(Note: There are a ton of clickable links in this piece, which all open in separate windows–click to your heart’s content!)
When I was lost in my flu-delirium over Christmas, something wonderful happened: Feast of Fates was selected by the ladies over at Roadside Reader for their monthly bookcast. That means they’ll be gabbing about and tearing apart the novel for the whole month of January. I listen to their bookcasts (podcasts) regularly, and there were a lot of interesting discussion points and off-camera questions that I couldn’t answer. So, this month, I thought it would be cool for my readers and I to follow along, have a listen to the bookcast, and then open up the forum for any further questions you folks have regarding the series. First, the bookcast can be found, here:
(The Sorren/ Franknfurter allusion in the bookcast image is priceless.) It’s long, but definitely worth a listen–I usually play my podcasts in the background while doing non-intensive tasks. Regardless of whether or not you have the time to do so now, let’s get to the talking points, starting with…
Here’s the deal: I like romance, I do, even if I’m a jaded mofo at times. But my chipped-shoulder status is a product of adulthood and experience, and deep within I’ve held onto a childlike naiveté: the notion that you love someone so much that you ache for them. One of my favorite movies as a child was the Princess Bride (and later the book). Modern paranormal literature can be quite trope riddled when it comes to fated-loves. There’s also a noticeable trend toward insta-love in YA novels, which makes sense as those characters are in the middle of a hormonal whirlwind. Feast of Fates is most definitely an adult book, and yet I wanted to portray the same hopeless, desperate romance that we’ve seen a million times, albeit, through the eyes of two emotionally-developed, mature persons.
Morigan is almost thirty years old in the tale. Caenith has several hundred years on her, so he’s definitely “mature”. She had to be an adult, too. Making her any younger would have exacerbated the age and maturity gap and their relationship would have gone into Lolita-territory. So we have these two content (with themselves and their opinions), fully formed and somewhat stubborn persons who have their world thrown into chaos when an all-consuming spark lights between them. That spark has a mysterious fuel, too, which goes beyond pheromones and desire. Those of you who’ve read the second book in the series will have learned just how similar Morigan and the Wolf are in a world quite unlike themselves. That secret synergy and magnetism, which is rooted in a biological imperative, is part of what drives them together.
What’s also important about this love is that it’s almost immediately tested. Epic love is merely platitudes and illusion until it’s proven, through trial, sacrifice and devotion. I’d say they go through quite the gauntlet: espionage, the possession of horrific knowledge, a kidnapping, imprisonment and near death experiences. After they’re separated and throughout their journey thereafter to reach one another, their love develops in the absence of frilly sophisms. Because they have fought so hard to stay together, they know they love each other, and that their yearning is real. And, importantly, they still manage to be moved by the distant actions of one another. The Wolf rediscovers his humanity, and Morigan sharpens her wit and edge. They grow together, even when they are apart.
Writing Empathy, As a Man
You’d be surprised the number of female readers who are leery about romance or women’s experiences and viewpoints as written by a man. The (historically justified) expectation of a skewed, heteronormative or even pandering approach is understandable, though. How can he possibly know how a woman feels in these compromising/ romantic/ offensive situations? Well, you know: gay, biracial, married to a Métis amputee. I check a lot of boxes on the Diversity and Minority Checklist. When you are a victim of hate, as I and many others have been, things develop in one of two ways: you react and encrust yourself with negativity like some grotesque mollusc, or, you try and use that denigration to metamorphose into a more elegant creation. What was it Meryl said the other night? (Paraphrased from the late and great, Princess Leia.)
“Take that broken heart and make it into art.”
