Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Question #11

Our next question is from Araken, who asks:

Was [the name] Una taken from Spenser's Faerie Queene?

The answer to this question is absolutely. I am so pleased to have someone pick up on this little detail of my novel. Not many people are familiar with Edmund Spenser or his brilliant epic poem The Faerie Queen these days. It is a difficult read for modern readers, written in high old Elizabethan English. But once you get into the flow of the story he is telling, it is gripping and beautiful on so many levels.

Una, as she is represented by Spenser in the first Book of The Faerie Queene is a symbolic picture of The Church. She is championed by the brave Redcrosse Knight (St. George, England's Patron Saint), who rides out to battle for her honor.

Una in The Faerie Queene is brave and solemn and pure and noble. Although the Redcrosse Knight is her champion, it is she who guides him on their long journey to the dragon's battlefield. She represents the Church in its ideal, a picture of Heaven, the pure Bride of Christ, serving as comforter and protector, encouraging men to higher and better service.

It is not a difficult stretch to say that Una in Heartless also represents the Church . . . but she paints a very different picture, doesn't she? My Una is vain and flighty, running after the newest and brightest as they come her way. She fails to recognize the value of pure love, proving herself to be the last person deserving of that love. In her desperation to have fulfillment and meaning, she pursues ideals of earthly happiness (in the guises of various princes). When her True Love comes and offers himself to her, she doesn't recognize the value of his gift. He doesn't match the idea she has conjured up in her own head, so she throws his love back in his face.

Una is a representation of us. Of the modern Church. So comfortable and cozy in our religious beliefs that we have forgotten the relationship required in true faith. Always chasing the next Ideal, pursuing Good Works or Christian Service, but forgetting that what God requires from us is devotion and, most of all, love.

Heartless contains several subtle themes that reflect The Faerie Queene. Una is the most significant, and the Dragon is the other. Like Spenser's work, Heartless is a tale of adventure and romance, but contains allegorical significance to richen and deepen the rest of the action.

I strongly encourage young readers to take a stab at reading The Faerie Queene. As I said, it may seem off-putting at first because of the difficult language (Spenser is harder to read than Shakespeare . . . Spenser wrote for his queen, Shakespeare wrote for everybody, and it feels that way). Maybe try finding some simpler retellings at first. I was brought up on Trina Schart Hyman's St. George and the Dragon, which brilliantly incorporates passages of the original poem into the rest of the narrative. It gave me a groundwork from the time I was tiny, preparing me to read the actual poem later on in high school and again in college.

And seriously, since when did it become bad for reading to be a challenge? Not all reading is meant to be like some poor alternative to watching TV! Readers should be constantly seeking to challenge their minds and expand their horizons through all sorts of styles and stories and authors' views. I certainly like to keep my "comfort reads" on my bedside table . . . but I also, as a professional writer, keep those challenging reads close to hand so that I never forget to push my reading (and my writing) a little farther.

You'll be surprised how quickly you are swept up into a period of history and manner of thinking completely foreign to your own. This is how the world connects back to itself . . . through the miracle of the written word!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Question #10

Our next question from Angie is:

Do you have any idea why the omniscient narrative is so frowned upon?

Really good question.

For those of you who are wondering what the dickens “omniscient narrative" means, the Wikipedia definition is as follows:

“A narrative mode in which the reader is presented the story by a narrator with an overarching, godlike perspective, seeing and knowing everything that happens within the world of the story, regardless of the presence of certain characters, including everything all of the characters are thinking and feeling.”

In other words, the narrator knows everything and is perfectly happy to tell you things that the actual characters immediately involved couldn’t possibly know. This does not mean the authors chooses to tell you everything! We authors can withhold as much information as we want whenever we want to. However, this narrative voice gives the narrator the freedom to go into other points of view at will depending on the need of the particular story.

Let me give you an example from one of my own stories:

“A boy climbed one path and a girl, some distance off, descended another, each hoping to meet again and neither certain whether or not to expect such a meeting. The mountain was quiet, but it observed them with an interested, even eager gaze."  (Veiled Rose, p. 56)

You see here how the point of view is very broad. We are looking down upon the scene, seeing both Leo and Rose Red. We are told not only what they are doing, but also what the mountain itself is doing, all from an outside perspective. We are not in any one person’s point of view . . . rather, we are watching as though from a distance.

In another paragraph, we focus in more distinctly on Rose Red, leaving Leo to fend for himself for a couple of pages:

“Rose Red, the boy’s floppy hat jammed on her head, her veils draped beneath, carried two pails as she made for the mountain stream a short ways from the cottage. Her large pails had iron handles and were heavy even when empty. Yet they did not encumber Rose Red, despite her tiny frame. If her gait was awkward as she hauled them along, it was no more so than at any other time.” (Veiled Rose, p. 56)

Although we are now looking at only one character, we are still observing her from the outside. This way we receive details that we could not get if I had written the scene directly from her point of view. From Rose Red’s perspective, carrying those heavy pails would be nothing unusual, so she wouldn’t even stop to think about it. But from an outsider’s standpoint, it is unusual that someone so small can carry something so heavy with so little effort.

This is the joy and intrigue of the omniscient narrative. It gives the writer and the reader opportunity to observe details that would otherwise be missed, fleshing out the story into something much more complex than your typical “third person limited” or “third person intimate” narrative, which stays focused on only one character’s point of view at a time.

The omniscient narrative is my favorite narrative voice, both to read and to write. If I see that a book is written in omniscient, I will often pick it up even if the plot is not one that would typically be interesting to me. Omniscient narrative gives a depth and breadth to your basic novel and is an excellent stylistic choice if you are writing a long epic sort of story . . . though it works equally well in short fiction, as two of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis and E. Nesbit, prove.

Yet for some reason I cannot quite understand, a rather violent stigma against the omniscient narrative has developed in the Christian market over the last decade or so. Not so much among the publishing houses . . . my publishers, especially my acquisitions editor, have always appreciated and encouraged the omniscient narrative voice among their authors. Yet nearly every conference, blog, class, etc. that I have encountered among the professional writers in the field have been vehemently against the use of this voice.

I went to a conference (my one and only conference experience thus far) in which the guest speaker impressed upon the audience (most of whom were aspiring fantasy or paranormal writers) that there are no hard and fast rules in fiction . . . EXCEPT ONE. And this speaker proceeded, for the next forty minutes or so of the lecture, to impress upon everyone present that they can never, never, NEVER switch Point of View in the middle of a scene! This, we were told, was the dreaded sin of head-hopping.

