The Gladiator and the Guard is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, the first one being The Collar and the Cavvarach. The stories take place in a world almost exactly like our own. Although most aspects of the culture are just about what they are currently on Earth, a few sports are different, such as the martial art known as cavvara shil. The main difference, however, is that slavery is legal there.
The Krillonian Empire rules much of the world. An emperor, who is never named, governs from the capital city, Krillonia, on the continent known as Imperia. Eight separate provinces (originally independent nations before they were conquered) can be found on nearby continents. Each province, plus Imperia, is allowed to elect its own legislature and decide on many of its own laws, but the emperor reserves the right to veto any of them and make changes as he sees fit. This seldom happens, however, and to most people the emperor is merely a vague and distant ceremonial figure.
The prevalence of slavery is probably what would stand out the most to visitors from Earth. There are nearly as many slaves in the city of Jarreon, where both books take place, as free people, and they are easily identified by the steel collars they are required to wear locked around their necks. From each collar hangs a tag inscribed with the slave’s name, their owner’s name, and a copy of their owner’s signature. On the back of the tag is their owner’s phone number and a bar code that can be scanned to access additional information.
Many families own one or more slaves who do their housework and yardwork. Businesses often own a large number of slaves, usually for manual labor, though some are trained for more complex tasks. Those who don’t own their own slaves may “hire in” one belonging to someone else. The accepted rate for an hourly wage is two-thirds the amount that a free person would earn for equivalent labor (the money goes to the slave’s owner, of course).
To read more about the culture of the Krillonian Empire, take a look at this post on my blog.
Here’s the back-cover blurb for The Collar and the Cavvarach†:
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?
And the blurb for The Gladiator and the Guard†:
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system†and seize his freedom†before that system crushes him?
What first inspired you to begin writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can recall. When I was seven years old, I had a sudden inspiration for what I thought was an amazing story and decided then and there that I was going to write a book and be the world's youngest author. I ran to my room in great excitement, found an old notebook and a pencil, and started in. Well, that first novel was never actually finished, let alone published, but it got me started. After that, I can't remember a time that I wasn't working on at least one book. Prince of Alasia, which I started in college, was the first one I finished that I thought was worth trying to get published. I looked into traditional publishing and spent a long time trying to get an agent, but to no avail. Finally I learned about Kindle publishing and did it myself the indie way, eleven years after I first started writing the book. A few months later I added the paperback edition. It was quite a thrill to me to finally fulfill my childhood dream! Now I’ve published a total of twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of my students’ poetry).
What keeps you writing now?
I can’t help it. Characters romp around having adventures in my head until I have to let them out. I have no choice!
I know you do lots of traveling…what is your favorite place to have visited so far? Why is it your favorite?
I’ve been privileged to visit so many wonderful places, it’s hard to pick just one! Since my husband and I live in Taiwan, we’re relatively close to a lot of Asian locations that would be harder and much more expensive to get to from the US, so we’ve been trying to take advantage of travel opportunities. Over our Christmas break, we enjoyed a vacation of a lifetime in the exotic country of Myanmar, and that definitely stands out as one of my favorites. One particular memory is of the boat ride we took through a town on a lake. And when I say “on” a lake, I really mean that the buildings were literally on the water. Not on the shore overlooking the lake, but standing on poles in the middle of the lake, accessible only by boat! Houses, stores, schools, factories, restaurants, government buildings – it was fascinating to see! (For pictures and video of this on my blog, click here.)
Do you ever hear from readers? And if so, what is your favorite reader response so far?
I do occasionally hear from readers I don’t know, but my favorite readers are my students. I teach fifth grade, and every year I read my class one or two of my books (sometimes an unpublished manuscript that I’m in the process of polishing). They always enjoy them, and I know I’ve done something right when they don’t even want to stop for recess! A few times I’ve even caught students sneakily reading one of my books behind their desk when they’re supposed to be working on an assignment. It’s really hard to scold them when that happens!
How do your spiritual beliefs impact what you write?
Although my novels are not Christian as such, I always try to keep them clean and to promote positive moral values. For example, in†Prince of Alasia†I bring out the themes of honesty and forgiveness, and In the Enemy's Service emphasizes honesty and grace. †Prince of Malorn features the idea that no matter how great a ruler is, his people aren't likely to care much about him or listen to his message unless he will humble himself, give up his rights and titles, and become one of them. My two books in the Krillonian Chronicles focus on the value of human life in any form. I hope The Collar and the Cavvarach, especially, will make readers think about the value of human life and perhaps take a second look at some of the practices we accept or choose to turn a blind eye to in our own culture. Legalized slavery sounds so impossibly wrong that it’s easy to think we could never let it happen in this day and age, but how many other wrongs do we overlook just because it isn’t convenient to do anything about them? And in The Gladiator and the Guard, I hope readers will realize, as Bensin eventually does, that we can all choose the type of person we want to be, no matter what our circumstances are. We might not have a say in what happens to us, but we can decide how we will respond and what kind of character we will exhibit.
What inspired you to begin writing in that genre?
Reality just doesn’t offer me enough freedom as a writer! I like to be able to make the rules. When I read, I like knowing that things could happen that just can’t in the real world.
What are your plans for future projects?
I plan to write at least one more book in this series, though I’m tossing around ideas that may eventually lead to other stories set in the same world. In the meantime, I’m working on a final book in my Annals of Alasia fantasy series, called King of Malorn, which should be ready to publish in the next few months. I’m also eager to get back to Heartsong, the science fiction novel that I drafted for last year’s NaNoWriMo. I hope to have that one polished and ready for publication in another year or so. Lots of irons in the fire!