That’s what I (and many others) try to do. I don’t know exactly what it’s like to be a woman, though I do know what it’s like to be objectified, marginalized, categorized by my sex, and called names (faggot, nigger, etc.). Suffering is a universal condition. Empathy is, too, if you allow yourself to understand that your pain is not the worst, or the only–we have all suffered once, and will likely again. I’m glad that the darker avenues of my writing, where women–and men, I do not discriminate as to who get’s the shit end of the stick–can be read without presumptions of malice and misogyny. By most readers at least; some people are sensitive to any bad stuff happening ever. I love my characters, and I’d rather terrible things didn’t happen to them. Although, the test of a hero is adversity, and so no one gets through my stories unscathed.
The R Word
I’ve talked about my own experiences with sexual-violence, and about how I believe evil and crime should be written. Those links can refresh you on my opinions. Today, let’s talk more about how the event–Magnus, possessed and raping his wife–was portrayed, and, more importantly, what comes after for Lila.
First, and as noticed by Roadside Reader’s critics, the act is vile. From start to finish there is no question that Magnus is sickened by what he’s being driven to do. Rape is an ugly and wrenching word, and I never want to see that potency removed. It should shudder our souls ever time it’s uttered. It should be one of the ugliest events that we can fathom. Anyway, Lila’s assault. Here’s why it made me angry as I was writing it: her powerlessness, her impotent fury when she feels (as do all victims) she could have done more. I mean, she’s a sorceress, and powerful one. Why doesn’t she resist him? Is he really that terrible and omnipotent? Why is she so weak and paralyzed by horror? Jesus, Lila! DO SOMETHING! Alas, these are complex questions, and many of them Lila and I didn’t answer till much later in the series. If we could all be heroes when we were victims then the monsters of the world would not prowl so bravely.
Hard as it was, I wrote her the way I did because being a victim is such a catastrophic mental assault that oftentimes our bodies simply overrule logic and function and react with shock. Our psyches shut down to preserve what remains of our sanity. Thus, this is Lila’s weakest moment, where she becomes a beaten woman. No one wants to see that, but I’ve been in her shoes. I know what it’s like to feel worse than shit, and you have to bear with her, you have to see her go through all the stages of acceptance, of learning how to love herself without this man to whom she’s been beholden for one thousand years. Then, and only then can you rage with her as she learns Magnus’s secrets regarding his brother–an omittance remains a lie.
Plot Spoiler, Click at Your Own Risk!
The road from victim to heroic survivor isn’t smooth, short or without grisly twists. And this is Lila’s road to walk, and her arc moves through all four books of the series. Indeed, in the fourth novel, we see resolution and the aftermath of her assault and of her failed marriage. I grew up as a child of divorce, and, while Magnus and Lila’s desecrated matrimony isn’t even faintly representative of the story of my parents, it’s still a dissolution of love and marriage that we can examine. Lila’s becoming of a champion and liberated woman was the story I wanted to tell with her and Magnus, and it’s ultimately one of tremendous empowerment and growth. It’s not pretty: it’s raw and ragged and you have to watch Lila go to her darkest place first. However, that’s a place to which many women and men have been before, and crawling from that darkness is what makes tales like hers so inspiring.
This was a pretty funny observation and came up at the end of the bookcast: the scarcity of umbrellas in a city plagued by toxic rain (Menos). My reasoning: umbrellas wouldn’t be cheap, since the rain would wear them down faster than normal, and in the instances where they’re mentioned (as parasols, usually) they’re always in the hands of the rich, who only go outside when absolutely necessary because Menos is so disgusting. Really, the rich would have no reason to leave their comforts, and parasols would therefore be scarce.
Seems like it sucks to be poor no matter the world/ city; though especially in Menos.
I think that wraps up the biggest talking-points. Again, follow along and check out the other bookish corners of Roadside Reader, and if you like what you see and hear, support these ladies as a Patreon.
Lastly, if there’s anything today’s bookcast and chat didn’t cover, sound off in the comments here or on FB.
All my love,
P.S. On the subject of abuse and its difficult portrayal, I suggest reading Mazie Baby by Julie Frayn. Hard book to get through, but poignant. I really like her stuff, and recommend it to any literature or suspense junkies out there. Julie’s books and thoughts can be found, here: