DARKLY WOVEN DREAMS
by Shelley Dodge (January 4, 2002)
If the difficulty of the struggle makes the victory sweeter, then the protagonists of Anne Bishop's fantasy novels must feel downright ecstatic at the end of their harrowing adventures. Anne Bishop's storytelling skill takes the reader straight into the heart of the conflict. There is darkness, cruelty, and danger in her created worlds. Her heroes and heroines don't have to worry about jumping from the frying pan into the fire because they are already in the flames.
Surrounded by societies in turmoil, her protagonists are faced with the task of not only surviving the unrest of their world, but of becoming a force for change. For example, when the reader is introduced to Jaenelle from the Black Jewels Trilogy, she is a young girl who, while very powerful, is abused by the adults in her family. Jaenelle's development into a witch queen who saves both the humans and animals of her world results in deep and fundamental changes in the society that Jaenelle ultimately rules.
Anne Bishop can make the reader feel as helpless and enraged at the plight of her heroes and heroines as deftly as she can make the reader feel joyous that her characters emerge, while not unscathed, wiser and victorious. At her best Anne Bishop's powerful fantasies are complex and believable because of the extra touches in her writing. Her people have doubts, fears, fall in love, make mistakes, and are not all-knowing. They can laugh and love even in times of sorrow. The depth of the characters allows the reader to really care about what happens to them. It also allows the characters to confront some very dark issues (child abuse, rape, neglect, and torture) in a manner bearable to the reader.
And then there's the love story. It's not about finding the strong hero to protect the weak maiden in Bishop's novels. The relationships in her stories could best be described as strength attracting strength. Both the hero and the heroine want someone who is their equal and worthy of being cherished; they look for strength in their partners. Strong personalities are not always easy to live with, however, and here, as in her other character development, Anne Bishop is multi-faceted. Her lovers argue, have personality clashes and engage in some truly humorous antics and dialogue The reader not only follows the courtship avidly, but continues to be fascinated by the pairing, worrying about the hardships and cheering on their successes.
Anne Bishop's fantasy novels have a permanent place on my bookshelf and I am looking forward to future books with great anticipation. She has five published fantasy novels to date. The Black Jewels Trilogy consists of Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, and Queen of the Darkness. The Invisible Ring, while set in the same universe as the Black Jewels Trilogy, takes place some time in the past. The Pillars of the World is the first of a trilogy set in a newly imagined world.
The Interview December 30, 2001
Shelley: You mentioned in the FAQs on your website that you get your ideas for stories from all over. For instance, the idea for Tir Alainn in The Pillars of the World came to you while watching clouds. Once you get an idea for a world how do you then build on that idea? The castes and realms of your Jewel novels are so detailed, do you do graphs and charts, keep time lines, etc.?
Anne: It's an organic process, something of a cross between deliberate landscaping and having a wild garden. After that initial idea, I start playing, asking questions, thinking about who lives there and what they're like because they live there. With the Tir Alainn novels, I wanted a more elemental, earth-based magical system for the witches. That decision shaped who they are and what they do with their magic (at least initially). The Fae had the ability to change into an animal form as part of their magical ability and lived in a place that was connected to the world but not a part of it. What kind of impact did that have on them as a people, when they could use a resource but didn't feel any responsibility toward it?
With the Realms novels, it was wondering what kind of code of honor, what kind of morality would a people have in a world that had the dark imagery of fantasy and folk lore as its base. So I set up some of the boundaries of the world and characters begin to take shape from that. I'll do timed writings where I ask myself questions about the place and the people. I listen to music because sometimes a certain piece will trigger a scene or give me some insight into a character that I can't ever put into words--I simply know. And then some kind of internal creative chemistry happens, and all of the pieces start coming together as a story and the characters become people whose actions and motives create textures and layers that resonate and change things. More characters appear, and figuring out how and where they fit changes things again and adds to the whole. At that point, I start writing because the story is the answer to all the things I've wondered about the place and the people I'm following during a certain point in their lives. I no longer consciously decide what they'll do. I simply record what they think, feel, say, and do. In a sense, I take a journey through a particular landscape at a particular time and write down what happens there. Having a broad sense of what happens but not quite knowing how it happens is part of what makes writing the story fun.
With regard to the Realms novels, I didn't actually make lists until I started writing what became Daughter of the Blood. At that point, I had to make lists of the Jewels and the castes so that I'd have a written reference if my brain went blank during a scene. I didn't make a timeline for the trilogy because that story spanned years, but I did for The Invisible Ring and The Pillars of the World because those stories take place in a matter of weeks and, especially with Pillars, I needed to make sure of when the characters were as well as where they were in each chapter. I don't worry about it during the first draft; having a general feel for the time frame is enough. I make up a chapter chart as I'm reading the manuscript in preparation for doing the second draft. There I list the character POV for each chapter, when that chapter is happening and anything particular to keep in mind (like what phase the moon is in), and, very briefly, what happens in that chapter.
Shelley: In the Jewels trilogy especially, you tackle a lot of darker subjects such a sexual abuse, rape, child abuse, torture. Do you find it draining and/or liberating to write about these subjects? Do you find that people make assumptions about you based on some of the darker subjects in your books?
Anne: Definitely draining, but those things fit into the world of the Blood at a time when their culture has gone very wrong. So, in part, it was acceptance that these were the threats the characters were up against, and these were the things that had scarred them and made them what they were.
