Would you tell me about the Peter Jackson movie deal?
We actually made a handshake deal before the books were even published. It took quite a while before the legal details are ironed out, and now he has the option. It’s a long option period, as is typical in Hollywood, in which he has the right to make movies, television, games, all sorts of wonderful things. I’m very excited about anything he does, and he has people down in New Zealand exploring things.

So is it in pre-production?
I would say it’s early pre-production. He doesn’t tend to buy a lot of things, but obviously a million things can happen. There are issues of financing, all sorts of arcane things. I try not to think about it very much. I cannot imagine anybody I would rather have do it.

Really? Why?
I’m a huge Tolkien fan, and I loved the Lord of the Rings movies. For me, what he did in those movies was he brought those books alive and made them into really fun, entertaining movies without losing the essential character of the books.

If I may quibble, I disagreed with his interpretation of the Ents.
You know, the thing is, any Tolkien fan is going to have some quibble. But overall, when I watch those movies, If eel like I am looking at Middle Earth in some way, just the sort of visual and sensory experience of that. It makes me feel like he would do a fantastic job of bringing the Temeraire universe to life as well. Which has similar challenges because its not a fantasy world created out of nothing, but it’s a world that’s gone, and it’s a world that’s just about as alien to many of us these days as Tolkien’s world.

It seems like there are more fantasy elements in Tongues of Serpents. The sea serpents have a bigger role, and you have the bloody but capable of reason bunyips. (Some discussion of how to pronounce “bunyips,” and Novik agrees that it should be “bun-yip.”) It seems like we’re getting a little more detached from reality as we know it, is that accurate?
I would say that I feel much freer to start exploring changes in history, and we are now getting into parts of the world where the history is much more removed from what we know of that time, which I have the freedom to do because in part most of New South Wales, much of Australia, wasn’t explored in Lawrence’s time. There aren’t historical authorities of that time to contradict what I’m reporting, at least by the Europeans. Next, in book seven, I can spoil a little bit — we’re going to be seeing the Inca.

Of course, because the war is being carried over to South America!
I feel like I made a lot of changes — Empire of Ivory is where the historical changes really start to become quite broad. That’s where we met the empire of the Tswana [in sub-Saharan Africa] and that’s going to continue in the last three books. For me, all the changes in history — in known history, rather — basically follow from the introduction of dragons in this world. Specifically, one of the huge impacts is Lien’s coming to the West and Lien joining Napoleon and bringing with her knowledge of Chinese aerial tactics and Chinese technology, Napoleon being a despot, basically, being able to rapidly impose change to which the other societies of Europe have to scramble to respond, and in turn I think are going to be forced to allow social change at a much rapider pace than they would have wanted.

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