Also, for you e-readers out there . . . the Tales of Goldstone Wood are all being offered for enormous discounts on Kindle right now! Heartless is free, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch are all being offered at 1.99, and my new novella, Goddess Tithe, is at .99. You should totally take advantage of this offer and tell your friends so they can too.
I also promise to answer any questions you leave in the comments as soon as I possibly can. I try to answer them the very next day, but sometimes they pile up. I got a bit behind this week due to sickness, but I believe I'm all caught up now! Let me know if I missed your question.
And now, back to our story.
“You cannot be parted from me.” In this scene, we find Rose Red once more kneeling in her dreams before the pool of water and the strange Dream that lives therein. He insists that no one loves her as he does, that there is no friend so constant as he. He insists that Rose Red does not wish to parted from him. And perhaps, in a frightening sort of way, he’s right.
For the Dream represents much more than just a frightening image that haunts Rose Red’s subconscious. He is her loneliness and her depression personified. One of his names is the Death of Dreams. We see in him the destruction of everything Rose Red longs for.
So why would she not be able to bear being parted from him? Or is the Dream just lying?
I don’t think so. I think there is a strange, bitter truth in what he says. For when our dreams are destroyed, it can be very difficult to pick up and move on. So much easier—in a frightening way, so much safer—to stay in our familiar misery. To fellowship with our despair, even as we see Rose Red doing here. She loathes this Dream, and yet she does not leave him. Why not? Why would something so despicable maintain such a hold on her?
If we truly knew the answer to that question, how different all of our lives would be.
A Threat: The scene ends with a frightening threat. Although the Dragon lost the dice game to his sister and cannot take Leo for one of his own, he certainly has other tricks up his sleeve to make life miserable for our young hero. Perhaps not death. Perhaps a Death-in-Life . . .
The Thrush: We see the gentle offering of comfort from the wood thrush as the chapter progresses. But Rose Red refuses to be comforted. Perhaps she truly doesn’t believe he can comfort her. Or perhaps she really is clinging to the darkness of the Dream. The darkness of her despair.
Her grievances are many, and she seems almost to be accusing the thrush for all the evils in her life. The starvation. The loneliness. Her hidden face. And especially the loss of one she loves so dearly.
Rose Red’s short life has been bitter indeed. It’s difficult to blame her in this scene, though my heart aches for her to accept the comfort and love so near. But sometimes, it’s just so hard to be hopeful. Sometimes it’s so hard to hear that gentle Voice. I think many of us can relate to Rose Red’s despair, and it is difficult to sit in judgment on her.
Imagery: The image of our veiled Rose Red wafting through the little Hill House graveyard is both sad and eerie. It gave me a little bit of a shiver. A lonely sort of shiver. (Though the spider building a web in the mouth of the stone panther made me laugh.)
The Roses: An interesting little bit of foreshadowing for the upcoming Moonblood. Mousehand, while telling Rose Red the story of how he found her, mentions that, within a year of that night, all the roses in Southlands suffered a strange blight and vanished.
I don’t remember (and again, I don’t have my copy of Heartless on hand to reference), but did I mention something about roses or a lack thereof in Heartless as well? I think I did.
Under a bush: So we learn that Mousehand’s daughter was not his daughter at all. Our mysterious Rosie was discovered under a rose bush on a moonlit night. And a wood thrush sang her a lullaby.
“You were somethin’ different, Rosie,” Mousehand tells her. And she certainly was! Though we don’t actually know the full extent of it yet since we have not seen her face . . .
Faerie child: Mousehand tells Rosie that she is a “Faerie child.” Is he speaking figuratively? Or might this not be the honest-to-goodness truth? After all, she is extraordinarily strong, and she knows how to walk the strange, otherworldly paths of the Wood . . . not to mention her little disappearing act.
But why the veils?
I really loved, in this version of the book, playing up the secret of Rose Red’s face. It was so different from the original story (though the plots were quite similar), and it presented a number of challenges along the way. But the satisfaction of spinning a mystery was so worth any and all difficulties.
Another example of strength: We get another example of Rose Red’s great strength when we’re told that she carried Mousehand’s body all the way down to the gates of Hill House. That’s not something your typical young lady can do!
