But for now, we have a chapter to read.
Bald Mountain: Did you notice the reference to Bald Mountain? Those of you who have read Starflower should remember that name. It is taken from Mussorgsky’s amazing orchestral piece, “Night on Bald Mountain”. This piece of music provided the initial inspiration for the story of the Dragonwitch’s fall from the heavens, the loss of her wings, and the burning of the mountain. In Starflower, I set the Place of the Teeth on the slopes of Bald Mountain.
In the original short stories dealing with the Dragonwitch, Bald Mountain featured more prominently than it does in the novels . . . but it’s still fun to see it mentioned here and there, even in these earlier novels of the series.
“He has not seen your true face”: Part of the drama of this first scene in Chapter 6 is the fact that Rose Red is not wearing her veil. The Dream can see her, and he says that she is lovely . . . but we don’t get to see her. We only see how she reacts to the Dream, and we see that she doesn’t believe him. This, along with the Dream’s persistence in calling her “princess” heightens up the tension surrounding our enigmatic Rose Red.
In the original version of this novel, as I have said elsewhere, Rose Red’s appearance was no secret. We readers were in on it. The only secret was her past, and the mystery of why the Dragon kept referring to her as “princess.” But in this version, I decided that the story could use that extra dose of drama, and chose to hide her face throughout. Is she the beautiful princess? Is she the disfigured goat girl?
Or is she both?
The Lake of Endless Blackness: Notice how Rose Red mentions that she and Leo sail ships on the Lake of Endless Blackness. Their simple games come back around later on . . .
And note also another mention of the Dragonwitch! She was a presence in these novels quite some time before the actual Dragonwitch story released this summer.
Bloodbiter’s Wrath: I do enjoy the various names Leo gives to things! His heroic beanpole, for instance. He may not be an artist (note the stick-bugs), but he certainly has a creative imagination.
“I’m going to be a jester”: In this scene, we finally learn what Leo’s greatest desire is. We’ve known for some time now that Rose Red just wants a friend. But Leo . . . he wants to pursue the merry, care-free jester’s life, entertaining crowds with his antics, never feeling any pressures or responsibilities beyond making people laugh. This isn’t a tremendous surprise to any of us, given his wild performance of the Legend of Ashiun. He definitely has a showman’s spirit.
Is this Leo’s true desire, however? After all, he also wants to be a hero. But how can he be both at once?
And so the major dichotomy of Leo’s heart is revealed in this scene of childish banter.
Songs of Eanrin: Heheh, we’re also introduced to Leo’s keen distaste for the famous Bard Eanrin and his popular songs and ballads. Watch for that theme . . . it will continue to be developed over the next book or two!
All the kings of the Continent and all the emperor’s of the East! Leo certainly has some ambition where his jesterly dream is concerned. But will he ever sing for kings and emperors? Well, wait and see . . .
Swallowed Fire: In Leo’s description of the Duke of Shippening’s jester, he mentions how that jester swallowed fire. This was a little nod that I made to the original draft of Veiled Rose. In that draft, I had Leo and Rose Red meet under very different circumstances. She was in the barn, visiting Beana, and Leo sneaked in at the same time to practice fire-eating—which he had never done before and certainly was not permitted to do! I had a lot of fun with that scene. But, alas, there was no way to fit it into this version.
I do have it posted on the Veiled Rose blog page, for those curious to see it. The writing is a bit rough, but it’s pretty funny, I think, so you might enjoy it.
“As if that were possible”: Even as he confides his secret wish to Rose Red, Leo sadly knows that this dream is not to be. He is born into a different role as yet unrevealed.
The Postmaster’s Boy: Do you know, I’d half forgotten about this scene with the postmaster’s boy and the ambush? It gave me a chuckle. Interesting to see a little bit more of the societal workings of Southlands too, which is obviously advanced enough than an actual postmaster exists. Yet another clue (among MANY) that these stories are not set in a pseudo-Medieval setting, as many reviewers have mistakenly intimated.
“You asked for it.” In light of Leo’s response—the text says that he snapped at her “as though she’d really spoken”—do you think Beana actually did say this line? I wonder if maybe she did. And maybe Leo actually did hear it, but it utterly refused to fit into his realm of understanding and perception, so he simply ignored it. Interesting speculation . . .
“What’s alger-bruh?” Oh, dear sweet Rosie! You don’t need to know, trust me . . .
Actually, for all I made fun algebra in this story—making it Foxbrush’s hobby and Leo’s dread—I kind of enjoyed it. In high school not so much; I found it a bit dull there. But in college, algebra ended up being one of my favorite classes for a semester. I even, for a very, very brief space in my life, got to where I could do long-ish algebra equations in my head just for the fun of it! Sadly, mine is very much a use-it-or-lose-it type of brain, so I have forgotten absolutely everything I learned. Sigh . . . Still, it was a gloriously mathematical semester.
