"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Choice, Change and Loss in EOLYN

Some news and announcements before I get to today's topic.

First, the good news:  My flash fiction short "When Sally Met Ben" will be published in the December/January issue of 69 Flavors of Paranoia.  (This may be the last of my short fiction pubs for a little while; I don't have anything else out at the moment -- better get hopping on that...)

Also, I've put up a Directory of Audio Recordings for the blog.  You can go to this page now for direct access to any post to date that includes an audio recording from EOLYN.  I am also working on setting up access to audio clips for you to download.  I haven't quite figured out the best way to do that yet, but I will keep you posted as options develop.

Now, the bad news:  Friend and author Christopher McKitterick, who recently published his first novel TRANSCENDENCE, discovered this past week that the electronic version of his novel was pirated and is now available for free on the internet.  After going through the five stages of grief, Chris has decided to fight back by giving away electronic versions of his novel for free -- which brings us back to the good news.  If you'd like to download a free copy of this great sci fi book, visit Christopher McKitterick's website.

Those are my announcements.  Now, for the topic of the day...

"Eolyn’s gaze wavered and disconnected from Akmael. An unmistakable energy flickered about her, the signature of some terrible memory. Before Akmael could determine the source, she buried her thoughts with a quick shake of her head."   
 -- Chapter 4

A friend from one of my writer's groups once said that EOLYN is essentially a story about loss; that this is an underlying theme that ties the entire book together, from beginning to end.  The statement took me by surprise, because in writing this novel, there was no conscientious effort on my part to create such a thread.  Yet when I thought about it, I realized he was right.  This is one of the wonderful things about having fellow authors willing to read your novel as it takes shape; they often see aspects of your work that are intriguing, and important, but to which you yourself are blind. 

I think my initial inability to see the prevalence of loss in EOLYN stemmed from my approach to change in my own life.  I am, in many ways, the eternal optimist.  I embrace change because I instinctively focus on all the good that can come with it:  new opportunities, new friendships, new adventures, clean slates. Coupled with this, I am not very inclined to think much at all about what I am leaving behind. 

In writing this novel, I gave some of this attitude to Eolyn.  She is, from the very first page, dealing with the first great loss of her life, the disappearance of her mother, Kaie.  Her strategy is to push back that emptiness by imagining Kaie still present in the whispers of the forest.  When Eolyn's village is destroyed, she does not return to dwell on the aftermath of that massacre, but instead seeks a new future in the South Woods.  At the age of fifteen, she must say good-bye to Akmael in order to study High Magic. Intent on the joy and excitement she feels for the completion of her training, she does not consider how painful it will be to let her only friend go until the moment in which she is forced to do it.  And so it continues:  Choice and change, gain and loss, over and over, and through it all Eolyn looking instinctively forward, convincing herself that the good she will find in this next transformation must outweigh the pain of what is being left behind.

Is this a useful strategy to have in life?  Sometimes I think, definitely yes.  At other times, I'm not so sure.  But for better or for worse, I gifted this instinct to Eolyn.  

I suppose it's no coincidence that EOLYN came together as a novel during a period of my life characterized by dramatic transformation.  This is not to say that the novel is somehow an allegory for the last four years of my life, but rather I think the transitions I was going through made it easier for me, as an author, to understand how a character like Eolyn might confront and respond to change.  I  also think that in some ways, Eolyn became a kind of imaginary companion for me, a good friend who always seemed to be facing challenges much greater than my own. 

This month is Eolyn's birthday.  Four years ago in November, I sat down with a journal and penned (quite literally) the first chapter of the book.  At the time, I was living in Costa Rica, working for Duke University and the Organization for Tropical studies. I had no clue that a year later I would be living in the United States, back in my home town, close to my family for the first time in twenty years, starting a new job at Avila University, building entirely new circles of friends and colleagues, and looking for the path that could lead me to becoming a published author.  So much change in so little time; and something tells me it's only just begun...

So, Happy Birthday, Eolyn!  I hope we have many more years of choice and change ahead of us.