Did a book signing at a Chapters in Toronto. I sold some books, but man, that is doing it the hard way. Some people are open to hearing about your book ("Hey, do you like magic?"), but others give you that look they reserve for beggars and other people they're afraid will talk to you. It is draining!
I spent an hour and change this morning at Victoria Park Collegiate Institute, teaching The Circle Cast, and King Arthur, and post-Roman Britain, and my theories of character and storytellinger, to a 9th Grade class of honors students. That was fun.
I hope I didn’t leave them completely bewildered. I’ve been thinking about this story for over a decade, and I think I sort of gave them a 5 gigabyte upload all at once! I should probably have stopped more often for questions.
It’s a pleasure talking to smart kids. They really got the book.
They asked to see the original cover. They actually liked it better. They liked seeing a sixteen-year-old girl on the cover. I love the raven cover, but maybe a striking, mysterious cover is better for an adult, literary book, while the original cover lets you know right away that it’s a story about a girl and old magic.
Tomorrow at 2 pm, I’m reading at the Chapters in Bayview Village in Toronto. If you’re in the neighborhood, I hope you’ll come!
Q. While The Circle Cast stands out from many Arthurian retellings in its thoroughly historical Irish setting, it also reminded me of two of my favorite Arthurian novels: Bradley’s Mists of Avalon, with its focus on the women of Arthurian myth, and Douglas Clegg’s Mordred, Bastard Son, with its focus on the hero’s childhood far away from Arthur’s Britain. Do you read a lot of Arthurian retellings? Did any of them inspire aspects of The Circle Cast?
Q. The source documents for Arthurian legend say practically nothing about the early life of any character but Arthur. With such a wide blank canvas, how did you begin shaping Morgan’s life experiences for The Circle Cast? What inspired you to choose Ireland as the setting?
Q. How did you decide on the historical period (approx. 400 CE)? Did you do a lot of research before beginning the novel, or did you gather details as you wrote?
Q. Some of my favorite passages in The Circle Cast are the ones about Morgan’s magic and her deep connection with the land. How did you develop Morgan’s magic system?
Q. Conflict between Christianity and the ancient religions of Britain appears frequently in modern Arthurian retellings. The Circle Cast presents a broad picture of both beliefs, with both heroic and villainous characters belonging to each religion. Morgan herself seems to feel that both religions can be valid ways of life; it is the individual believer’s goals and values that make one path a better choice than another. Is this the message you see emerging in the scenes at the Christians’ village? What do you think about Arthurian legend’s relationship to the conflict between Christianity and paganism?
Q. Can you tell us a bit more about your current and upcoming projects? Can readers expect another novel about Morgan le Fay, or any other Arthurian characters?
For fans of Arthurian reimaginings, The Circle Cast is a must read, and even readers who have been disappointed by vague historical settings and authors more interested in defending their characters than developing them will find this novel a welcome departure from the norm. The Circle Cast is a quick read, but one that will stay with you long after the closing image .
How did I forget to post this? Gennifer Albin kindly interviewed me on The Apocalypsies blog . I talk about my influences, and my biggest challenge writing the book ("The Sucky Point"), my journey to publication, and my advice to debut authors.
I'm not loving Alfred Duggan's The Cunning of the Dove. It's another one of these historical books where the main character is the least interesting of all the historical personages bouncing around. It's all about the grand sweep of events, seen through the eyes of the passive and uninvolved king's chamberlain. Even the saintly King doesn't seem like much of a hoot. Ah, well.
We're enjoying THE SECRET CIRCLE on the CW. By episode 3, the characters and even the acting have got a bit more nuanced. We stuck with it because it gets magic mostly right: it's not waving around wands and shouting Latin, it's willpower and talent, and a coven has more power than a solo witch. It's not THE CRAFT, but it's warming up.
At the end of episode 2, the teen witches bind their circle, which in the show's mythology means that none of them can do any magic alone. It's a clever storytelling decision. In episode 2, one of the girls calls down elemental power. If you give any character too much power, it becomes hard to tell stories about her. What problem can she have that she can't magick her way out of?
That's why Superman is harder to make a nuanced story about than Batman. He's invulnerable, he can see through walls, he can destroy at a distance, and he can turn back time. Superman stories wind up being all about the villains and the obstacles. Either you need to afflict him with Kryptonite®, or put him up against an equally overpowered menace, or against an enemy he has a weakness to. Batman, thankfully, is only a man.
Magic has to have a cost, or a risk, in a story. I always liked how, in EXCALIBUR, magic exhausts Merlin. Elric's magic is powered by blood and souls. On SESAME STREET, Abby Cadabby's magic just never does what it's supposed to.
When you set out to tell a supernatural story, think long and hard about the rules by which you circumscribe your magic. They are the foundation on which you're building your tale.