(Do please note this specific spelling, since I believe there is a Sarah and a Sara participating in the read-along. This time it was Sarah. Maybe next week, Sara!)
Congratulations, Sarah! Please email me (email@example.com) your mailing address so that I can send you your winnings. And if there are two Sarah's and I'm not aware of it, feel free to both send me your addresses, and I'll send both of you a price since I have no way to tell you apart in this drawing . . . :)
For the rest of you, if you want to make certain your name is entered in the giveaway this next week, please check out the November 30 post which explains how that may be done. And in the meanwhile, we're moving in the story . . .
The monster: So do you think Leo ever lost faith in the monster’s existence? He seems pretty shaken up about the postmaster’s boy and his reaction to whatever he saw. I wonder if Leo, during the months of play with Rose Red ceased to believe in the monster or simply forgot about it? Or maybe he just pretended to forget about it. Because then it wouldn’t matter that he’d given up his hunt so easily.
But there’s not pretending anymore. The monster is real. And I think Leo has begun to suspect something about it . . .
Mistress Redbird: Foxbrush says that Mistress Redbird would “toss that cat out in a cyclone.” I don’t think I like Mistress Redbird very much.
Mousehand: Leo goes to Mousehand for answers. Again, I wonder if Leo already suspects the truth behind the Mountain Monster rumors.
But Mousehand’s answer is far more truthful still. “Boy, if you ain’t figured out by now that there ain’t no monster on this mountain save that which you brought yourself, you’re a greater fool than you look.”
Poor Leo. And yet, Mousehand’s insight into the workings of Leo’s heart is pretty sharp. Particularly in light of all that is to come . . .
He wondered about Rose Red: Oddly enough, I don’t remember my “authorial intent” (if you’ll pardon the English Major term here). I don’t remember, as I read Leo’s thoughts and wonderings about Rose Red and whether or not she is safe from the monster, if I really meant for those to be Leo’s thoughts. But I don’t think so. Even reading it now, I suspect, I strongly suspect, that whatever he might be thinking on the surface, deep down inside, he has a much darker suspicion. He’s spent a whole summer with that girl. He knows both how wonderful and how strange she is. He knows how strong she is. He knows that he hasn’t once seen her face.
I think, as I’m reading these paragraphs of Leo’s hunting for Rose Red, that this is yet another case of Leo lying to himself, trying to convince himself that he is something he’s not, that the world is something it is not. Even trying to convince himself that he believes something he does not.
It wasn’t the same forest: This is another part of the story I had forgotten about writing! Really, it’s quite fun for me to revisit this book, because so much of it has slipped from my memory. Not the major events, of course, and not the bits that tie directly into other books. But some of these extra little vignettes seem all new to me.
So Leo, inadvertently, has stepped into the Wood Between.
Of course, he doesn’t know that. And of course, the new reader probably doesn’t either, so I do apologize if I’m spoiling anything for you!
But this is no mortal forest. This is the Wood Between in one of the more frightening, more nightmarish aspects we’ve ever seen it. This is a dark part of the Wood, and I suspect the Path he is on belongs to a dark entity. Perhaps even to the Dragon, the evil Dream haunting Rose Red’s subconscious mind.
One thing about the Wood Between (for those of you who don’t know) is that it doesn’t rest within the normal, mortal flow of Time. A certain amount of Time does exist in the Wood, but it’s not linear, and it’s not consistent. Therefore, I wonder if, while Leo wandered lost in that dark Wood, some of the figures he saw were actually glimpses of a different time? The wolf for instance . . . might that not be the Wolf Lord right out of his own history? Might he, while Wood-wandering, have stepped back into an older, wilder Southlands from back when the Wolf Lord still roamed those mountains?
Or is it just a ghostly image? Nothing more than a fearsome image conjured up by his terrified imagination?
And what about the fiery figure Leo spies ahead of him. Could it be that he caught a glimpse of the dreadful Dragonwitch in her human form? Or is some Faerie being leading him down this dark path?
Since I didn’t write anything definite, it is open to readerly interpretation!
