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Thursday, May 26, 2016

10 Questions About My Fiction

And now, as they say, for something completely different....
I thought it would be fun to switch things up a little bit and do something for people who enjoy my fiction. For those unfamiliar I have a four book series called 'Between the Worlds' which is something between an urban fantasy and paranormal romance with a lot of Celtic mythology and folklore thrown into an alternate reality mix. Its something I really love to write and it gives me a creative break from my non-fiction and translation work. So for today's blog I asked people to give me 10 questions relating to the series that I'd answer here.

1. Where did you get the idea for merging the two worlds? - Where I live we sometimes get really foggy days. I was driving across a bridge on one of these days and just started thinking that it was like something out of an old fairy-story, where someone wanders into the mist and out of our world. And I started thinking of what it would be like if you could just drive from our world into Fairy, and from there the idea of the two worlds being physically merged into one world grew and developed.

2. What was growing up in elven society like for Jess and Bleidd? - Elven society is very rigidly structured, and very matriarchal in a way that favors women (much the same as we could say patriarchy favors men). So for both of them growing up male in that sort of society means having limited control over your own life. On the same hand the elves are the highest ranking beings in their world so they were also in a social situation to have a lot of pride about who they were and their society. 
   Bleidd had a lot of freedom and an easier time for much of his life than most because he had an older sister, which meant that his only potential value to his mother was either in being used for an alliance marriage or doing something that reflected well on his family. He was very close to his sister, and she favored him in a way that allowed him a kind of unprecedented freedom. Because he had magical talent he joined the Elven Guard and trained as a mage. When his sister died he was already well established in the Guard and not in a position for his family to manipulate as easily. He's a bit unusual in that respect, and a lot of his personality reflects that he was given more free reign and allowed more individuality than most men in his society. 
   Jess, being the second son out of only two children, and having no particular magical talents (in a world where that extra talent counts for a lot) had a harder time. Jess really is a product of his society - the Law means a lot to him, as does doing the right thing, and being a part of a community. 

3. And what it was like for Allie growing up? - Allie's childhood is complicated. She spent the first 10 years or so with her mother, in the Dark court, caught in this weird place of being female and so privileged as her mother's heir, but also half human and so running into a lot of prejudice from her extended family, who see humans as even lower than the other Fey. Allie has an older brother, something that's alluded to in the fourth book, but without giving away any spoilers for future books I'll say he isn't particularly nice, and he is very ambitious. Her mother believed that if anything happened to her Allie would probably end up - one way or another - as someone's puppet and so she gave her to her human father when Allie was 10. She lived with him for two years, happily, until he died in a car accident, then she went to live with her grandmother, where she faced the same basic problem she had with her mother's family but reversed. Her grandmother and cousin were very prejudiced against elves, so Allie has always lived with a message that her ancestry is not acceptable, which is why she takes the rather risky approach of trying to 'pass' as human. She's never had much long term stability in her life, so that's something that she really strives for.

4. You have the traditional two courts of Fairy, but they seem different. How do the Dark and Light courts work? - In the reality of Between the Worlds, before the two worlds joined (in 1914) things were basically as we know them as far as human history and what we have from folklore goes. There were two main power structures in Fairy, the Light court which is generally pretty well inclined towards humans and the Dark which isn't. The Light court is structured based on Laws and an adherence to social order; the Dark is structured based on power and the strong ruling over the weak. Where the Light prides itself on being civilized to a fault, the Dark is brutal; both can be cruel in different ways. When the two worlds merged there was a huge and drawn out war, or more precisely many wars all over the world which became that reality's equivalent to the World War. It went on for decades, into the 1930's, and only finally ended when both sides realized that no one was going to win and the only viable option was detente. Because the Dark court had fought harder and suffered higher causalities the Light court was able to basically pull off a political coup within the existing Fairy holdings (their equivalent of countries) and force the Dark court into submission and going along with the idea of peace. The result however was that the Dark court went underground and became, functionally, very much like the Mafia during prohibition or a similar well organized criminal organization. They still exist, and they still believe that the world should belong to those powerful enough to rule it without mercy, so their long term goal is to regain enough influence to take back their former power. 

