Interview: Aimee Kuzenski, Author of the Deus Ex Familia Series
Aimee Kuzenski is the pink-loving, stick-fighting, author behind the Deus Ex Familia series, the first book of which,The Eye of the Storm, was recently released. Aimee took a moment out of her busy writing schedule to discuss the pantheons she chose for her book series and her rituals for writing with Victoria from the Geek Girl Project:
GGP: Eye of the Storm, the first installment of the Deus Ex Familiaseries, involves a whole cavalcade of gods and goddess. How did you go about picking who you wanted to include in the initial interactions?
Aimee Kuzenski: It started with the Four Horsemen: War, Conquest, Pestilence, and Death. I chose the Greek and Roman gods, because their stories are so incredibly human. The myths are like watching a super-powered soap opera! I picked what I’m most familiar with, but I didn’t want to stop there. I pulled in aspects of Celtic mythology, ancient Egyptian, and Sumerian gods, and dropped hints about other pantheons to make it more inclusive of the world at large.
GGP: The heads of the family are more traditionally considered to be the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Why did you choose to start with War, though Death is mentioned as having been the first to come to power?
Aimee Kuzenski: I started with War for a few reasons. He’s the most recognizably human of the Horsemen, despite his immortality. He has lovers, he has family troubles, and he has pride in his career. He’s dynamic, and he just spoke to me, especially with where I was mentally when I started the book. I hated my job at the time, and I funneled all that frustration into War’s journey.
GGP: Why did you choose to have your main character, War, take over the form of a woman in the military?
Aimee Kuzenski: I saw the old gods as struggling for relevance in the modern world and women’s struggle for acceptance in the military, so it felt like a good parallel. It was a way to link the old world with the emerging new world.
GGP: Were you in the military, or was there anyone in your family who was?
Aimee Kuzenski: My father guarded planes in Thailand during the Vietnam War and I have a few cousins currently serving in various branches of the military, but I never considered it for myself. I’m not sure I could handle being yelled at so much. Also, I’ve always been a bit of a loner rather than a joiner.
GGP: Camilla has a hard time fitting into established gender roles. Do you feel she is a representation of your experiences as a woman?
Aimee Kuzenski: Camilla is a lot bitterer about it, but to a certain extent, I don’t feel as though I fit into traditional roles. I never wanted kids, rarely wear make-up, and about the girliest thing I do these days is knit occasionally. I take stick fighting classes and revel in showing off my bruises. When I was a little girl, I had an extremely pink room full of My Little Pony. When I was 25, I had a 1985 Subaru that I painted bubblegum pink, with characters from The Powerpuff Girls all over it. So maybe I’m in denial.
GGP: One of your main characters has severe mental illness. How did you research his condition and why did you choose to send a character in this direction?
Aimee Kuzenski: Once I realized where Ian’s character was going, I took a break and did quite a bit of research, first online, then talking with professionals. One particularly eerie thing I found online was an audio sample created by an advocacy group in Australia, which tried to give neurotypical people like me an idea of what the inside of a schizophrenic’s head sounds like to them. It was really eye-opening, and formed the basis of Ian’s internal voice.
GGP: Discordia, War’s enemy and former lover, is a feminine role who has taken on a male form. War is a masculine role who has taken on a female form. What was your vision for this gender swap?
Aimee Kuzenski: It probably came from a few things. The book is about change, and the gender swap is one of the more obvious examples. I wanted to make sure I was giving equal time to each gender, giving a voice to as many people as possible. I wanted diversity, in both the gods and human characters. Once I decided to have War take over the body of a woman, it felt most natural to put Discord in a man’s body.
GGP: The ending of your novel appears ripe for a sequel. Do you plan to tackle all the of the Horsemen?
Aimee Kuzenski: You bet! I have plans for four books. The second novel, To Break My Enemies, is about Conquest, and its first chapter is included at the end of Eye of the Storm. I’m ridiculously excited about the whole thing.
GGP: Do you write every day?
Aimee Kuzenski: I write at least a bit every day and I don’t count research as writing time. I try to get in about 1000 words at a sitting. It’s not always easy, but I have to prioritize it.
GGP: Do you have any particular rituals for when you’re writing?
Aimee Kuzenski: Coffee. Plenty of coffee.
GGP: Do you have background music or noise when you are writing? If so, what?
Aimee Kuzenski: I can’t listen to music with lyrics while writing – I find it way too distracting. I usually put on classical music (Wagner came out a lot for this book) or instrumental soundtracks. Video game soundtracks work really well. The music from the game Gears of War came up a lot on Pandora and that was particularly fantastic.
Aimee Kuzenski’s first book, The Eye of the Storm is available now fromAmazon