Rose Red arrives: Funny, though it’s Leo who sets out with all that determination, it’s Rose Red who must save him, and not he her. Foreshadowing . . . .
Show me: And so, at the end of this chapter, Leo decides he needs to face the monster “like a real hero, and . . . and see what happens.” Will he be able to bear what he finds up in the secret cave?
Questions on the Text:
1. In English lit. classes, there is always a lot of talk about “authorial intent” vs. “reader interpretation.” Which is true? Is the author’s intentional purpose in a text the only truth a text can contain? Or is the reader’s interpretation of the text equally true, even if it contradicts the authorial intent? As an author, I am all about the authorial intent . . . but there are times when I leave passages a little more open-ended with the hope of stimulating more reader interaction with the text.
And, in light of this, what do you think happened to Leo while he was lost in the Wood Between? What do you think he saw? The real Wolf Lord or just a Faerie wolf or something else? What about the fiery figure? Could it be that he glimpsed the Dragonwitch? Or some strange, fey dancer? Do you think it was just visions or illusions given him by the Dragon? Do you think he was seeing the past, the present, or even the future?
2. Any favorite lines?
Heather wants to know: "A lot of modern media portrays dreams as being always good and something to strive for. They say to follow your heart and such. Which isn't always right. I was wondering what gave you the idea for the Lady of Dreams Realized since it seems to be in opposition to the culture. Or to Disney at least. :)"
I'm not going to give you the long answer here since I'm pretty sure I discuss this in some depth in an upcoming answer. But I'll say that the first ideas for it came to me when I was about seventeen and reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner for the first time. Coleridge wrote these lines:
Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
The nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.
The Rime and various speculations on this particular passage and character eventually led to the visions of Death and Life-in-Death and their subsequent effects on dreams as seen in this series. But, as I said, there will be more on that later . . . .
Caitlyn wants to know . . . some questions that I cannot seem to find. Would you mind sending them to me again, Caitlyn? I'm sorry, but I'm just not seeing them . . . :(
Anna wants to know: "When did Goldstone Wood begin to form in your mind? How?"
That is an ENORMOUS question to which I don't have a very clear answer . . . but I'll take a stab at it!
I believe the first ideas that eventually turned into Goldstone Wood came to me when I was 14. I was toying around with a very different project at the time, but that project included a short young man (and secret king) named Florian (Flory by his friends) and a couple of other characters who recently found their way into Dragonwitch . . . though in very different forms than their originals! The original King Florian was loosely inspired by King Charles I of England, though you would never guess it to look at the two stories now! But at 14, I read a history book depicting some details about that king's sad life and reign, and I found him strange sympathetic. He had a lisp and was quite short, a surprisingly shy and retiring man (who probably should have stayed that way rather than insisting on the Divine Right of Kings and Absolute Sovereignty, which ended up getting him killed). He also had a sweet, quiet young wife who adored him and who mourned his death for the rest of her life. It was such a sad story, but what intrigued me most was the idea of the short, lisping king who still made a play for absolute power.
Obviously, I ended up taking the character and storyline of King Florien a very different direction. But, looking back, I would say that was one of my first inspirations for a story that ended up becoming Goldstone Wood.
The rest of the series started coming together when I was sixteen and seventeen. It started out as a series of notes about an interconnected set of Faerie worlds over the course of a long history. I penned out short versions of various stories set in that history and then began playing around with connections among those stories--a massively simplified version of the series as it is today, really. The Dragonwitch cropped up as an early character, and the Wolf Lord. Eanrin was an important character in these stories, though he didn't take cat form at the time. His first major role was in a ballad I wrote called The Ballad of the Flowing Gold, which tells the story of Lady Gleamdren being kidnaped by the Dragonwitch (though I never did finish it).
Anyway, all of the ideas were fun, and I enjoyed the various short stories and novellas, but couldn't see going anywhere with them seriously. Until Heartless came along. Heartless was the first novel I wrote set in this exciting world. And once it came into being, everything else began to fall into logical place, to expand, to take on importance. Heartless is the cornerstone of the series.
