Nalini Singh on why her Psy-Changeling series should be your summer book binge
If you’re looking for a hefty series to dive into this summer, you may want to consider Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, now expanded into what she calls the “second season” of the complicated world she’s built — the Psy-Changeling Trinity series.
Singh continues to develop her world, releasing the second book in the Psy-Changeling Trinity arc, Ocean Light, on June 12. Ocean Light follows human security specialist Bowen Knight who has survived a shooting, only to worry about the ticking time bomb in his head — a degrading chip implanted to block psychic interference. When the book begins, Bowen is at the bottom of the ocean in the care of sea-changeling Kaia Luna.
For Singh, the book offered a first in her over 15 entries in the Psy-Changeling world — a chance to go under the water. Though previous novels have mentioned the Sea-Changelings, this is the first book to dive into the ocean and introduce readers to the intricate politics and history of an underwater world.
In advance of the release of Ocean Light, EW called up Singh to get the details on her latest novel, learn why she’s always been fascinated by the ocean, and map out the best way to binge her ongoing series. To assist eager readers on the lookout for a binge, Singh and publisher Berkley have exclusively provided EW with infographics to give readers a crash course in the series. Check out those below and then keep reading for our interview with Singh.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why is summer the perfect time for a Nalini Singh binge with the Psy-Changeling series?
NALINI SINGH: Because you have lots of reading time in the summer. It’s a good long period if you want to jump into it, and it’s a really warm-hearted series. There’s families of every kind, found families and blood-related families and bands of brothers. It’s the kind of book or series that you can take through summer and end up with a really good feeling at the end of it.
According to the infographics, readers can start with either Slave to Sensation or Silver Silence, which technically belong to two different series but exist in the same world. Why are those both equally good places to start? How do they differ?
You can definitely start at either of those points. With Slave to Sensation, it starts a story arc, so when we begin the series, the Psy are under Silence — they don’t feel any emotion, and if you do feel emotion, you’re punished by a brain wipe because it’s against their laws. By the time we get to Silver Silence, slight spoiler, that arc is complete, Silence has fallen. With Silver Silence, we begin in a world where silence has fallen. I call it season 2. It’s a really good jumping in point because it fully stands on its own. We’re at a point now where it’s kind of like a second beginning for this world. Because sure Silence has fallen, but now what? The issues with Silence, that caused Silence in the first place, still exist, so that’s why you can start at either point because each point is a different beginning.
If people are trying to decide which to start with, what is your advice?
It will come down to the number of books. If you just want to dive in and you’re not sure if you’re going to enjoy the series and you just want to dip your toes in and try it, I would try Silver Silence because there’s only one book and then you’re in the new book. Then if you enjoy it, you can go back and read the first season. It’s not a problem. I’ve had people do that. It’s not going to disadvantage you. But if you’re the kind of person who loves having a long series to catch up on, then definitely start with Slave to Sensation.
This is the second book in the Psy-Changeling Trinity series, which extends from the first 15 books in the Psy-Changeling series. When you started out, did you anticipate there would be this many, and do you have an idea for a stopping place or will you just keep writing them as they come to you?
When I started Slave to Sensation, I had the entire Silence arc in my head, but at the time that I started it, I was quite a new writer, and I didn’t know if I would be in a position that my publisher would want those kinds of arcs because I sold the first two books. If you read the first two books right from the beginning, they stand pretty well alone together. It’s only sort of halfway through the third book that I really opened up the entire series because I had that confidence…I did have that entire arc in my head, up to Allegiance of Honor, which is book 15. When I got to that point, I stopped and said, “Is this the end?” It’s an end of one kind, but it creates a beginning. Now what? Yeah we got to the end of this point, which is great, but if one domino falls, then the next one’s going to fall and the next one’s going to fall. But each time I begin a season, I always think “Where is this going?” The best series — and this is in books, in television, whatever media — is where the author knows where they’re going because then all the little pieces mix together at the end. That’s how I like to write. I have an idea now of what is the ending of the second season as well.
Do you know how many books that will be?
I don’t actually because I know the arc but I never know how long it will take to get there. It’s always an exploration in that sense and I love it.