5. Why do most elves who are Outcast die? Why didn't Bleidd? - Elven society is based on extended family units and elves are taught from birth that one should only risk strong emotions like love on blood kin, because anything else is too fragile to be trusted. They are generally extremely loyal to their own immediate families, extending out to their clans by degrees. Being Outcast is considered one of the most severe possible punishments because it legally severs these ties and leaves the person alone and with no support system in a world that doesn't normally have that possibility. Most elves who are Outcast die because they cannot process the psychological impact of the extreme change from one to the other - the solitude and isolation from society -, and because they have been taught that its better to die than live with that kind of shame.
  Bleidd, however, is unusually independent for an elf, especially a male, and he is very stubborn and a bit self centered ( a significant flaw in his culture actually). He survives initially because he's so angry at the injustice of being wrongfully punished that refusing to die is his way of metaphorically flipping the bird at the people who cast him out. As time goes on he develops enough basic coping skills to adjust to being outside the society, but he also heavily self medicates with alcohol and excessive self-indulgence. 

6. Why can't the Elven Guard captains get married? - Because the job is one that consumes their lives 24/7 and they cannot have the distraction of divided loyalties; you can't have a marriage contract and commit to trying to give someone else a child when you are literally working whenever you are awake. It is however a job that you can voluntarily step down from, and become simply a mage in the Guard if you wanted to. 

7. Ashwood is a human town that is stuck between the two worlds - are there any Fairy equivalents in other places, where its a Fey town that is the bordertown? - Yes, although that is less common. Bordertowns in general are rare and act as the points of passage between the joined worlds, like bridges, since even though the worlds are joined you still can't simply walk from an earth area to a Fey one. Most Bordertowns are human because there were just more human places than Fey ones when the worlds joined. 

8. Why does magic effect technology? - Basically magical energy is very similar to electrical energy, enough that the presence of magic tends to overcharge and short out anything electrical. In order for things like computers, cell phones, toasters, cars, etc., to work in a Bordertown they have to be shielded from the magical energy, which ironically can only be done using magic. There are people whose entire careers are based on this.
   Even with that though the fully magical atmosphere of Fairy makes it almost impossible to keep anything electrical working for long, without using a specially designed Farady cage*, so the amount of tech in the Fairy Holdings is extremely limited.  

9. Are the spells in the books real? - I try to make all the magic in the books as real as possible, including the spells. 

10. If elves have both magical healing and human medical technology now, why do they still have such a high maternal and infant death rate in childbirth? - Magic and tech still have their limits in this world, and magic doesn't make the elves omnipotent. You have a population that has a low fertility rate to begin with, which favors male children 3 to 1, and where a woman may have two to three children in the course of five or six hundred reproductive years. You have a population with fewer women, where pregnancy is not a common occurrence, and where even healers only deal with it - even in larger populations - a few times a year. In smaller populations a healer could go years, or even decades between dealing with a pregnancy. Add into that the fact that they are very prone to dangerous complications and you end up with healers who simply don't have the practical experience in dealing with every possible problem that can arise. Also magical healing can address certain types of emergencies particularly those that are more trauma oriented- a torn placenta for example, or infection - but not things that are purely physiological like the baby being too large to pass the mother's pelvis, or the mother's heart failing during labor. Human technology can help in some cases but only if its used and this is a difficult area, because elves are both extremely proud of their own culture and also very slow to change. Since electronic tech doesn't work well in Fairy the baby would have to be delivered in a Bordertown where both tech and magic are available, and that would not be something most elves would want to do. 

*a Farady cage is an enclosure made of a conductive metal, like copper, that blocks electrical fields, and in this case magical ones as well.

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