ShadowLight Saga Q & A
Why did you choose to write the ShadowLight Saga?
The answer to this question is twofold. First, I love the older epic style of telling a story from several characters’ points of view. The worlds of such writers as Robert Jordan drew you in with their complexity and the ability to see through the eyes of different characters in one vast story deepened the tale for me. It made me feel immersed, surrounded, encompassed. There was nothing better for me than sinking into to an entire world, rich with characters, setting and story.
Now I realized at some point; I was no Robert Jordan! Nevertheless, I still loved his epic type of story-telling. I also adored “love stories”—stories about the complexities of relationships and the human condition. Over the years, as the popular styles of writers changed, I found myself reading young adult and middle-grade fantasy, especially drawn to young adult for the romantic element the stories included. Even so, I found myself missing the bigger, more complex, point of view switching epics. Young adult fantasy was almost always reduced to simpler story-lines, with one main character telling the story. I missed the grand epics of my teens and twenties, yet desired the human quality of stories about relationships.
The concept for ShadowLight revolves around duality – two worlds, two magics, two heroes. But in the story, that concept is reflected through relationships: brother to sister, lover to lover, friend to friend, father to son, etc. It dawned on me that I was combining the two things I loved most: epic and relationships. In writing ShadowLight, I fulfilled the need I had to find a story that encompassed both qualities.
The second part of my decision to write ShadowLight contains a mystical element. Like many other authors, I’d had near misses with writing over the years with screenplays and more recently, a middle-grade fantasy. I had been reading about the recent shift in publishing with the advent of e-book readers and the success of the now, well-known indies such as Amanda Hocking, JA Konrath, and others. Since most of my material was either tied up with other entities, or not appropriate for self-publishing, I returned to my stack of half completed novels and my conception pile. It had been over 15 years since I even looked at ShadowLight (then called “Legend of the Swan”). I picked up the manuscript and read through it and realized I still loved my characters.
My mind struggled with the concept of self-publishing: Do I really want to do this? Is this story concept too old to be considered for today’s readers? (Secondary world fantasy is not a popular sell these days!) Can I juggle all the tasks involved with self-publishing? In the end, one fact remained: I loved my characters. I wanted to give them wings.
I hadn’t decided what to do yet, and I had to pick up my husband from the airport, which is about a two-hour drive through a rural area. As I was driving along and calculating the plusses and minuses of publishing ShadowLight, a pale field flooded my view off to the right. I could not fathom what would be white in the middle of June, though everyone had warned me, winter in these parts could be unpredictable. Still, as I drew nearer, the whiteness stretched out to the horizon without an end in sight. Then their forms came into view. Swans. A massive flock of swans covered the ground. How many, I could never be sure, but I had never in my life seen so many birds in one place. And there was my answer. If any of you have read the book yet, you’ll know why—I have two main characters in ShadowLight. One is named Swan.
How did you come up with the world of ShadowLight?
I touched briefly on this subject in a blog post that you can read here. But the less glamorous version is this:
My first job out of college was as a receptionist for an advertising agency. With little skill in business (since I attended a music college!), my employers didn’t expect much from me except for a pleasant attitude when answering the phones and greeting visitors. Otherwise, I was left to my own accord. I worked on Park Avenue in NYC, which was close enough for jaunts to the NYC Public Library, which quickly became my favorite place in the city. It was there I discovered mythology and the works of the late, great Joseph Campbell.
I already possessed a huge admiration for fantasy fiction. Combined with my new love of mythology, I started creating my own world that was based on my favorite mythology—Norse Mythology. The first rendition of the world, magic and story were crude renditions as I had no clue what I was doing.
Over the years, the idea stayed with me as I became a ravenous reader of “How to Write” books. Over about a six to eight year period, I pieced together the world of ShadowLight, creating maps, societies, beliefs, cosmologies, characters, etc.
What does the “between darkness and light” quote mean?
I am fascinated by the concept of duality. The older fantasy, or epic fantasy, is usually about dark versus light. However, for me, there is so much gray space between those terms. I wanted to explore this concept, and my subconscious mind bloomed with ShadowLight: two worlds, two magics, two heroes. The series sets up the sides for dark and light, then turns the perception on its head as new information is uncovered, begging the question: what is good and bad?
What were your major influences in writing this story?
I fell in love with the fantasy genre at thirteen. My brother lent me his copy of Sword of Shanara by Terry Brooks. I was hooked. I’ve always been imaginative as far as “never being in the real world.” I was a dreamy kid—into art, music, mythology, magic, saving misfits (in fact, Rudolph’s misfit song is still one of my all-time favorites). But Terry Brooks showed me a new world where heroes and magic existed, and I can still remember the feeling of pure joy I had when I finished book one of the Sword of Shanara series. I think, as a child, I always had the inkling that something existed inside of us—some potential—something akin to magic. And it’s that discovery of self, through a hero’s journey, that fascinates me.
After high school, I ended up going to a music performance school (big mistake—mainly because I am terrified of being on stage, and I stink as a singer). I was the only “girl next door” looking girl in that college, which tended to make me a target for a lot of the punk-rock girls! As a result, my love of fantasy worlds turned into a refuge at this time in my life. I started spending endless hours at the library in Boston, then when we moved to NYC the library there was magnificent—I can still remember the Greek sculpture hall!—and I discovered Joseph Campbell’s Masks of God series. Joseph Campbell shed so much light on humanity for me—on the archetypal mind and how story-telling is an essential component of the human condition trying to figure out our place in this world. I was already reading the big men in fantasy at that time: Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson, Robert Jordan, and a few women were getting into the fantasy boy’s club as well, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley. Fantasy and mythology clicked into one devoted love at this moment in my life, and I began creating the world of ShadowLight.
I had detours—mainly life (read as “school of hard knocks”)—which kept writing in the wings as I studied the craft, and tried different forms, such as screen writing. When I moved out of Los Angeles, I decided to return to novel writing, as screen writing had proven to be too hectic and felt empty and devoid of some internal need for me. During my Los Angeles time, my favorite shows were Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena Warrior Princess. I think, because LA was the dark days for me—ten years with a controlling, abusive man—the idea of female empowerment and not being a victim were impressed upon me by these types of powerful figures in pop culture.
When I moved to Arizona and married my hubby, I returned to novel writing, particularly fantasy because my love was so deep for the above-mentioned things. The influences visible in ShadowLight are a combination of: my brief time as a singer, my rocky life experiences, my love of epic, my devotion to mythology and the human mind, and on the lighter side, my draw to females who can kick some behind.