As for assumptions... It depends on whether they knew me before or after reading the books. :) Mostly, after meeting me, people tend to be surprised that I wrote them.
Shelley: Many of your characters (especially Lucivar and Daemon) remind me of alpha romantic heroes, such as those done by authors such as Georgette Heyer and Loretta Chase in their historical novels. Is there any connection? Do you read genre romance? Have you ever considered writing a romance novel?
Anne: Yes, there's a connection. Several years ago, I reached a point where, while I loved fantasy, I wanted stories that were more about relationships and characters rather than adventure. So I started reading romances, especially Regency romances, and became very fond of the typical alpha male characters in those books. But after a while, I really missed the otherness and magical qualities of fantasy and realized what I really wanted was a story in a fantasy world that had those intelligent, sensual alpha males. So I played with that idea, along with a lot of other things that played with and against gender issues as well as the dark imagery in fantasy, and those were the building blocks that eventually became the Blood and the Realms.
Have I ever considered writing a romance? Uh-huh. It turned into the Black Jewels trilogy, and The Invisible Ring, and The Pillars of the World. Which has taught me that, while I enjoy the romantic elements in the stories I write, the story I actually have by the time I sit down to write the first paragraph intrigues me a great deal more.
Shelley: I really enjoyed the humor that resulted from the exchanges between Jaenelle and her various guardians. Was this something you consciously created from the beginning of their creation or was it more spontaneous?
Anne: It came from who and what the characters were and how they interacted with each other. Not really a conscious choice on my part as much as it was a natural result of putting a strong, intelligent, dangerous man in a room with Jaenelle and watching him try to cope with her, especially because loving her deprives him of his best weapons. Also, I just like having lighter moments in a story to balance the crackling emotions of high-drama scenes.
Shelley: In your books you tend to change point of view quite often. In your latest book, The Pillars of the World, it is especially noticeable in the first several chapters. What about this technique appeals to you? Would you ever consider writing a book in first person?
Anne: The different voices, the different thoughts and feelings of the POV characters. I actually use the fewest POV characters I need to tell a particular story. A story that has a wide scope, where storylines are happening in different places to different characters, needs more points of view. Otherwise, readers wouldn't know about all the stuff that's happening or why characters choose the course of action they do. Of the novels, The Invisible Ring is the most tightly told story and had two POV characters. Would I do a novel in first person? Maybe, with the right character and the right story. I have done first person short stories, and the novella coming out in March 2002 is also in first person.
Shelley: O.K. I have to ask. Why "wiccanfae" in The Pillars of the World? As opposed to witchfae or just fae? Why use an existing religion?
Anne: Ask a simple question, don't get a simple answer. <g> First, it's sensible to use elements from our world as building blocks when creating a different world. If writers didn't do that, we'd spend all of our time re-creating the wheel, so to speak, and never get around to actually telling the story. I wanted a magic system that was different from the one in the Realms stories, a magic that was nature-based. So the Fae, among other things, had the magic to shift into an animal form. The witches, as a living connection to the land, had magic that came from the four elements--earth, air, water, and fire. Those decisions created the parameters of what each group could or couldn't do (at least in the beginning). So then it's association. Witch, wicca, and wiccan are all words associated with earth magic. Why not witchfae? Too harsh a sound. Wiccanfae flows, feels gentler, which is more in keeping with how the witches in the story use their magic. Why not just Fae? Because they aren^Òt the Fae. Why wiccan*fae*? There are reasons, which you'll find out in book three. :)
But all of this is still a conscious explanation of something that wasn't consciously decided. The creative process isn't that simple. I set up certain parameters for a place and the overall feel of a people. And then I dance with the Muse. That means some things simply feel right for a story. They resonate. So I never questioned the word. It was just the right one to use.
Shelley: I noticed while looking at the FAQs on your site that you are planning on writing some more books set in the Jewels universe after you have completed the next two Fae novels. You mentioned continuing Jaenelle's story and writing the story of Lucivar and Marian's courtship. I really enjoyed The Invisible Ring, and was wondering if you would be doing other stand alone novels and short stories set in that universe or more stories involving the characters from The Invisible Ring?
Anne: I liked that story and those characters, and I certainly wouldn't mind going back and doing more with them. But no storyline, as yet, as come along to tease me with hints of scenes, so I'll let it rest for the time being.
Shelley: Do you have a favorite character out of your books?
Anne: Oh dear. There are always one, or more, characters who are favorites in every book, but if I had to choose just one out of all the books, it would be Daemon Sadi. (note: from the Jewels Trilogy)
Shelley: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Anne: Charles de Lint, Anne McCaffrey (the Pern series), Jane Austin, J.D. Robb, and Sharyn McCrumb.
Shelley: Do you get a vote on the cover art for your books? Do you have a favorite cover? Is there an artist who you would like to have do a cover for you?
Anne: No, no vote, although for the last two covers, I was asked for suggestions for a scene in the book the artist might use as a starting point. Favorite cover? Each time I open the package from my editor and see the cover flat of the newest book for the first time, that one is my favorite. So right now, the cover for The Pillars of the World is my favorite--until I see the cover for Shadows and Light. :)
Shelley: Do you have anything you would like to add that I did not ask about? Information on forthcoming books (do you have a date for the anthology with your short story) or anything else?
Anne: "A Strand in the Web" will be coming out in Tales From the Wonder Zone: Orbiter in March 2002. And Shadows and Light, the next book in the Fae's story, will be coming out in October 2002.