The Asha Lantern: In an attempt to comfort our comfortless Rose Red, Beana tells her what she knows (though she pretends she doesn’t know much) about what happens to a person after death. She speaks particularly of the Asha Lantern, which lights the way for some of those who pass into the Netherworld and walk Death’s Paths. She assures Rose Red that Mousehand found the lantern and, following its light, crossed the Final Water into the beautiful realms beyond. There, he waits for Rose Red on the Farthestshore.
This moment with Beana is pretty and sweet in and of itself. But it’s also important foreshadowing, so don’t forget it!
Those of you who’ve read Dragonwitch will recognize this reference to the lantern as well. Not all who have held it and walked by its light have been numbered among the dead . . .
“I don’t pretend to be an expert.” Knowing Beana’s full backstory (as yet untold, but which should appear in another few novels—maybe book 10?), I keep snickering a bit at her demurrals in this scene. She certainly makes an extra effort to play dumb . . . but she’s not that good at it. I think most of us reading have a pretty good notion that Beana knows more than she’s letting on.
Another reference to the Other: I still feel a little bad that all of Beana’s urging and hints as to why Rose Red must say in up in the mountains doesn’t get fully explained in this book. Readers have to wait until Moonblood to know that story. But I couldn’t not set up for it, so I went ahead and slipped some of these foreshadowings in place. Yes, I had some irked readers complaining about “unresolved storylines,” and I really couldn’t blame them . . . I could only hope they’d be curious enough to see if I actually did know what I was doing. It’s tough to be a new author sometimes, because readers don’t have a reason yet to trust you and your work. So thanks to all of you for sticking with me, even when there were unresolved storylines like this one to deal with! And hopefully Moonblood was (or will be, if you’re still new to the world) satisfying.
“I will finally have my vengeance.” The last little scene between the Dragon and his Sister delighted me . . . in a creepy sort of way. Lots of interesting foreshadowing yet again. For Moonblood, yes. But also, enormously, for Golden Daughter, which is the novel I just wrote this year. It’s crazy to me now, looking at Veiled Rose, to see all of the set up in place for book 7. And while writing book 2, book 7 seems like forever away! And now it’s drafted and will be going out to readers in not too very long (though specifics are still pending).
Anyway, we definitely see that the Dragon (or the Dream, as Rose Red knows him) has a vicious vendetta in the works. And Rose Red is caught up in the tangle of it.
Questions on the text:
1. Considering Mousehand’s story of how he found Rose Red, what do you think the secret she hides behind her veils might be? Is she really a Faerie child? If so, is she unnaturally beautiful or unnaturally hideous? (If you’ve already read the book, as most of you have, tell me what you thought at this point when you were reading.)
2. Are you frustrated by Rose Red’s dismissal of the wood thrush, or do you find yourself more sympathetic? Why or why not?
3. Any favorite lines?
Sarah wants to know: "How exactly did you decide which entity got which name between the Dream and his sister? It's always seemed to me that the names should be the other way around; the Dream should be Life-in-Death and the Lady should be Death-in-Life (mostly inspired by two things: falling prey to the Dream seems to mean dying, though still having a form of life, while a character who is held by the Lady is referred to as looking dead, in a way, though still being alive)."
The names came from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and I based their personalities and roles (loosely) on the same themes Coleridge initiated. So, for instance, in the poem when Death and Life-in-Death role the dice and Life-in-Death wins, that means the Ancient Mariner of the title must go on living . . . but his is a hallow life-in-death, not a true life at all. If Death had won, the Mariner would have died.
I have added the dream/nightmare association with these characters as well. The Dragon--also called Death-in-Life or Destroyer of Dreams--is the one who takes the dreams of mortals and totally decimates them. He is all about destruction. The Lady Life-in-Death, by contrast, makes the dreams come true. Like her counterpart in Rime of the Ancient Mariner, she is all about continued life. But the payment for such a life is so great, that those who have their dreams come true are worse off than if they had died.
Hope that helps explain the two characters and their names to you!
Meredith wants to know: "In reading over these posts, I found where you said your publisher allowed you to write the blurbs for the back covers of all your books except Heartless. Would you have written Heartless' blurb any differently?"
Probably, yes. I've always found the back cover copy of Heartless to be a bit cheesy. It reads more like a romance book storyline than the fantasy adventure storyline I had in mind. I have never actually tried to write a back cover synopsis of Heartless, though, so I perhaps if I did, I would end up going the same direction! But I have definitely preferred being able to do my own back cover copies. I like to have a say in how the story is first presented to the reading public.