There’s the blurb obviously, but for the uninitiated can you give a quick little intro to Ocean Light — the book and the hero and heroine?
The hero, Bowen, is the leader of the Human Alliance. For a lot of the series, the humans have been considered the least powerful of the three groups, and Bowen has spent his entire life trying to put humans on the board as an equal player…The heroine is a water changeling, and we don’t know what kind of water-changeling she is until partway through the book. It’s quite fun to try and figure out what she is because the clues are all there. She works at an underwater research station and her people have come up with a solution to possibly fixing the chip in Bowen’s brain so he won’t die. He’s got these two things he’s fighting. He’s fighting the injury from being very badly wounded, and he’s also got that ticking time bomb, which is the chip in his head. When the story begins, he’s at the bottom of the ocean…These two characters are on opposite ends, and the trust has to grow. As the trust grows, we can see more of this underwater world. So there’s two things — there’s the love story between the two of them and there’s this exploration of this whole new group of people and this whole new world within a world.
On land, changelings are specific animals whereas with Sea-changelings there’s more fluidity within the group — what inspired that and your decision to finally go under the ocean?
What inspired the Sea-changelings was the nature of the ocean itself. It doesn’t really have any boundaries. Sea-changelings roam; they go from one end of the world to the other in terms of the patterns of the creatures that live in the ocean. Those are the practical aspects that have colored my decision to make the Sea-changelings into one single group versus smaller groups. But in this world, the Sea-changelings have very unique problems that people on land won’t understand. As a result, they’re all quite isolated and they have very little power. The only way they could have power is to come together as sort of a massive group. That way they become one of the players with power in the world versus all these isolated little groups who in themselves didn’t have power to stop people coming into their parts of the ocean and taking what they wanted…There’s a lot of pain in their history.
As to why I wanted to go under, it just felt like the timing was right because through the series we’ve got these glimpses of the Sea-changelings, but we never quite knew anything about their own home. It’s important we know who these people are. Also, I just loved the idea of it. It’s like the great unknown, under the ocean, what’s below there and the logic of how it would all work and what could exist under. The ocean is one of the great unexplored things in our world, and I think the ocean is always going to be mysterious and that just fascinates me
How much have the sirens of Greek mythology or mermaids and other legends inspired this story and these characters?
Not so much inspired but they helped my fascination with the ocean and the idea of what might exist below. With Ocean Light, we find out a lot about this society and we meet a lot of Sea-changelings, but there are still a number of really powerful players in the world who are Sea-changelings and we don’t know what they are. That comes from that whole mythological history of the ocean being this unexplored place with all these mysteries in it. There’s probably an influence but it’s more indirect as opposed to me looking at them and creating the sea changelings based on any kind of mythology.
Being from New Zealand, you come from a country that is an island — does that proximity to the ocean play into your interest in it?
I can get in my car and drive to the ocean in like 5 minutes. The ocean is very much present; it’s very much a part of life and I’ve always been drawn to it. It’s beautiful; it’s dangerous. There’s two places I would love to goÚ into space, and I would like to go in a submarine and go into the ocean because I feel like those are the two unexplored wonders of the universe left. It was fun at home writing this book and getting to explore the ocean in my imagination.
That gives me insight into why you’re drawn to world-building as well, because it feels like you’re very drawn to the unknown and what the parameters of that space might be?
It’s true. I love exploring that “what if?” question. What if we did have psychic abilities or what if we did live under the ocean? And then figuring out how it would work. I find it really, really fun and really, really interesting, and I always hope readers do too.
Do you have any teases of what to expect after Ocean Light?
I tend to just let my brain simmer until I figure out what the next one is going to be. In this particular arc, we’re getting to know different players as the series continues, and I’m starting to get the feeling that the next book might feature a Falcon. They’re another group we’ve met but we don’t really know anything about. I’m really starting to think it might be their turn. At the same time, we’ve got the Bears and they were in Silver Silence, and they’re kind of like “Hey, we’d like to be back now. It’s our turn again.” What usually happens is, I sit down to write and one of them just will come to the fore, and that’s it, and I’ll go. Right now there’s still a bit of a chance it could be either one, but it’s highly likely it’s going to be one of the two.