Olivie Blake is known in fantasy circles as the author who made dark academia cool again with her sensational best-seller The Atlas Six, which was self-published in 2020 and then acquired by Tor and republished in 2022. She is the author of 20+ SFF books and a YA romance novel under her real name of Alexene Farol Fulmouth, My Mechanical Romance.
Amazon Prime Video is working on a television adaptation of The Atlas Six. The book series’s second installment, The Atlas Paradox, came out on October 25, so we caught up with Olivie to talk about her characters, her writing process, the TV show, and much more.
I really love the way that these characters have spent basically a year living in the same place, getting to know each other, bickering with each other, falling in love with each other and still not trusting each other to the fullest. Libby being taken obviously shifts that dynamic. Would things have worked the same way if somebody else was removed from the equation?
I think that actually you could have removed anyone from the equation and it would have offset things. No one has asked what the significance of moving from six to five is, but for me it’s because hexagons are a very strong naturally occurring shape. They’re the basis of a lot in physics and theoretical math, and they happen a lot in nature, which is not true when you remove a side.
That’s the reason that the original cover has only five swords on the front. Destabilization is definitely a theme of Book Two and it would have happened regardless of which ingredient got removed, but the fact that it was this one. You’re essentially removing the group’s moral compass.
How come Libby is the one with the finger on the moral compass?
Libby’s a great character because you go in thinking Libby is a very moral person, but she’s always being faced with very moral decisions. The thing is that Libby is a very archetypal character, she is the classic fantasy hero. Well, she’s a girl so she’s a little bit different, but largely she’s the classic hero that comes into a new world and identifies all the things that are wrong with it and, you know, wants to make moral decisions. She wants to believe that the stakes of the world but that she is acting in the best interest of the world, or the larger good, but then that’s a conviction that gets worked very easily, believing that you are right, is like the best way to be wrong. So it’s very interesting with her to take that level of belief in, in what she thinks is right and already in book one that’s starting to twist, she’s skewing things and rationalizing them, and this terrifying. A life-changing thing happens to her so now what happens? And so yeah, I think that that corruption arc that everyone’s been on about has already started. I mean that started the moment she said yes to this sort of unknown thing.
So yeah, not to say that she’s the main story but she is the most accessible story because she’s very familiar and she’s fully on purpose. I made her that way to sort of look like other characters that we’ve seen in speculative fiction, so that we can see what happens to her when she goes down this sort of other path?
You’ve said that you don’t necessarily plan too much in advance what you’re going to write. What is that your creative process like in that sense, has something ever happened on page that you absolutely would not have expected to happen when you sat down to write that scene?
Oh yeah, always, always, I don’t like to plan things because then I get bored. If I plan something in advance that it feels like they’ve already written it, and I like to be surprised by what characters are doing, the best thing I can say that I do is set up the character, so that they sort of live and breathe on their own and then I kind of see what happens to them. So at this point I now know probably how the books are going to end, but I’m leaving that open because I have my thoughts but who knows, I may change my mind.
And along those lines, was there anything that you definitely did not plan in the romance department that ended up happening, even in book 1?
I treat all the characters like they’re shades on a color wheel. And you know having one shade sort of necessitates its equal and opposite. Going into Book Two, I had sort of an idea of okay we’ve removed one of the colors. And so now, how do they mix? And almost immediately in Book Two we see a lot of people interacting with people that they didn’t in book one and it was very interesting because then it’s like now we’re sort of reflecting a new shade, like you’re seeing a new side of them just because someone else is there to bring it out. And yeah, I do think that romance is important, it is really important because this is a book that is essentially a psychological thriller, like you know the thrills are pretty quiet but basically it’s a psychological thriller. So, the psychology of romance is just as important. Obviously, Parisa is excellent at determining that she can use that. We’re talking about alliances and betrayals then obviously, there’s going to be romantic or sexual tension or both. I think it’s such an important part of the books, just not in the way that maybe people talk about it; it’s not romantic fiction but the romances are critical. Every single one of them is a little bit in love with the others. And that was a dynamic that made a lot of sense to me.
Tristan is a cynic and already in Book 1 he’s aware that he may have fallen in love with 3 out of 5.
Well, I feel like it’s kind of nihilistic of him to. I think that it’s almost like there is a romance to nihilism because it’s like if you don’t see the point in anything then like the only point is love and sex, so there’s a fine line between nihilism and hedonism. But, yeah, to me that made sense for him. Also, this is a new feeling that I’ve had, I don’t know if it’s going to happen on the page, but I think it is very interesting that Callum is demisexual which I think is funny, because he is the empath so emotions are important to him, just not in the way you would expect. So that has been a surprise I didn’t initially know what Callum’s sexuality was going in, like, I didn’t necessarily predetermine, I just sort of let it happen.
The conversation has sort of naturally led me to ask this question that I know fans love to speculate about. Will we ever know if something romantic has effectively happened between Tristan and Callum?
Actually, that’s one of the things that I don’t plan to clarify, to be honest. I’m not going to pull a JK Rowling, you know? Like, if it’s not on the page, then it’s open to speculation. It’s up to you. And I kind of like the open-endedness of this. I think that what happens is none of my business. And other people are free to determine what they think happened, and I don’t think there’s a wrong answer.
Of course, that makes perfect sense. I’m looking forward to seeing how that translates on TV. I can think of at least one scene in the book where it’s extremely ambiguous, there’s already a very cinematic view, you know the camera pans out and the door closes.
I know, I know. I wonder how they’re going to do that. That’ll be really interesting. I bet they will ask me what they want me to do and I will tell them exactly why I told you: it’s not my business, that’s Callum and Tristan’s business.
Well, we certainly can’t wait to find out more! Thank you, Olivie.
The TV series is still in the early stages of creative development, so not much is known, but Olivie is involved just as much as she wants to be, which is what matters. We’re looking forward to news of the series and to Book 3, which is still untitled but expected to come out in January 2024.
Featured image courtesy of Tor Publishing Group.