With Facets of Fantasy being the highlighted free book for next month, I thought I’d discuss these three stories a little more in-depth. For The Amulet of Renari, there’s Violet. Here's a picture of a girl who sort of resembles her, except Violet's eyes are darker. But I like this girl's expression. The second pic is a fantasy art piece I found online and thought, "That's what Judith looks like. It's her exactly."
All my heroines are unique, but Violet does stand apart in a couple of ways. I’ve always felt she wasn’t much characterized and is in a way one of my flattest female leads. But she has an extremely strong presence. We don’t get to know her much, for a reason. She’s the sort of person who can really, really surprise you. There’s an edge to Violet—I’d almost call it mildly disagreeable. And it’s important that we don’t see her very clearly throughout the story. The whole purpose of her character is to feel uncertain about her.
The Amulet of Renari is an idea of Narnia—not fanfiction, not dealing with any characters or actual plots from that world. It’s a story about Narnia. About why this place has always been different from other fantasy. Narnia has unique underlying ideas and a specific hold that won’t go away. But I was surprised when I worked on Renari that I found these ideas so unlikable. I think we may not know yet who’s really interested in Narnia. Something, hinted at by the wolf-people in Renari, seems dark, actually, and it’s never talked about. I’m not sure that all of the people around Narnia are aware of this or would like it if they found out. And that’s where Violet’s personality matters. There’s a kind of person who’s deeply underestimated and just when you think you know them—you realize you don’t. Violet is that sort. The sort who moves.
Whatever Renari was really built on in the past, nobody has told Violet exactly what it is and they may not have told us either. And I do get the feeling people are watching Narnia closely to see what it’s all about. I’m not sure whether Violet represents the deeply entrenched, hidden aspects of Narnia or whether she belongs with the many who’ve grown up loving Narnia and don’t know that someone else might have been there all along. Either way, we might be in for some surprises. Whoever she is, she’s fundamentally untrustworthy. You never thought she had it in her.
And there will be more updates.
Continuing my posts about junk directed at writers and at me personally, I’ve made a list of words that show a disrespectful attitude. One of the rudest, most disrespectful things you can do to a person is not give them your full, real attention while still wanting to express an opinion. If one of my books is worth your commenting on, it’s worth your full time.
What sort of person tries to make or break a book; destroy all an author’s hard work; slices up something they barely even understood; makes sweeping, negative judgments on something they didn’t even finish? Or read so hastily, basically planning what they were going to say before even reading. A person who is stating disrespect. “I don’t like this person/movie/book. I don’t want other people to find and like them either. But I didn’t pay them the compliment of giving them a full chance before I decided, so I’ll just throw out some random insults."
This makes the person doing it look stupid and contributes nothing to the social conversation. Why people do this, I don’t know, but if people ever approach you with some kind of attitude that’s just involved enough to say something rude and not involved enough to actually give you real time, put them on mute and show them the door.
And there will be more updates
This book was begun several years ago, as part of a group project. My sister started the project and I knew most of the other members personally, some for years. So I agreed to join. There was much defensiveness last year because I portrayed some of the characters in my book as immoral, something that wasn’t done in any of the other VJA books I’ve read so far. Even my mother, who was editing it, spent literally 75% of the editing time, on a deadline, going over and over and over and over and over and over and over a few chapters early on which showed parties, a scene between Myrtle and Horace, and some slangy 30s dialogue. I had to really push her to move on and I could not see why all the concern was necessary. All of this material was light and unimportant because the characters were the same without it—cavalier, often selfish, and immoral.
But that IS the interest in Mansfield Park. I didn’t take Mansfield Park because I related to these characters. It was because MP is a story that’s rarely told right. Rarely told truthfully. Every movie, every retelling seems to get something wrong. And since finding the story that’s really in the story is what I do, I felt the task was mine since I had to join the collection. This was the story that I found inside Mansfield Park. It's a book about virtue, that’s true. Everyone praises virtuous Fanny Price or has obvious motives for bashing her. But it’s also a book about vice and most of the people interested in the book do want to discuss that side of behavior. I looked into the mirror of the story and this is what I saw. It’s not a personal reflection on me or my writing. In fact, this is my only story ever to show such characters. I don’t usually take on books with that as their hidden “true story.”
I didn’t feel the book ultimately had a lot to say in the vintage era. That’s why I switched it this year. MP was contemporary in Austen’s time and unlike some of the others it really, really needs that setting. And since telling the true story is what I do, I want Bellevere to do the best possible job of that while it’s still being marketed.
And there will be more updates.
With Bellevere House coming up for sale next week, I thought I’d post a bit about Jane Austen. When I was growing up, JA saturated my house because of my mother. Some of my earliest creative efforts involved making little picture books of Pride and Prejudice, although I haven’t been interested in the story since. She really was just wallpaper and I didn’t think she was interesting. She was just there.
After working on the JA project, I began to rethink this author and her fans. My mother was not typical. Her view was old-fashioned even when she was young (the 1960s) and one of the few other fan-type commentaries she enjoyed was a book written in the 1940s. The 1940s. So I wasn’t prepared for the 21st century fans, or even late 20th century fans. The cult. The explosion. The Jane Austen girls. I didn’t know who these people were and I didn’t overly care. But I did gradually notice their movies and fanfiction had a tone I didn’t expect. Some of the movies were dark, sleazy, or bizarre; others droning, angsty, or a bit odd when portraying characters. (Such as Harriet.)
I hadn’t thought of working with any of the novels in an in-depth way and I lumped them all together as DeBooksByJehnAusten. (Sounds like a name for a fan website, doesn’t it?) Once I did, I noticed surprising things, and when I watched the movies closely, instead of casually, I saw more. And then I was reminded of that old 1940s book. The authors of that book had rated the novels from best to worst and I’d wondered why they put P&P so near the bottom and Emma so near the top. True, I didn’t care about P&P—but didn’t everyone love it? And EMMA? Boring, BORING Emma at the top??
I came to feel that was entirely true. Their list was pretty much accurate. Even then, they were seeing something I wasn’t in these books. And after I overheard someone talking about the parents in JA, as a way to rate the books, I saw they also all agreed. So here, partly based on them, partly on personal experience, is my official Jane Austen list.
And there will be more updates.
I live surrounded by cultivated fields that rapidly give way to wild flowers, wild plants, and wild life. I get most of my ideas while drifting innocuously around my house and some of those ideas get into print.