To clarify: Head-hopping is switching point-of-view from one character to another in the middle of a scene without a distinct scene-break. For instance, you might be reading the thoughts of the hero in one sentence, and in the next, you are told the thoughts of the heroine. Otherwise, the story is told strictly from either his or her point of view.

According to this speaker, head-hopping jars the reader out of the reading experience and ruins the flow of a novel. He equated omniscient narrative with head-hopping, saying that it was never used in modern fiction, that we would never sell work written in that style, and that the only place you will see that style used is in 19th century literature.

All of which is false.

For one thing, omniscient narrative and head-hopping, while very similar, are two different things. Omniscient narrative, as stated above, is an overarching view of the novel that presents the reader with multiple perspectives at the same time while also giving plenty of opportunity to sink down into a single individual’s perspective for a more personal touch. Head-hopping, on the other hand, is otherwise strictly third-person, but the author jumps from head to head, giving the reader first one perspective on a scene, then switching to another in the same scene. Very similar, yes, but distinct.

You will see a lot of young writers new to their craft using head-hopping badly by simply not understanding their tools. It can look very messy and awkward if the writer doesn’t know what he/she is doing. It’s rather like taking up painting. You can have all the right brushes and perfectly good paints . . . but your picture still turns out muddy. Is that the fault of the tools you are using? Not at all.

The same is true with your narrative voice. It can look really muddy at first. But as you fine-tune your skills, work with the medium (narrative structure), and gain finesse, you’ll find yourself writing more confidently in whatever style you have chosen.

There is ultimately nothing wrong with purposefully used head-hopping. It’s not a style that I write. However, you will see some popular modern authors use head-hopping pretty frequently. Consider Francine Rivers. I remember quite a bit of head-hopping in her novel Leota’s Garden. I am pretty certain she head-hopped at will throughout her Mark of the Lion Trilogy as well. She does it very gracefully with plenty of control.

Proving that even head-hopping, when properly used, is a perfectly legitimate and marketable style.

It’s also not the same as omniscient narrative.

And yet, this vitriol against head-hopping has spilled over into vitriol against the omniscient narrative as well. I remember when Heartless first came out, I received a review that included the following lines of criticism (the bold parts are my emphasis):

“I absolutely hate the storytelling methods employed, which are antiquated and certainly not timeless.”

“I personally found this aspect a publishing travesty that risks discouraging young writers from bothering to learn their craft.”

“Why do the hard work to learn modern techniques like staying in Point of View and show, don’t tell, when Bethany House’s editors decide to not do their jobs and allow one author to do it the old fashioned way?”

“She hasn’t earned the right to write however she pleases.”

All of this was because of my narrative voice. The reviewer enjoyed the story and the characters, but could not stand the style in which I chose to tell it.

Now, I think this reviewer has every right to dislike the omniscient narrative! Everyone has their own tastes. Personally, I do not enjoy stories told in the first-person present-tense point of view. It annoys me, and I choose to not read books written in that style (though there have been one or two exceptions).

However, I would NEVER dream of telling an author that they haven’t a RIGHT to write in this style if that is the style they wish to use. I think it is dreadfully discouraging to see how many young writers are being told what style is allowed and what style isn’t. How limiting is that? And how legalistic?

As for omniscient narrative being outdated . . . Perhaps we don’t see that style in the CBA market as much as we should. But in the secular market, that narrative voice is alive and thriving! Brilliant fantasy novelists such as Sir Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, the late Diana Wynn Jones, the brilliant Megan Whalen Turner, and many, many, many more are publishing popular and award-winning novels in the omniscient narrative every year.

And as for this style being “certainly not timeless” . . . how many of you have read Jane Austen? Or C.S. Lewis? Or Robert Louis Stevenson? Or J.R.R. Tolkien? Or Leo Tolstoy? Or Charles Dickens? Or Thomas Hardy? Or any one of the brilliant authors whose work has stood the test of time and will continue to be read for centuries to come LONG after most of the fiction being published today has been forgotten?

Every one of those mentioned above wrote in the omniscient narrative. Every one of them has stood the test of time.

Thank heaven for publishing houses such as Bethany House! I am so pleased and excited to see them encouraging their authors to experiment with the omniscient narrative. Eclectic historical author Siri Mitchell just published a charming romance, A Heart Most Worthy, written in that narrative voice. And she takes it to an even greater extreme than most by actually addressing and involving the reader as though in a conversation while she tells her tale. It’s lovely and intriguing and pleasing to read.

So if you are an aspiring author reading this, please don’t think that I am trying to discourage you from improving your craft by championing the omniscient narrative voice! Know this: You earned the right to write in whatever style you wish the moment you first picked up a pen. What’s more, the professional publishing houses earned the right to accept or reject your work based on the standards of quality they have established over years and years of business.

Study your craft. Choose carefully a narrative voice that fits your individual story. Don’t write a certain style because someone else told you to. Read the great authors and the vast array of styles and techniques they used. Find the voice that suits you. Find the voice that gives life to your characters. Whether that voice is strict third-person, first-person, omniscient, first-person present-tense, head-hopping or whatever! Any one of these styles, when done well, can be the gateway to brilliant storytelling.

So, Angie, ultimately my answer to your question is . . . I haven't the faintest idea why omniscient narrative is frowned on in modern publishing! It boggles my mind. And makes me very sad.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Question #9

This next question is from Angie:

So what are your favorite classics?

Oh, I love this question! Any opportunity to talk about my favorite classic novels is an opportunity I cannot resist!

Angie asks this in the context of my Question #2 post in which I said that I learned the most about creative writing by reading the classics. Because I could spend forever writing up a list, I’m going to limit myself to six authors and my favorites of their works.

Please note: This is not a complete list . . . I could (and probably will, someday) write up ringing praises of so many more brilliant authors! But this is a good smattering with which to start.

1. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. I just recently reread this children’s novel and was amazed by how many little aspects of it have influenced my work—both consciously and unconsciously. Some details, like the opal ring given to Princess Irene by her great-great-grandmother, are more obvious connections (Una has an opal ring given her by her mother). Others were much more subtle. More stylistic choices than anything, perhaps. Written in a lyrical and highly readable omniscient narrative, this book is a joy . . . as is the sequel, though I have only read that once (so far!)