Thus, again, I don’t think I quite agree with Leo’s opinion of his cousin. I don’t think Foxbrush is quite as loathsome as this text would paint him to appear. Remember, not all narrators (even omniscient ones) are entirely trustworthy.
Postmaster’s Boy’s dialect: In light of the boy’s manner of speech, Rosie sounds pretty posh, I must say. I suppose Beana probably had a culturing influence, goat though she is . . .
Hinting: Here we get another hint as to Leo’s actual position in society and role in this story (and series).
In the original summary of the book that went all round the Internets (before the novel released), it gave away that Leo was the—oops. Don’t want to say in case you’re new. Anyway, it gave away who and what he was. And I BEGGED my publisher to take it down and to allow me to redo the description. Thus the summary on the back of Veiled Rose—and the backs of all my subsequent novels—is my own work, unlike Heartless’s back cover summary, which was given me by my publisher. Can you tell a difference in the style of those back cover descriptions?
The monster! The monster! The chapter ends with the postmaster’s boy seeing something that terrifies him out of his wits. What could he have seen???? Read on tomorrow to find out . . .
Questions on the Text:
1. Do you find it intriguing or frustrating not being able to see Rose Red’s face? Do you think you like her better, less, or about the same as if you knew what she looked like?
2. While Rose Red’s face is not shown, she is in some ways still strongly defined by her appearance—or lack thereof! The veils she constantly wears are as much a part of her character as her uncultured dialect, her spunk, her courage, and her deep need for a true friend. For you novelists out there, how often do you define characters by their appearances? What would happen to your current protagonist if you took away what he/she looked like and had only the voice, personality, desires, and choices with which to work? How would that affect the way you approached the character and their story?
3. Why do you think Rose Red reacted so strongly to Leo’s suggestion that she might be a princess one day?
4. Without giving away spoilers for possible new readers . . . how many of you had guessed who/what Leo was by this point in the story? How many of you were surprised later on to learn?
5. Any favorite lines?
Heather wants to know: "What gave you the idea for the Dragon's kiss?"
Actually, it was pretty spontaneous idea. Heartless was originally just a little short story I wrote for my old college blog (click here to see it). I invented it as I went and since it was quite short didn't really know where it was going.
But I stopped after I came to the point where the Dragon kissed the princess. It surprised me as much as anyone. I knew she was going to be transformed, but I didn't know about the kiss until it happened. And it was so intriguing, so symbolic . . . and it stimulated such a response in my blog readership of the time that I had to stop writing the short story and go write the novel instead!
In retrospect, I wonder if it might have been unconsciously inspired by vampire lore. Vampire bites are sometimes referred to as "kisses," and vampires transform mortals into beings like themselves. I'm not much of a one for vampire literature (I liked Dracula, and that's the only vampire book I've enjoyed . . . and it made me lightheaded with all the blood!). But vampire lore is pretty common throughout literature, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was some unconscious influence. But I didn't think about that until much later . . .
Heather also wants to know: "Will the Lady of Dreams Realized appear more often in the books to come? Will she ever be the main villain for a book?"
Absolutely! We are going to learn a little more about her in Book 7, Golden Daughter, and she is going to be a primary force of evil in the book I am about to write this coming year, Untitled Book 8. She won't be the only villain in that book . . . some other characters who have been referenced in early novels get major villainous roles as well. But she will be the big motivating force. She will continue to be a terror throughout the series, long after the Dragon is dead too.
Allison wants to know: "I don't believe that Foxbrush's father is ever mentioned in Veiled Rose. Do you think that his reclusiveness, his timidity, and his animosity towards his cousin might have something to do with his lack of a father figure? (Or, if I just blew over every reference to his father, if his father has a particular trait that encouraged these?)"
That's a good (and insightful) question! Foxbrush's father is not present at all in Veiled Rose, indeed is never so much as mentioned (I'm pretty sure he's dead by this time in Veiled Rose). However, come Shadow Hand we are going to learn a few, a very few choice bits of information concerning Foxbrush's father which will, I think, shed a great deal of light on Foxbrush's character.
And yes, I think his lack of a father figure has very much influenced Foxbrush's attitude and behavior toward Lionheart. I also think there is a strong sense of "unfairness," in Foxbrush's perspective--he sees Lionheart as this slacker who, despite not caring or trying, gets to be crown prince, gets to marry the girl, gets everything he wants. Without trying. While Foxbrush works so hard, is the darling of his queenly aunt, does everything he's supposed to . . . for nothing. Not even respect. This unfairness is hard for Foxbrush to take, more so as Veiled Rose continues to develop.
But it's all in the subtext. There isn't much overtly told about Foxbrush and his mental processes here in Veiled Rose, even less in Moonblood.
Sarah wants to know: "People hate Una? Seriously? How? She's one of my favorite characters!"