Meredith also wants to know: "Regarding an earlier chapter of Veiled Rose: When Beana is contemplating "that Other." Does the unicorn wait just at the outskirts of Southlands incessantly? I mean, are the Wilderlands a place where Time is different? I just wondered if perhaps a later story might tell if the unicorn fulfilled other errands during the years he waited."
Since the Wilderlands are in a different Time, I kind of doubt the unicorn is always right there. It also moves very quickly, so I would imagine it could have been sent on other missions in the meanwhile if necessary. (Remember, later on in Veiled Rose, Lionheart has a glimpse of the Other, and he is all the way up in Parumvir at the time!)
However, since Time would mean so very little to creature such as the unicorn, I don't think it would matter to it at all if it did spend all of its time focused on this one task. And its master, King Vahe, is soooooo old as well, a few mortal years wouldn't make much difference to him. Good question, though!
Allison wants to know: "You mention that the Dragon and Lady Life-in-Death are anthropomorphic personifications. Would you consider Aethelbald one as well? And are there any others in your books? And since you have stressed several times that Aetheblad is not Christ, just a Christ-like figure... what exactly is he, to your story's world? Well-known? Understood and commended? Human? Faerie? Something else?"
No, Aethelbald is definitely a person, not an anthropomorphic personification. He isn't an act or an event or force of nature that has taken on personality.
Aethelbald is neither Faerie nor human, though when he enters the mortal world and takes the name "Aethelbald," he is wearing the form of a mortal (thus surprising and disgusting the Dragon, if you remember). He is the son of the King Beyond the Final Water, and he is the One who gave the Sun and the Moon the songs they sing which hold the worlds together (as will be seen in much more detail come Golden Daughter). The name Lumil Eliasul means Song Giver in my Faerie language--you can see a bit of a similarity in the names:
Lumé = Melody
Hymlumé = Harmony
Lumil = Song, but song in an all-encompassing sense. Not just one melody, but the combination of all melodies and harmonies to create the whole, like a complex symphony or many-part choral piece.
So the Lumil Eliasul is the Creator and sustainer of this world, but not worshipped like a god any more than we see Aslan "worshipped" in the Chronicles of Narnia . . . in fact, the only time we see Aslan worshipped, it is a false worship, a cultish religion based on a false view of Aslan. The same is true with the Lumil Eliasul . . . in an upcoming book, we will see a religion formed around the House of Lights and the Lumil Eliasul. But it is a manmade religion and, though begun with good intentions, swiftly becomes very false and very frightening.
The Lumil Eliasul relates to his people on a very different level than manmade religion. They are called into his service and they learn and grow in their love and trust of him. He, in turn, calls them brother, sister, Beloved. He speaks their True Names, and he Sings their Songs. He provides them with Paths through the worlds. They do not worship him as a "god." Overtime, they become devoted to him as the one Great Truth upon which all the worlds are founded. But this is a slow, developing knowledge, not something that any of my characters understand all at once.
The reader's view of the Lumil Eliasul will grow as the series continues. Golden Daughter will give an expanded view of him and his power such as we have not before seen. But he is not meant to be Christ. He is a type of Christ. He is an analogy. He is a picture. But he is not meant to be taken as the literal recreation.
Anyway, I hope that helps . . . a bit of a roundabout answer to your question, but I'm not quite sure how to answer more directly! Meredith's answer (back in the comments on December 10) was also very helpful, and I would recommend readers see what she has to say as well.
Therru Ghibli wants to know: "I noticed that when you said you enjoyed your villains, you only excluded the Duke of Shippening so I was wondering what your feelings on the Dragon and his Sister might be?"
I love the Dragon and his Sister! Or rather, I love writing about them. They are very different from all of my other villains for they are sooooo other, so unlike mortal men. The immortal villains such as Hri Sora and even the Wolf Lord are more relatable. But the Dragon and his Sister, as anthropomorphic personifications, are just so extremely different. Their thoughts, their goals, their motivations . . . also so unlike those of man. As the series has progressed, I have found them more and more interesting and terrifying. So yes, I definitely have a thing for them, though not in quite the same way as I have a thing for someone like Corgar or Hri Sora or the Baron of Middlecrescent.
And I think that's all the questions. Please let me know if I missed one of yours (and where it was posted), and I will hasten to catch it. See you tomorrow!