2. Charles Dickens. Especially his brilliant A Tale of Two Cities, but I enjoy much of his other work as well. Again, he writes in a brilliant omniscient narrative, creating some of the most vivid characters in all literary history! He writes with a sense of humor that is unexpected in the context of his often dark storylines (A Tale of Two Cities is centered on the bloody French Revolution, and even his more friendly A Christmas Carol is about a haunting!). Dickens understood human nature and wrote it with flare. His plots are fantastic, but his characters carry the stories. You’ll not find any characters in modern writing who can hold a candle to Mr. Dickens . . . except perhaps the inimitable Sir Terry Pratchett’s.

3. Persuasion by Jane Austen. You knew there would be some Austen on this list! But I like to think that I read Austen a little differently than many of her modern readers do. For one thing, I don’t read her as a Romance Book writer. Austen herself would not have considered herself such. There were plenty of (forgettable) romance writers penning their forgettable romances back in that day. Jane Austen, however, wrote something far more lasting. While each of her books contains a romance (some more developed than others), the characters carry the stories far beyond the realm of romance. She writes real people. Eccentric, unusual, unexpected . . . but real, with depth of emotion and real motivation coming from the inside out, never dependent on outer circumstances. Again, I think it is her omniscient narrative that does the trick for her. Gives her voice life. It provides an outlet for Jane Austen herself to speak to her readers with the full force of her wit and insight.

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, though I honestly think I might prefer her lesser-known novel, Villette. I can’t say that for certain because I have only read Villette once, and it does seem silly to put a book on your “favorites” list that you have read only one time. Favorites are re-readers. Jane Eyre I have read twice now. I am not a fan of modern-day uses of the first-person narrative . . . so when I recently read Jane Eyre for the second time, I was blown away by the beauty and power and richness of her first-person narrator! Bronte filled her protagonist with so much life, possibly because the protagonist was a vivid replica of herself. Ultimately, that’s what all of our characters, good, bad, or indifferent. But Bronte seems to realize this on a deeper, more complex level than most of us mere mortals. This is why her Jane Eyre will last through the ages long after most gothic romances (of her day and ours) have been forgotten. My money is on Jane Eyre outlasting Rebecca. How about you?

5. War and Peace by Tolstoy. Now this one is a heavy read, make no mistake! Not because the storyline is difficult or the characters are unrelatable . . . quite the contrary! Tolstoy is brilliant in the truest sense of the word. I found myself relating to every one of his characters—from the most prosaic to the most extreme—on some level. That is true genius! To pepper a novel THAT HUGE with so many universal and real people? I read that book in awe, true, unabashed awe.

That being said, Tolstoy does love to wander off down rabbit trails of philosophy and historical musing. Which, yes, is interesting in its own way. But it can be mighty frustrating when you’re breathlessly caught up in the intrigue of several dozen plot twists and suddenly—“We interrupt this broadcast to bring you ten chapters of authorial speculation on the ultimate depravity of mankind in the context of such-and-such battle and all the philosophical implications that might be made by so-and-so’s reaction . . .”

Um. Tolstoy? Can we get back to Natasha and Andrea and Pierre now? I mean, not that I’m not interested. It’s just, well . . .

6. And for my number 6, let me throw things off a little and give you . . . Edith Nesbit and her brilliant Five Children and It. Another genius. Another children’s writer. Another artist proficient in the omniscient narrative medium. Peter Glassman says of her: “E. Nesbit single-handedly invented the modern adventure story for children.” Did I mention she is a genius? Seriously, if you are interested in writing fantasy—be it epic, fairy tale, children’s, romantic, whatever!—you should read some Nesbit! She was “just a children’s book author,” and yet, when she was alive, her list of admirers included names like George Bernard Shaw, William Morris, Laurence Houseman, Rudyard Kipling, and H.G. Wells. For me, this would be the equivalent of having Sir Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Megan Whalen Turner, and Diana Wynn Jones write and tell me they were huge fans. Not going to happen to this little YA author . . . but it happened to Nesbit! She’s not read nearly enough these days.

Okay, I must stop. I don’t have time to keep writing this list, you don’t have time to keep reading this list. So, I’m stopping. Right now.

Wait a moment, while we’re on the subject of “Ediths,” can I just throw in . . .
7. Edith Pargeter and her Heaven Tree Trilogy. No one is reading it these days. I don’t know if it can even count as a “classic” since it is not well known. But it is, without question, one of the most brilliant series I have ever read. Medieval historical/romance. If it doesn’t catch you within the first few chapters . . . don’t worry. Read a little more. It will completely captivate you before you know what’s happened!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Question #8

Question the eighth is from an anonymous reader who asks:

What exactly happened to Rose Red's foster dad?

Again, if you haven’t read Veiled Rose, SPOILER ALERT!!! Don’t ruin the book for yourself!

Well, I don’t think anything specifically happened to Mousehand the gardener, per se. He was very old when we met him initially during Leo’s first summer at Hill House. He died five years later.

I suspect a lot of it had to do with the hard lifestyle he and Rose Red lived on the mountain. He obviously worked very hard in Hill House’s gardens and walked a long trek from home to work and back again every day. They were isolated, far from any care from the village. When he fell ill, he couldn’t send Rose Red to the apothecary for medicines . . . the poor girl can’t even beg for food, much less anything so specialized! And I think Mousehand knew that which is why he very quietly settled down on his bed and died without a fuss.

Only after telling her again the story of how he found her, however. I do think he wanted to be certain that her last memory of him was that specific memory of that specific conversation. No one knows how much old Mousehand knew of her past . . . if he was aware of Beana's identity . . . anything! But he was a smart man. He saw through Leo very quickly, not only through all the insecurities and pride, but also down to the possibilities that a character like Leo’s might possess. If he was able to do that, he was able to put a few guesses together about Rose Red.

I was very sad to write of Mousehand’s death when it happened. He was a good man, and he loved Rose Red for who she was, without question. I can see why the Prince of Farthestshore led him to find Rose Red:

“A wood thrush, and at that hour, singing as though his heart would break for pure joy of singin’! And I saw him, sittin’ all proud and mighty like a little prince in the throne of my grandest, reddest rosebush, not two steps from Swan Bridge . . . So I made my way to the bush, and that’s when I found you.”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Question #7

This question is from need2read:

Why did you choose to write the part when Una was turned into a dragon? What are your thoughts about it?