There's a rambling answer for you, but I'm afraid there isn't a better one! LOL.
Anna also wants to know: "How long have you been writing? Have you always been a storyteller?"
Pretty much, yes. My mother started writing novels when I was quite young, so I grew up watching her do it and always thought that's what I wanted to do as well. I wrote my first "novel" when I was about six or seven (it was approximately 3 pages long). When I was nine I wrote a longer, eight-chapter epic about a kitten (surprise!) who wanted a girl of his own, and all his various adventures on his way to getting this dream-come-true. I wrote my first fantasy when I was twelve, also about a cat--this time a magical, wish-granting cat whom all the baddies wanted to use for nefarious purposes. It was pretty silly, but it sold me on the fantasy genre!
Anna also asks: "How many books until Rose Red's book? I'm DYING for SOMEONE (no spoilers!) to realize how amazing and adorable she is. :)"
I think we all are dying for that someone to grow up and realize certain things, me included! But, sadly, it's going to be a while before I'll be getting to that book, at least according to my current plan. According to my quick mental tally, it will probably be something like 6 books from now. (Wow, that looks scary when I write it out!) Sorry about that, everyone. But I hope and pray that you will enjoy all of the other stories along the way so much, it won't matter too much. The Rose Red story is still only in its beginning stages in my head and will need a few years to develop into a full-fledged story. But the initial ideas I'm toying with are pretty exciting . . . :)
Anna wants to know: "What are Book 8 and 9 about? You've briefly mentioned them and I'm so curious! :)"
Well, I can't give away spoilers, but . . .
Book 8 is about a man named Sunan, a princess named Amaranda, a bloke whose real name is Abundiantus--though he goes by a different name through much of the book--an amnesiac albino who may be a Faerie, a mad king, an angry queen, and a young lady who wears scarlet, has golden hair, likes poetry, sometimes assumes cat shape, and who seems strangely familiar to one Dame Imraldera . . . The story deals largely with a civil war, a magical poisoning, enslaved Faeries, and lots of dragons.
Book 9 is about Oeric and Vahe . . . and a certain Lady of Aiven.
Anna also asks: "Why did you choose to make HEARTLESS your debut novel? I mean, since most of your other novels take place before the Dragon was killed, why did you decide to put the story of how the Dragon was defeated first?"
Oh, I think I partially answered this one up above . . . But I'll embellish the point here.
I think the reason Heartless works as the debut is that it is the central story in the series. A reader wrote to me recently and used this example, which I think explains it well--It's like how the story of Christ's death and resurrection is the center of our history. You can start with just that story, and it's profound by itself. But then you begin to expand out from there--both before and after--and see it in its context, and you realize how much more profound of a story it was.
I think Heartless works that way to a certain extent. It's a good story just by itself, a strong entry point to the series. But then you expand out, both before and after, and see it in its context, and suddenly Heartless means so much more.
It's an unusual place to start a series, I know. But the fact is, I feel that God gave me that story at that specific time. And once that story was in place, everything else--all the other stories that had been a bit vague and foundationless--made sense. It wasn't really my plan or intention. It was God's plan and God's intention. I simply try to be a willing servant along the way.
Nathan wants to know: "You mentioned how Heartless started off as just a short story - when did you decide you wanted to explore the Goldstone Woods world more and write more stories within the setting?"
I had always wanted to write Goldstone Wood stories, and the world had been partially invented long before Heartless came into being. Heartless was simply the first Goldstone Wood story that worked as a novel . . . and it taught me how to write full-length novels, which I hadn't done before (or not since I was a kid, anyway). Up until then, all the Goldstone Wood tales had been short stories, poems (even some epic poetry!), and novellas . . . and some, like the story of the Dragonwitch, were just notes! Starflower was a short story written for a college creative writing class, etc.
So really, Heartless was the newcomer to the game. But Heartless provided me with the necessary experience and the doorway into the world itself so that the other stories suddenly worked for me on a larger scale as I had always hoped they would.
Great questions, everyone! Challenging and interesting.