Hello everyone and welcome to our latest guest post for the 7th annual Self Published Fantasy Blog Off! I have been working on reaching out to each of the authors who have landed in our batch of books for the competition to see if they would be interested in being interviewed or contributing a guest article in an attempt to drum up a little extra excitement for their book and (hopefully) get to know them a bit better.
And now, I am excited to share a guest post from author A.F. Stewart where she talks about the prevailing themes in Past Legends and how she twists the classic Arthurian legends.
If you want to check out the rest of our SPFBO coverage, be sure to check our SPFBO 7 landing page here. On to the article!
I love Arthurian legend and if anyone is a fan like me, then they know that so many of the stories and retellings deal with male bonding and the knightly heroes like Lancelot and King Arthur. And when the women do show up, they are often either the love interest or the villain. Now there are some marvellous stories out there that tell these traditional tales brilliantly, but for my foray into Arthurian fiction I wanted to approach it from a different angle.
From the female as the hero point of view.
So I set out originally to tell a story (or two) of Camelot the way a woman might perceive it and what kind of friendships and bonds, and emotional scars as it turned out, she would have from being part of a living legend. For my initial idea created a world where the people of Camelot never died, but these characters lived on into the modern world as immortals.
And they weren’t that happy about it.
Yet, when I expanded the original stories into the series, The Camelot Immortals, I delved deeper into the angle of female friendship and bonding, and the notion of how immortality created rich but complicated relationships, where the line between enemies and friends can sometimes be blurry.
With that in mind I constructed the main core of the series as the solidarity between the four female characters, as well as the emotional baggage from personal romantic relationships that echo throughout the pages. I essentially turned the knights of the Round Table trope into the witches of Camelot. I created a cast of four strong women, Nimue, Morgan, Vivienne and Iseult, playing off a long friendship, but not always a harmonious one. They snipe and bicker, but in the end they always have each other’s back.
The main heart of the books is the friendship between Morgan and Nimue. They have centuries of history and memories, and are well matched as friends in both power and temperament. When either one acts a bit reckless, the other is there to pull her back from the brink. I also enjoyed playing with the boundaries of the relationship when some lies surface and the reader finds out whether the friendship is strong enough to survive.
The friendship between Vivienne’s and Nimue is a bit more prickly, with a bit of romantic rivalry getting in the way sometimes (Vivienne had a crush on Nimue’s ex, Merlin). Vivienne likes to snipe, especially when she is drinking, and sometimes the pair can get snarky.
The other driving force of the series are the emotional consequences of broken and toxic relationships. I wanted to explore the pain men and women can often inflict on each other, and on ourselves, with obsession and insecurity and used two characters to illustrate these themes. With Nimue’s previous romantic relationships you have the interplay of control and ego in the form of her damaging formative love affair with Merlin and then the one with Nostradamus, which becomes a study in obsession and disillusionment. One of the things I’ve noticed in reading fantasy and comic books over the years is that the female characters are often defined, at least in part, by their romantic dalliances and usually the pairing is the start of a new subplot. I wanted to take a slightly different tack in building interpersonal relationships, starting from the core of a broken romance and how the consequences of that toxic interplay shaped my main character.
Iseult’s stalker issues deal with obsessive behavior and in the case of her ex-husband Mark, the possibility of forgiveness, and her reluctance to confront someone that triggers such anger and fear. You see hints and teasers of each past relationship, but I focused mostly on the lasting emotional effect of abuse.
In fact, all my characters are emotionally damaged in some way. Morgan has family issues regarding her sister, Vivienne has resentments, but both Iseult and Nimue have deep mental scars from surviving abusive partners. They have defensive walls and behaviors that create strains and bumps in their personal interactions. There are several scenes where old wounds cause problems and the long-lasting repercussions must be dealt with, as well as times when perceptions are altered from the discovery of hidden truths. Secrets and lies surface to taint what the characters thought they knew. And this flawed pattern of behavior creates an interesting dynamic and conflict between the characters, especially when these old grievances or unpleasant memories surface. Still, in the middle of the crisis the connections come through and the four women stick together to work as a team, if a slightly dysfunctional and snarky one.
A great deal of Nimue’s behavior is influenced by her emotional scars, and we see her reluctance to trust, her cynical attitude, her anger issues, reflected in and stemming from her hurt and her lack of dealing with her past abuse. Part of the character’s evolution will be her finally dealing with what happened to her and how it affected her long term.
In addition to twisting Arthurian fantasy, I tweaked one other fantasy trope as well. I switched up the classic “tagalong character” by making him male; a wizard in training, poor Martin doesn’t have the skill or experience yet to do the heavy hitting. He’s the outsider, out of his depth, often relying on the women to save the day, but sometimes surprising everyone with a bit of insight. Plus, he and Iseult also have their own dynamic trying to reconnect as family.
So, that’s a bit of insight into the underlying themes of my series. I enjoyed putting a different spin on the classic quest fantasy and exploring a female fellowship and the interactive dynamics of that type of friendship.
About the Author
A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author, she’s published novels, novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry.
She is fond of good books, action movies, sword collecting, geeky things, comic books, and oil painting as a hobby. She has a great interest in history and mythology, often working those themes into her books and stories.