Yup. Una generates a lot of hatred from readers. I think Meredith makes a good point when she suggests it might be a "mirror image" situation. People don't like those who are most like themselves. Una is far from the ideal heroine preferred in modern fiction. She's no Katniss, nor is she a Bella Swan. She neither solves all her own problems, nor does she have a super hot guy who solves them for her. She is spoiled (she is princess after all!), selfish, and makes many foolish mistakes along the way. And she ultimately (and this is the clincher with most people, I think) cannot save herself. Una is a character who must be brought to the point of deepest humiliation before she can grow . . . and not everyone enjoys watching that process.
I personally love Una and always will. But back when I used to read my reviews, I got so scarred by the horrible things people said about her--and, subsequently, about me--that I really haven't been able to think about writing her again. But someday maybe. Now that I'm (for the most part) not reading my reviews!
Ruth (hi, Ruth! I think you're a new name to me, and I'm always excited to "meet" new folks! Welcome to the read-along) wants to know: "How does Beana get her name?"
That's a good question. I gave her the name "Beana" because that was the name of the only goat I have ever personally known--though she was Sabrina and called "Bina" for short. Beana sounded like something someone would call a goat in Southands. Like "Bean" with an "a" on the end--though some people have thought it was pronounced Bee-Anna (my two editors had a bet going over which name was correct . . . which makes me smile!).
As far as the story goes . . . if I take Beana's real name--which is still a secret--and twist it around a little bit in my brain, I think it's possible that a baby Rose Red might have said "Beana" in an attempt to say the real name. It's not that close, but perhaps close enough maybe?
Otherwise, I think it's just like Monster/Eanrin. He has one name with his mortal children and another that's his real name.
Allison also wants to know: "Since the Dragon, one of the main series protagonists, is dead, will the bulk of your future work take place before Heartless, when he is still alive, or after, with new antagonists?"
The bulk stories will take place before Heartless, telling of all the various events that lead up to Heartless and, therefore, putting Heartless in its proper context at the last. So by the time the series is finished, Heartless should be an even more exciting reading experience for the fans than it was when it was a book alone.
But, that being said, there are plenty of stories to come taking place after Heartless. The overarching villain of those will probably be the Dragon's sister--who really, as will be discussed in an upcoming chapter--is the Dragon himself in a way. It's complicated. You'll see what I mean.
There are lots of other exciting villains to come as well. Those stories won't be lacking for drama!
And Allison also asks: "Would you consider the immortals in your stories to be more or less inclined to selfishness, pride, and general malevolence than the humans because of their immortality?"
I think it depends on the immortal in question. And I think a lot of it has to do with the Faerie Queen or King of the particular demesne from which the immortal stems. Queen Bebo (and King Iubdan to a lesser extent) exerts a tremendous influence over her people. So does King Vahe over his (and Queen Vartera, who is mentioned in Draognwitch, but whom we won't meet until Book 9).
I also think a lot of the perceived malevolence from some of the Faeries (such as those you will encounter come Shadow Hand) really isn't overt malevolence so much as sheer otherness. They are not mortal, so they don't really understand mortals. Their ways and beliefs and values are not bound up by Time, and they are not concerned with the shortness of their lives. Thus they are dangerous because they don't see things the way mortals see things.
ChuMana (from Starflower) is a good example of this. Is she really bad? Or is she just simply so different from mortals with such completely different values that she appears to be bad?
Judith (hi, Judith! I think you might be new too. Welcome to Goldstone Wood!) wants to know: "Back in chapter 1 how did Leanbear see Rose Red's face if she never takes off her veil?"
I'm not sure if Leanbear actually did see her face. Since he claims she looks like a demon, that might imply that he did, but it isn't necessarily true. He might have just glimpsed her covered in her veils and let his imagination fill in the rest. There are a lot of rumors about her all over this mountain, and he may have convinced himself he saw something he didn't . . .
Heather (you'll notice I have no system to how these names are appearing here. Sorry!) would like to know: "Out of curiosity, are you planning on doing these kind of read alongs with your other books?"
Quite possibly! I like the Christmas read-along tradition, and as long as time permits, I probably will keep doing it. Christmas is generally a between-books month for me on the writing front. And I probably keep going in order to (so Moonblood next year!).
Heather also asks: "Is Beana based off of someone you know? Or any of the other characters in this book?"
Beana is not particularly based off of any one person. She just came into her own as I wrote her. Thinking back, I can't recall any specific inspiration for her personality, though I'm sure she's made up of bits and pieces of various people I know.
Rose Red is loosely based off of someone I know (though I won't mention names for fear of embarrassing anyone!). And Leo is based off of both a young man I knew a while back and off of my brothers (particularly the middle brother).
Great questions, everyone! If I missed yours, please do let me know, and I will be sure to catch it tomorrow. And feel free to discuss and speculate to your hearts' content in the comments! Your opinion on all these various topics is interesting and valuable.