Yet another excellent question!

While the original draft of Heartless was one I wrote up over the course of a summer/autumn, the ideas for it had been brewing since the year before. Specifically, the idea of Una becoming a dragon.

I was going through some difficult times myself that previous summer and spending a great deal of time bemoaning my sorry state. I didn’t deserve this or that, it wasn’t fair, these things shouldn't happen, etc. And, granted, there were some pretty harsh and “unfair” things happening, people not honoring their word, whole plans for my future coming derailed . . . some important bumps on the road of life that I needed to experience in order to grow.

Problem was, I spent so much of my time being angry at other people, I wasn’t taking the time to notice what my self-pity and anger were doing to me. In a moment of epiphany (that didn’t last; I was back to self-pity for a good long time even afterwards), I realized that I had allowed my self-centered concept of my own “rights” to turn me into a bitter, angry, selfish person, unable to look up and see other people around me.

I was spending all my time bemoaning the lack of chivalrous knights left in our world, willing to fight dragons and stand up for good . . . I was blind to the fact that I myself had become the dragon.

This was the analogy I used in a journal entry to try to wrap my mind around the concept of sin and depravity. I was, to all outward appearances, a “good” girl. Church-going, Sunday school-teaching, pure and upright . . . and yet, my own selfishness and pride had reduced me to the most self-centered creature on the inside. All well hidden under masks of sweetness, of course. The dragon does not always show her scales. But that did not mean the dragon was not there.

A year later, I started playing around with a short fairy tale depicting a sweet but selfish princess who, through a series of frustrations and hurts, allows her selfishness to consume to the point that the evil Dragon is able to turn her into one of his own kind. That expanded into the much more complicated novel that is Heartless.

It’s interesting to note that it is Una, and not an “evil” character like the Duke of Shippening—or even Lionheart, for that matter!—who becomes the dragon. This was an important message, I felt. It’s easy for us to say, “Well, maybe I have some problems, but I’m nowhere near as bad as THAT person!”

But this is not true. Sin is not weighed on a scale of bad, worse, worst. In God’s eyes, all sin is the same. In fact, when Jesus walked the earth as a mortal man, it wasn’t the overt “sinners” that he chastised . . . it was the religious “good” men, the whitewashed sepulchers, those who believed themselves pure and holy and above other men.

So it was that my heroine, while not being overtly evil, is the one the Dragon sees the potential fire in. He doesn’t even consider the Duke of Shippening. He considers Lionheart in passing, but dismisses that idea very quickly. But in Una—selfish, naïve, immature little Una—he sees everything necessary to make a dreadful dragon.

I hope that answers your question, need2read! I am getting such great questions from my readers! Seriously, people, thank you for contributing. I love being able to flesh out aspects of my story for you, and these questions are leading down so many different paths that I would probably have never bothered to pursue on my own.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Question #6

And another question from Elena, who asks:

Will Una ever be brought up again in your other books? Although you mentioned in your previous post that a lot of your fans disliked Una, I actually found her character to be very real. I liked that she was selfish, and I liked that she was naive. It made her seem much more human. (If there was a character that I had to dislike, though, it would be Daylily - she seemed too perfect for reality.) I know that your third book will mainly be about Lionheart and Rose Red, but I'd really love to read more about Aethelbald and Una... :)

So pleased to know that you enjoyed my vain little heroine! I enjoyed writing her, and I am always sad when people react so violently against her. She is not intended to be a role-model, of course. Her selfishness and naiveté lead to her downfall, and only humiliation and forgiveness will possibly raise her up again. Definitely not a character to respect, but I feel she is very real and needs a little love and understanding. She has a hard time of it, poor darling, and it always saddens me a little when people dislike her.

That being said, I probably won’t write another story with Una as the main character. She will certainly be brought up again! You saw her briefly in Veiled Rose, of course, and you will see her briefly in Moonblood as well. I have tentative plans of her possibly making an appearance or two in later books . . . but not as the primary protagonist.

This is mostly because I feel her story is told out. Of all my characters, Una’s tale was the simplest. She is a princess, she wants to marry a prince. She causes herself a whole world of trouble, learns what true love is, and comes to a place of healing. Pretty straightforward and definitely wrapped up in the end. That’s not to say that she won’t continue growing in knowledge of the truth for the rest of her life . . . but I somehow doubt as the chosen bride of the Prince of Farthestshore that many terrible things are going to assail her anymore.

Meanwhile, there are so many other brave and broken characters itching to have their stories told. We have already seen Prince Lionheart’s story embellished in a much more complicated tale than we would have guessed from Heartless . . . and that story is not yet resolved! Rose Red has a complicated back story of which she is hardly aware yet. And this is not to mention all the brave Knights of Farthestshore, Eanrin and Imraldera, Oeric and Beana, Imoo and Rogan and so many more interesting characters! And let’s not forget some of the other folks we’ve met during our travels through this world: Emperor Klahan and Captain Sunan, to name a few. The strange sylph who is still in Lionheart’s debt, etc.

Even picture-perfect Daylily may prove to have a story in time. I agree, she is much too perfect for reality . . . and I think she knows it. And I think she is desperately afraid of that coming time when all her own veils of strength and perfection will drop, revealing the imperfect and insecure girl hiding underneath. We see hints of that happening already in her final scene with Lionheart in Veiled Rose. Daylily has achieved her dream-come-true, and it has made her miserable. I can’t imagine things are going to improve vastly for Daylily in the near future.

But if growth is possibly for a selfish little princess like Una, I would imagine it’s possible for the ice-queen Lady Daylily of Middlecrescent. We’ll have to see if she is willing or not . . .

I hope that you will find yourself bonding to each of the new characters I select for lead roles in my stories. The overall reader response has been to prefer Rose Red to Una. I don’t know if I actually prefer her myself . . . they are two vastly different young women. I love them both and have had a great time telling both of their stories. I love all my characters, in fact, and can hardly wait to share more of them with you in Moonblood, Starflower, and beyond!

Oh, no worries about Prince Aethelbald. You will continue to see him throughout the series, though he will sometimes be going by other names!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Question #5

Our next question is from Elena, who asks:

I was wondering about the whole wood thrush theme. In the first book, Heartless, the wood thrush keeps asking Una to wait for him and to love him, and that made sense, because Aethelbald was the wood thrush. This might be a dumb question, but... the wood thrush keeps saying that he loves Rose Red. Are there multiple wood thrushes, or is it another sort of love than he feels for Una?

