There’s something magical about a debut novel—it’s a chance to read the story that demanded its author stop not being a writer, and tell it. This summer, Angry Robot Books will introduce to another new author, and another new tale that demanded to be told. Silent Hall is the first book from N.S. Dolkart, and it sounds like just the thing: plagues, wizards, gods, and dragons, faeries, a quest. Yup, that’s an epic fantasy all right.
The publisher has given us a chance to show off the cover for what will be one of their biggest books of the season, featuring artwork from Andreas Rocha. You can find it following the back cover blurb, along with a blog post from the author, whose real name is not N.S. Dolkart, and for a very good reason, which you will soon find out.
Five bedraggled refugees and a sinister wizard awaken a dragon and defy the gods.
After their homeland is struck with a deadly plague, five refugees cross the continent searching for answers. Instead they find Psander, a wizard whose fortress is invisible to the gods, and who is willing to sacrifice anything – and anyone – to keep the knowledge of the wizards safe.
With Psander as their patron, the refugees cross the mountains, brave the territory of their sworn enemies, confront a hostile ocean and even traverse the world of the fairies in search of magic powerful enough to save themselves – and Psander’s library – from the wrath of the gods.
All they need to do is to rescue an imprisoned dragon and unleash a primordial monster upon the world.
How hard could it be?
And here is the author to discuss that pseudonym…
How I Chose My Pen Name
You may be surprised to hear that my friends and family don’t call me N.S. Dolkart. Okay, you’re probably not surprised to hear that. Many authors choose pen names, some because they want a separation between different aspects of their lives, some because they want a name that evokes a connection to their genre, some simply because they prefer the way their chosen name looks in print. I’ll admit that I chose mine in part for better search-ability—my real last name is eleven characters with a hyphen, memorable to Hebrew speakers and no one else. But that’s not the real reason I went with N.S. Dolkart.
The real reason is that Dolkart is my wife’s maiden name. When we got married, my wife agreed to take my last name, but one of her main objections was that I was not expected to make any reciprocal gesture. Why should society expect us to use my last name and not hers? It wasn’t like we had to do it the traditional way. Her cousin was taking his wife’s last name, and many of our friends had combined their names in interesting ways. But I was attached to the history and meaning behind my family name, and didn’t want to give it up. And why make it harder for people to tell whom our future children belonged to? There was absolutely no way we could hyphenate our kids’ last names like some people do: Dolkart-Beit-Aharon? No thanks.
So great, now she and I have the same last name and can easily be identified with each other and with our children, but in retrospect it was a pretty unnecessary quarrel. Plus my brother ended up marrying a woman with the same first name as my wife—she’s very nice; we like her a lot!—so there goes that justification.
Once I’d decided I wanted a pseudonym for my writing career, I realized I had the perfect opportunity to correct my errors and give the story of our names the reciprocity my wife was looking for. She took my name for life in general; I’ll take hers for my artistic career, the dearest part of my identity. Our children ended up with my name, but if I achieve any measure of personal immortality, it will be under hers. That feels right.
There is also an old (and at this point hopefully obsolete) tradition of women writers hiding their gender identity behind initials. Now, I’m not really hiding anything, and anyone can note the pronoun used in my author bio, but it’s a tradition I like evoking as I take my wife’s name for my own. Women have had to jump through hoops for centuries in order to be taken seriously, and while a fantasy author’s choice of pen names isn’t much, it’s still a gesture of solidarity.