Friday, January 15, 2016

Conversation with Jane Lindskold—Part 1

Today I’m delighted to welcome one of my favorite authors, Jane Lindskold, who was kind enough to agree to a Q&A and wrote such generous answers that I’m presenting them in two parts. Today we look at some of the elements that characterize her series. My questions are in italics.

For more information on Jane and where to find her books, see her bio, below. And make sure to follow her blog.

I came to your novels as many readers probably did, through “The Firekeeper Saga.” I picked up Through Wolf’s Eyes at the local bookstore and fell in love with it. What really drew me in was Firekeeper, who is a classic “wild child,” raised by animals in the woods. Even for fiction, which often portrays “fish out of water,” a girl who sees herself as a wolf is the ultimate outsider. Can you tell us, without giving away major plot points, something about how Firekeeper became a wolf and what insights that gives her into the human world she has to rejoin?

Firekeeper became a “wolf” by being the sole survivor of a colony that is destroyed by fire. She’s completely human biologically, but wolf by socialization. This means she comes to most issues from a completely different perspective. As someone commented at the time the first book came out, her wolfish mindset makes her amazingly adept at figuring out complex political problems—although her solutions can be terrifyingly weird.

Oh, just to clarify, Firekeeper doesn’t “have to” rejoin human society—not in the way Kipling forced Mowgli to do so, for example. She chooses to take a look at her birth heritage, but she is never rejected by her adoptive people—nor does she reject them.

Deep, complex relationships between animals and humans seem to be a theme running through your work. The Changer is a shapeshifter who can take both human and animal forms. Firekeeper travels with a male wolf, Blind Seer, and their relationship highlights Firekeeper’s simultaneous place in and alienation from both wolf and human societies. Adara the Huntress has a demiurge, the female puma Sand Shadow. Some of your short stories also explore this theme in various ways. What do these pairings make it possible for you, the author, to do that can’t be done by focusing entirely on human characters?

I don’t write about human/animal pairings from the point of view of “making possible” anything at all. I just like different perspectives. I like trying to think how events would look from an animal point of view.

Sex is a great example. Humans are rare in the animal kingdom in that they are effectively in heat all the time. Being in heat is a situation that skews human societies on so very many levels. Most animals, by contrast, are in heat only seasonally. Sex is a relatively small part of bonds. Therefore, those animal characters I write are fascinated by the human obsession with sex—they tend to see it as rather shallow.

In Curiosities, your recent short story collection, you mention your interest in mythology, folklore, and archeology. Even before I read that, I had noticed the importance of mythology in different contexts (the “Firekeeper,” “Athanor,” and now “Artemis Awakening” series) and wanted to ask you about it. How do you envision the role of mythology in your work? What does it offer you as a writer?

I’m a mythology junkie and have been so since I was in single digits. When I use myth and/or legend and/or folklore, I’m simply playing with something that I love. My folklore and mythology collection is a permanent fixture in my office.

Certainly, reading mythology from all around the world and from many time periods has shaped my mind. Even though I was reared in a monotheistic culture, I never really bought into it because I was aware how very many options there were and how many different shapes the search to define the divine and answer metaphysical questions has taken in human culture.

One thing I enjoy when writing fantasy not set on our world is working out what shape the religions will have taken. Unlike many writers, who simply take an existing religion and file off the serial numbers, I design from the ground up.

As a historical novelist, I strive to re-create a world that once existed, knowing that I can never really shed my modern perspective or master the many details of everyday life in a particular past. As a writer of science fiction, you need to create your own world with coherent rules. Where does Artemis come from? How did you go about developing it?

The “Artemis” books were in part inspired by a desire to look at a culture that knew—didn’t guess at or take on faith but knew—the answer to those perennial questions that are usually the foundation of religion: “Why were we created?” “Who created us?” “What is our purpose for existing?” even, “Why is there death?”

The two books I have written are set in a relatively small part of a planetary culture, so the impact of the slaughter of the seegnur and death of machines has not been as fully examined as I would have liked. However, I did try to hint that it created any number of fragmentations of belief and in the moral codes that evolve from belief systems.

  Author Bio

Jane Lindskold has published twenty-five or so novels since Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls in 1994, as well as over seventy short stories and a nonfiction collection, Wanderings on Writing. Some of her best-known and most highly acclaimed books appear in four series: “Athanor,” “Breaking the Wall,” “The Firekeeper Saga,” and “Artemis Awakening.” She has also written two “Stephanie Harrington” novels in collaboration with David Weber. Learn more about her at her website and via her interview with New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

You can find the rest of Jane’s answers in my January 29 post.

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