This is a great question. But once again, let me mention for the rest of you, SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read Veiled Rose yet, you probably want to skip this one. Don’t want to ruin any key plot elements!

The key to this question lies in Part Four, Chapter 10 of Veiled Rose. In that scene, the Prince of Farthestshore tells Rose Red that the Dragon was mistaken, that Rose Red was not the princess he was looking for.

“Not your Beloved?” Rose Red asks him.

And the Prince responds: “You are beloved. You are my child.”

The Prince of Farthestshore demonstrates true love to all the characters he interacts with in this story. Princess Una is the only one he seeks for his bride, but she is not the only one he loves. We also see him reach out to Prince Lionheart both in Heartless and Veiled Rose. He doesn’t need Lionheart’s help to kill the Dragon . . . but he wants to help Lionheart face the Dragon and become the man he was always intended to be. We see Prince Aethelbald’s love for Felix and Fidel demonstrated many times over throughout the course of Heartless as well.

The symbolic role Prince Aethelbald plays in Heartless is that of the “Bridegroom.” There are many references throughout Scripture comparing Christ to "a bridegroom waiting for his bride," which means those who come to Christ for an intimate relationship, the True Church. Una represents the modern church, wayward and vain, losing sight of true love as she runs after substitutes (I’ll talk more about her role in answer to a later question), while Aethelbald steadfastly pursues her and calls to a true and loving relationship with him.

The wood thrush is my humble representation of the Holy Spirit. God is the Three in One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The wood thrush, speaking both to Una and Rose Red, calls them to trust him and to build a true relationship with him. We also see the wood thrush speak to Lionheart, but Lionheart does not understand. His heart is too hardened to discern the words, though the voice is clear. Aethelbald is the incarnate form of the Prince of Fartheshore, the form of a mortal man (which shocks and horrifies the Dragon later on). He is only in one place at a time. The wood thrush is also the Prince of Farthestshore, but we see him in many places, speaking to many people.

The Prince of Farthestshore has profound relationships with many characters throughout the series. Some of these relationships we see in detail: that with Una, Rose Red, and, later, Lionheart. Some of them, we only get hints at. In Heartless, we get the strong indication that Dame Imraldera and Sir Eanrin have long and powerful relationships built up with their Master, but we only get glimpses. The same is true for Beana and Sir Oeric and all the others knights of Farthestshore. But we see how they love him and how devoted they are to his service.

Prince Aethelbald’s love certainly doesn’t extend to Una alone. Una represents but one small part of his love. But, as my representation of Christ, his love is vast and would take many, many novels to try to define . . .

Note: I don’t pretend that any one of these stories is a complete analogy of Christ’s love. The Bible uses SO MANY different descriptions of Christ to illustrate his love, which cannot be defined in one simple analogy. So in Heartless, we see Prince Aethelbald, as a type of Christ, standing in the role of wooer and bridegroom. In Veiled Rose, the analogy is much more of the father figure and constant guide. Both true forms of a deep and abiding and relational love . . . but different aspects.

We will continue throughout the Tales of Goldstone Wood to see the Prince of Farthestshore in various representations. No one of these is a complete picture of Christ. To write a complete picture of Christ’s love would be impossible! Even C.S. Lewis did not manage that with his brilliant Chronicles of Narnia. After all, if we thought that Aslan is a complete representation of Christ, that means he died for one traitor and let his true followers be slaughtered in the wake of his unnecessary death! But Lewis isn’t saying in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe that this is exactly what Christ did. He is using Edmund’s unworthiness and Aslan’s substitute death to portray the incredible love of Christ for his wayward people.

We betray God every time we sin. And yet Christ died the most horrific death for the sake of bringing us back into grace and glory. Lewis’s brilliant novel is a small picture of that. Small, but profound! He makes it personal by placing the story directly between Aslan and Edmund. This small focus reminds me that Christ died for me. Yes, he died for the “sins of the world.” But he also died for me, personally. And he wants a relationship with me, personally. Not me in the context of my church or my family. Me, as an individual. Though, like Edmund, I am a traitor, more than happy to run after things like Turkish Delight rather than turn my heart to things of lasting glory and true beauty.

Lewis makes us see the brilliance and wonder of Christ’s sacrifice in a whole new light.

I hope that is what Heartless and Veiled Rose will do for some of my readers as well. In Heartless, we see Aethelbald’s steadfast love for a girl who does not deserve it and who throws back in his face. In Veiled Rose, we see his constant love extended to a girl who often doesn’t believe he really cares or will really help her in her need, despite how often he has proven himself caring and faithful. Both of these girls represent you, they represent me. And these stories are small snippets of the complete Gospel Story. But I hope and pray they will lead others to view the Gospel Story with new eyes.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Question #4

Our next question for this series is another from Angie. She asks:

Do you have any input in how the covers of your books are going to look? Love the covers of your books, by the way!

Very good question. I so wish I could say that I had a significant influence on these covers because they really are gorgeous! But the fact is, my input is quite small.

For Heartless, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Bethany House's marvelous Creative Director, Paul Hidgon. That was a great experience! What was supposed to be maybe an hour long conversation turned into (if I remember correctly) pushing three hours. He is a gracious man with a great personality and a huge range of creativity . . . my kind of person! He picked my brain about Heartless and its themes and what I would like to see on the story.

He showed me stock images that he had on hand, trying to see what looked like my story so that he could get a real feel for it. These images went everywhere from Lord of the Rings epic elves and sorcerers to gothic vampire-type illustrations! I told him what I would like to see a pre-Raphaelite feel. If you don't know what pre-Raphaelite style is, think this:

Or this:

Even though Heartless is set in a more advanced culture than this idealized Medieval, I wanted there to be this strong feel of romance and Fairy Tale . . . for ultimately, Heartless is a fairy tale, no matter the historic setting. I love how the pre-Raphaelites used such romantic subjects with such strong contrasts of light or dark. I told Paul Higdon that I would love to see a golden, light-filled glow but with with a looming darkness on the edges.

I also mentioned that I would love to see some sort of circular theme and sent them this image of Robin McKinley's newest novel at that time, which I thought was gorgeous. Pre-Raphaelite and visually stunning:

Don't you love how that decorative circle draws the eye? I thought it was beautiful and wondered if they could create a similar effect.

