"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

Monday, March 14, 2011

Castles on My Mind

Mid-March, and it's still snowing in Kansas City.  A light, easy snow that's not leaving any ice on the streets, but snow nonetheless.  Sometimes it seems that winter (like me) doesn't like to say good-bye.

Something very strange happened this week.  I woke up one day and realized I didn't have anything to do for EOLYN.  I'd turned in my final edits for the ARC.  We'd made our final decisions on the cover art (due to be unveiled later this week).  And although there will be a few details to attend to here and there during the coming weeks, the creative journey that was EOLYN is fast drawing to a close.  Soon she will be available in bookstores and via internet, and while I will still be doing a lot to make sure she gets into the hands of as many readers as possible, my life as a writer will move away from EOLYN and on to new projects.  It's really odd for me to think about. Having lived with this obsession now for more than four years, it's hard to imagine devoting my time to something else.  Not that I don't have other projects on my desk -- not the least of which is a sequel to this novel -- but still.  It's going to be strange not working anymore on EOLYN. 

Today's image is another sketch done by Jesse Smolover, from the early days when we were playing around with different ideas for the cover art.  There was a lot of discussion about the option of putting a castle on the cover, where and how it should be positioned, style and color and so forth.  I am not, of course, going to tell you what we decided in the end -- you'll find out soon enough! -- but I will say the image of a castle was really important for me, even though Eolyn's home is in the forest and as a character, she is not particularly fond of castles. 

The first time I saw a castle in person was when I was eight years old.  Okay, let me correct that.  I may have seen castles when I was two, as that was the first time my parents took me to meet our family in Germany.  But I don't remember anything from that trip, and if I did, I have a sneaking suspicion the most memorable moments for my two-year-old mind were probably the ones spent with my maternal grandfather's chickens.  By the age of eight, however, when I returned to Germany for the second time, I had been thoroughly primed for castles, having seen my fair share of Disney films and read a long list of Grimm's Fairy Tales.  I'd also been duly educated in the lore of the paternal side of my family, which included -- to my great delight -- a 14th century castle where the first Gastreich lived.

It was my paternal grandfather, Karl Gastreich, who took me to see that castle.  I admit, it wasn't what I expected it to be.  I was hoping for a palatial building, something like what the Disney princesses lived in.  But this fortress (which did not actually belong to the Gastreichs; it's just that the first Gastreich lived there in service of the count) was all narrow spaces, tiny windows and thick walls.  Much of it, actually, we weren't allowed to see.  A boy's school, or something of that sort, had been installed there and visitors apparently were not welcome.  Even visitors with blood ties to that particular place in history.

Still.  It was 'my' castle.  After all, none of my friends at school could point to that little town on the other side of the Atlantic and say, "That's the castle where my great-great-great-hundredth great-grandfather lived!" 

Sometimes I'd like to be able to recapture the fantasies of my childhood, to know what kind of stories my eight-year-old mind invented about the first Gastreich and the life he led in that medieval fortress.  I wonder if any of those fantasies survived to wiggle their way into my novel EOLYN, or other stories I've written, or will write?  I wonder if any part of that eight-year-old girl spoke through young Eolyn as she grew up with Ghemena and built her friendship with Akmael? 

It'd be impossible to trace now, with all these years gone by.  But I like to imagine that was one of the places where it all started, my journey to becoming a story teller:  in the Saarland of Germany, with my grandfather holding my eight-year-old hand and walking the steep path up to those castle gates, making it clear this was not simply a relic from a forgotten time, but a part of our family.  A part of me.

Just 54 days until EOLYN's release.  Hadley Rille Books will host the Launch Party on May 7 at the The Writers Place3607 Pennsylvania, Kansas City, Missouri.  The event is open to the public, and the fun starts at 2:00 pm.  I really hope to see you there!