King of the Dead was heavily influenced by the Loma Prieta Earthquake. It didn’t start out that way, but then the quake happened and we were just a few miles away from the epicenter. So the experience found its way into the book despite my every effort.
It was an odd thing; the repeated aftershocks, which mounted into the hundreds, became so old a thing that my mind would say ‘Oh, there’s just another one. I’m used to it.” My body, however, waited exactly two seconds after the first subsonic, and then broke out into cold sweat, heavy heart-beat and the beginnings of panic. I hated it. I leaned to watch it from a distance, as it were, but I did not learn to control my reaction. No one I spoke with about the quake learned to, either. And it found its way into the adventure story like an odd parasite.
But, it was certainly adventurous, so I didn’t strip it out. In fact I made it a plot pivot.
I had to go back and re-read the book in order to make any statement about it, because I had only the most remote memory what it was about. It was an adventure (the reading, I mean, though certainly the book, also). I repeatedly say I don’t do epic, but this book and the next are very close to being epic: large cast, warring nations and all that. I have to say, although I feel I shouldn’t, that I enjoyed it a lot.
And I was amazed at how she brought things together in the end.