And, as you know, this was Paul Higdon's end result:

You tell me, dear readers, could he possibly have hit upon a better representation of what I asked for? I honestly think this cover is perfect. The girl looks just like I imagine Una . . . young, a bit petulant and sulky, with an innocence bordering on naivete. The central image is full of light and golden glow. The dragon eye and scales surrounding are dark and menacing. The eye creates the same dynamic circular effect as seen on Robin McKinley's story, but takes it in so much darker a direction. It is pre-Raphaelite, but also contemporary, and so perfectly suited to Heartless. I adore it!

I will mention that the original concepts I saw, while beautiful, did not include the dragon eye. That was my father's idea, actually. He suggested putting the image of the girl reflected in a dragon's eye. I passed on that suggestion, and the Bethany House artists ran with it.

With Veiled Rose, I didn't get to sit down with Paul. But I sent them several written ideas of possible themes. I think I may have suggested a mirror, but it was all their idea to show the Dragon holding up the mirror . . . which I consider a stroke of brilliance! Honestly, I think I might possibly like the final Veiled Rose cover even more than the Heartless cover. I love the brilliance of the blue tones with the subtle greens.

These three covers work well together because of the circle theme in the center of each and the use of reds and blues. Each cover has a different mood, but they simultaneously feel like part same overarching story. I look forward to seeing what they will do with Starflower! I will probably send them an image or two of what I picture the heroine looking like and some notes on appropriate period clothing. Other than that, I will likely have little say in the development of that cover. But, as you can see from what they have accomplished with these first three, they have a solid grasp of my work and my stories by now! They are quite amazing artists; all of their covers are visually striking and stand out in the crowd.

If you are interested, you can read this article in which Paul Higdon describes and illustrates the process they go through with each of their books. I found it quite fascinating! A great insight into a completely different side of the publication world.

So now I'm curious . . . which of these first three covers is your favorite?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Question #3

Our third question for the series is from Angie, who asks:

Okay, this may be a silly question but how do you come up with the names of your characters? Aethelbald isn't a name you see every day. ;)

I don’t think that’s a silly question at all! It’s actually rather an interesting one with a variety of answers!

We’ll start with Aethelbald since you mentioned him specifically. He actually has many names, though in Heartless we know him almost exclusively as Aethelbald. This is a relatively new name that he has taken on during his presence in the Near World in the form of a mortal man. But we also see Torkom the goblin dealer call him Eshkahn, and as the series progresses, we will come to know him by a wide variety of other names.

But Aethelbald specifically . . . how did I choose it? Well, I’m embarrassed to say that it wasn’t a particularly complicated reason. I simply wanted something that sounded silly. Something to make my snooty heroine would turn up her nose at the very idea of being courted by a man of that name! My first thought was the Anglo-Saxon name Ethelred. But that has too close an association with the historical king, Ethelred the Unready.

Nevertheless, inspired by Ethelred, I browsed around a list of Anglo-Saxon names and hit upon Aethelbald. I don’t think I’ve ever snorted so loudly when reading a name. I mean, what heroine is going to take a man named Aethelbald seriously? It made me laugh even to think of it, which made it the perfect choice in my mind. The name actually means “Noble and Bold,” however, which also suits the character of the Prince. Not that Una would notice that!

As to the rest of the names, I have a variety of methods for selecting the right one. All of the names in Parumvir are Latin-based: Una, Fidel, Felix, Argus, etc. All of the names in Beauclair are French-based: Gervais, Grosveneur, Genevieve (she’s Gervais’s little sister, whom you will meet in Moonblood).

The Southlanders are a little more complicated. I have grown to hate having to pick out Southland names! I picked Lionheart for the symbolism of the thing: A cowardly prince with a name like Lionheart is the last word in irony. But then I felt the need to make all the other Southland names match, thus King Hawkeye, Captain Catspaw etc.

But now I’m working on the rest of the series, trying to make Southlander names consistent. And I’ll tell you what, it’s difficult! The girl’s aren’t so bad. Many of them get flower-based name: Rose Red, Daylily, Starflower, etc. But finding good male names that don’t sound Native American is tough. I’ve succeeded tolerably well so far: Leanbear, Foxbrush, Mousehand . . . all animal-based names.

But the manuscript I just finished for Book 4 is largely set in ancient Southlands, and those names definitely tended toward the Native American bent, despite my best efforts. You’ll meet characters like Panther Master, Sun Eagle, Darkwing (please, please, please don’t think of Darkwing Duck! Oops. Drat.).

The manuscript for Book 5 is also set in Southlands, and I am fit to be tied with the naming business! So if you think of any good Southlands-sounding names, do please pass them on! I am all ears.

There are a handful of names mentioned in this series that are developed off of Faerie Language . . . which is a half-formed language with a fairly complex grammatical system that I invented back in my more ambitious high school years. I don’t often resort to these names, but sometimes I feel they suit the story best. From Faerie, we get names like Imraldera, Etanun, Akilun, Hymlumé, Lumé, and Gleamdren (which should be pronounce Glee-AM-dren . . . but I tend to forget and just call her Gleem-dren, so pronounce it as you will!)

There are plenty of Faeries in Goldstone Wood who have names from other sources, depending on the demesne from which they hail. For instance, the Faeries who live in Rudiobus have Gaelic-based names. King Iubdan and Queen Bebo are two figures from real life Gaelic mythology. Iubdan’s captain, Glomar, is another. But in mythology, Iubdan’s chief poet is named Eisirt, which I didn’t care for as much . . . so I renamed the poet Eanrin, which is a Gaelic name that means “handsome.”

The goblins all have Armenian-based names because the Armenians have such seriously awesome names! Torkom, Anahid, Vahe, Varvare, Khud etc. I couldn’t make up names half as interesting! Often I will tweak a name from the Real World to make it sound a bit more “fantasy.” But I’ve never had the heart to do so with these names. They are so beautiful and otherworldly as it is!

I hope that gives you some idea of how I go about naming my people and places! There is a system to it, odd system though it may be. I’m not generally wild about simply “making up” names since those names tend to ring false in my readerly ears (unless the author is like Tolkien and has made up many entire languages!). I love sticking to names from our real world as much as possible. They can sound completely fantastic, and yet they are grounded in reality, so we readers believe them more.

