she turns thirteen in the desert. Democracy, cultural understanding, women’s rights, and warrior cultures vs. peace cultures all show up as themes in her next book. (Wink)
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