I don’t know about you, but I am thoroughly enjoying this Question/answer series! It makes me think and write about things I might never have thought to blog on otherwise. Do please add your questions below if you think of anything you would like for me to blog about!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Question #2

The second question is from Clara, who asks:

Did you always have a knack for writing really well, or did you read a book on becoming a good author or something like that?

My Answer:

*blush* Thank you for the compliment, Clara! I’m glad you think I write really well.

I wish I could say there was some secret formula or handy manual that contributed to my development as an author. When I was in high school, I read a bazillion and one different books on writing and developing authorial technique, etc. The first of these was Stein on Writing by Sol Stein.

The reading of that book was the beginning of a long dry spell for me. Not that there weren’t useful tips in it! I definitely gleaned information from his pages that I use even today. At the time, my mother was writing professionally (look up her work sometime!), so she and I both read Stein’s book and were very excited about the suggestions he made.

But within a month, my writing dried up. Everything I wrote had to conform to Stein’s very contemporary standards . . . strict third-person point of view, constant, fast-paced action, sparse prose, etc. My writing got thinner and thinner, my characters flatter and flatter. Although all I was cutting out ever “ly” word I could lay my hands on, my work was not becoming the tightly composed, impossible-to-put-down prose Stein praised. It was dying.

Now granted, that may in large part have been due to the projects I was working on at that time. In early-to- mid high school, I had not yet hit on a winning idea, though the seeds for Goldstone Wood were already there. But even those young ideas I had swiftly perished under the highly edited, edge-of-your-seat prose being practiced and praised in the current market.

I went on to read other books on writing . . . books that promised to help you write a rough draft in 30 days, books that promised to make you a bestseller, books that taught complicated character-development charts, the snowflake method, each and every one of them full of rules, rules, rules, rules . . .

My writing came to a complete stop.

Actually, stopping entirely was probably the best thing I could have done for my work at that point. Usually I am a huge advocate of the, “If you want to be a writer, write ALL the time!” philosophy. That being said, writing is skill. Like all skills, it has different stages of development. When a tennis player worth his salt realizes he has built up bad tennis habits, he doesn’t shrug and keep on playing the same old way because, well, it works well enough. He goes back to the hitting wall. He goes back to the drills. He goes back to lessons and coaching. He retraces his steps to the place where he went wrong and starts learning again from the ground up. Sure, by going back like this, he won’t do as well in games as he did with those bad habits . . . for a while. But he now has the hope of playing vastly better than he ever could have had he simply pushed on with those ingrained habits and never sought change.

This is absolutely true with writing as well. I had developed habits of spare prose, driving action, and flat characters that did not suit me at all. And when your writing doesn’t suit you, it’s not going to suit your readers either.

So I stopped reading books on writing, and I stopped writing as well. Does that mean I wasn’t working on my craft? Absolutely not! I made what I believe is the most important step any young writer can make.

I started reading the classics.

I had read my fair share of classic literature before, of course. But I had never read it, never studied it, never looked at all the levels and intricacies of theme and plot and character depth . . . intricacies you rarely find in contemporary writing. Intrigued by what I saw in these novels, I also began reading biographies on some of my favorite authors, curious to know what they did to become such brilliant writers.

You know what I discovered? They read the classics too! What’s more, they studied languages and read classics in Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Sanskrit . . . all the languages of the world, in fact! They were constant scholars. They were philosophers and theologians. They drew parallels in their work to the works of Shakespeare, Milton . . . parallels to the Bible and to the ancient Greek plays. They understood much more beyond simple “How to Write a Bestseller” techniques. They understood that their work was built on the foundations laid by giants!

I took my first college English class at age 17. In that class, I studied Beowulf (which I had already read, but not studied), I studied Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Canterbury Tales . . . all sorts of old, old, old, English poetry and prose. Under my professor’s guidance, I saw how these authors wove their themes together in sometimes blatant and sometimes subtle patterns. There was so much to be read in each one of these pieces, both short and long! You could read any one of them ten times over and still have more to discover.

Not something you see in most modern literature, is it?

I decided then, in my arrogance (because at 17, I believed I could conquer the world if I wanted to), that this was the sort of writer I wanted to be. I didn’t want my plots to be written on a single level. No, I wanted each book I wrote to be one that needed to be read five or six times before the reader would possibly glean everything that was to be had out of the story.

On the surface, I wanted my books to be simple fairy tales . . . but if a reader were to scratch the surface, I wanted for them to find a wealth of themes and symbols and literary connections that deepen the work into something much more than simple fairy tale.

I started writing again while taking that college English class. I wrote longhand in a red-spiral notebook to keep myself loose. I wrote in the omniscient narrative (a style severely frowned upon in the modern market), telling the story I had in mind as it came to me.

The result was a novella I called, Lord Aiven’s Daughter. Those of you who have read Veiled Rose might recognize the name. The Dragon refers to Rose Red's goat, Beana, as “The Lady of Aiven,” and the sylph sings a song that includes the stanza:

"She stood upon the shadowed hill
And downward turned her glist'ning eye.
She looked on Aiven great,
Upon the closed gate,
But saw the Final Water flow,
the darkened water flow."

Yes, indeed. The first project I wrote with my new stylistic approach was about Beana. It was the first finished piece in what is now that much bigger and more complex Tales of Goldstone Wood. While that novella remains unsold, it forms a portion of the backdrop of the stage on which the characters in Heartless, Veiled Rose, and especially, Moonblood perform.

Truth be told, that novella wasn't very well written. The story was great, the characters intriguing, but the writing was rough, rough, rough. Just like a tennis player relearning his skills, I was relearning how to write a story. But rough as it was, it was full of life! There were colors in my narrative, in my characters. For the first time ever, I toyed with literary themes and allusions and a dash of allegory. I wrote loosely, I wrote badly, but I wrote with so much joy! And I learned tremendous amounts in the 20,000 words of that manuscript.

So there is an answer for you, Clara. There is no easy route to becoming an author. I do have a knack for writing . . . much more importantly, I have a desire to learn! I read, not the books on writing, but the great literature by the great authors. They understood writing on a level scarcely considered in the modern market. They understood character and humanity, and they expressed their understanding with such beauty and care.

My recommendation for any aspiring writer is to take time away from your writing . . . set aside that troubling story for a while . . . and read the classics. Don’t just read them. Study them! Search out the secrets the authors are waiting and willing to reveal! They have so much to teach if we will but take the time to learn.

Another fun question! Don’t forget that you can still add your questions to the list by either posting it the comments section here or in the comments of the “Bring Me Your Questions” post. If you have already asked a question but have another, feel free to add it! I am writing this series throughout the month of August, so there’s still plenty of time for yours.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Question #1

All right, dear readers, today I begin my question-answer series! The first question is from my #1 facebook fan, Laura, and it’s a good one! Here it is:

In Veiled Rose, Rosie takes the path in the Netherworld/Near World to find Daylily. How were you inspired or motivated to write that section of the book? Also does that scene symbolize something in real life for people today?


For those of you who have not yet read Veiled Rose, you might want to skip this post until you have . . . wouldn’t want to ruin climactic moments for you!

My Answer:

The scene of Rose Red pursuing the path into the Netherworld to find Daylily is a loose retelling of the classic Greek myth, Orpheus and Eurydice. A very loose retelling, and with a significant twist.

In the original story, Orpheus descends into Hades, the realm of Death, to seek his lost wife, Eurydice. He risks his life in Death’s own realm for the sake of the one he loves . . . and, tragically, fails and loses her. They are not reunited until he dies. A beautiful and sad story.

But my Rose Red walks the long path to Death’s Realm seeking after, not her true love, but the girl who has (Rosie believes) captured the heart of her true love. If she rescues Daylily, she loses Lionheart once and for all.

Not that she ever believed she had a real chance with him. He is a prince! She is a lowly chambermaid who dares not show her face in public. But we see in the scene of the Dragon’s Ball that she does cherish secret feelings for the prince. The Dragon shows her a vision of him in which he tells her that she is beautiful and that he longs for her kiss. Rose Red, realizing this is false, refuses and breaks the illusion . . . but not before she reveals to the Dragon her hopeless love. Which, of course, the Dragon (sweet guy that he is) uses to manipulate her as the scene progresses.

You see the sad difference in the stories here. Poor Rosie is desperate to rescue Daylily from Death’s clutches. If she succeeds, she loses her prince to a lady she knows does not truly love him. But if she fails, she will live forever with the guilt . . . always wondering if she allowed her personal feelings to interfere with her duty to Lady Daylily, whom she has sworn to serve. And ultimately, Daylily has done her no harm. She has every right to marry Lionheart, and Rose Red has no claims on his affections. So she walks into the Netherworld, determined to accomplish a task that will mean the death of her own dream.

Rose Red’s journey is distinct from Orpheus’s in most ways, but there are some definite similarities as well. Orpheus faces dreadful Cerberus, the three-headed dog, at the gates of Hades. Rose Red must pass through the hideous Black Dogs on her way to the Dark Water. Just as Orpheus paid Charon the ferryman to cross the River Styx, so Rosie pays the Wolf Lord with her glove before she is permitted to go along her way.

These themes are meant to be reminiscent of the Greek myth, but not direct retellings. To me, they create a sense of authenticity in this world and mythology I am creating because they allude to aspects of our own history, of mythologies that are so ingrained in our Western culture that most of us can’t even remember when we first heard them. The Wolf Lord, the Dragonwitch, and the Black Dogs are all figures of Southlands’ lore, instantly recognizable to Rose Red and therefore so much more terrible. She would have been frightened by any monsters along the way . . . but because she knows who they are, she knows what they have done, she is that much more afraid, even though she knows that the Wolf Lord and the Dragonwitch, at least, are merely ghosts.

So that was the source of inspiration for that section! As to the second part of your question . . .

Rosie believes that she is walking Death’s path. She feels hopeless and cannot see how this can possibly turn out right. Even if she succeeds and brings Daylily back, her heart will be broken. Everything is dark in her sight, everything is hopeless.

But then the Prince appears. He gives her Asha Lantern, full of the light of pure hope. And he tells her that, despite what she sees, she is not walking Death’s path but indeed the Prince’s path! Though she “walks through the valley of the shadow of death,” she need fear no evil. He is with her and he is guiding her.

This is an important lesson that I need to be reminded of on a daily basis. How often, when life gets difficult, when my heart is broken, when the future looks bleak, do I forget that ultimately my life is in God’s hands? That He is the one in control. That He has promised to work all things together for good for those who love Him. From our human perspective, we may not be able to understand. And perhaps we will never know in this life how our disappoints and heartbreak work into the bigger story God is writing.

Sometimes we are blessed with that new perspective . . . sometimes we are given insight and can look back on the Valley of the Shadow and see how God worked powerfully for our good and the good of those around us. But not always. Does this mean that God is not loving? That He is not good? Certainly not! It only means that we are too small and self-focused to understand.

That is the message I am trying to put across in Rose Red’s journey. What looks hopeless and evil to her is not beyond the Prince’s control. So he gives her Asha. Even as she walks through the dark places, he will let no evil harm her as long as she holds onto that light, that hope. Though the Dragon may tell her that she is walking Death’s path, the Prince sings the truth to her heart . . . this path is his. This is the way he would have her walk. She must accomplish what she came for in his strength, deliver Daylily, and trust him with the results.

As he tells her later, just because her battle is won does not mean her war is over. And this is so true, as Rosie swiftly discovers. She rescues Lady Daylily and stands up to the Dragon . . . but scarcely has she returned to the Near World before she is being chased and pursued as a monster by those she served so loyally. Sometimes the paths of the Prince are bitter. But she is beginning to learn his true character. She is beginning to trust that he does have a greater purpose in mind.

I do hope this story will encourage my readers the same way. Everything does not end in happily ever after for Rose Red. But does that mean it is the end of her story?

Great questions, Laura! Remember, dear readers, this is an ongoing series. Feel free to post any questions below to which you would like to see answers!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bring Me Your Questions!

Dear Reader,

For the month of August, I have decided to do a new series . . . this one not quite as specifically themed as the last, A-Z series. I want your questions! Any questions at all. Are you curious about any aspect of the Tales of Goldstone Wood? Did a theme leave you a bit confused? Did a character leave you with a sense of mystery? Are you wondering about the motivation behind (fill in the blank)? Or would you like to know secrets of my writing process, sources of inspiration, favorite books, etc.? I want to hear your questions and will answer them to the best of my ability (though I will have to sidestep spoilers).

So please, leave any question you'd like in the comments below. I will answer them with a blog post in the order they are received until either the questions or the month of August runs out!