I’m about 80% through the list of edits given me by Terri-Lynne DeFino for Daughter of Aithne. The focus right now is on ‘big’ fixes. Once I’m finished with that, I’ll do another run through for the devilish details: grammar, punctuation, continuity of all those strange fantasy names, and so forth. Once the manuscript is near-final, I’ll send it to artist Thomas Vandenberg so we can start work on the cover. And of course, Terri may want another read-through, and there’ll be copy editing, formatting, and all sorts of other preparations to come.
The long road to publication has begun.
Daughter of Aithne brings Eolyn’s journey full-circle in a way I didn’t foresee when I wrote book one. Indeed, “book one” wasn’t “book one” at the time I published. “Book one” was simply Eolyn, my first novel, written with much love and meant to be self-contained in its conflict, climax, and denouement.
Then, about a month after I signed my first contract with Hadley Rille Books, ideas began to come together for a sequel. High Maga was born and painstakingly developed over months and years to come. Decidedly darker than its predecessor, book two captures a period of Eolyn’s life when her journey becomes exceedingly painful, her choices difficult and complicated.
Unlike Eolyn, High Maga was not written to be self-contained. You can read it – and enjoy it – without having seen book one or going on to book three, but you won’t understand the full meaning of the events unless you complete the series. I’ve often said it’s unfair to hold a reader hostage in this fashion, but as an author I’ve come to realize that certain themes are too complex to receive due treatment in just one novel.
So we come to Daughter of Aithne.
Looking back, it’s hard for me to imagine how I ever wrote that first book without envisioning this third installment. Eolyn is a story of hope; High Maga of destruction. In Daughter of Aithne, we see the building of a new future as circumstances at last come together to allow Eolyn and her cohorts to imagine a world different from the one they inherited.
This is something we don’t see all that often in fantasy. Most fantasy characters must accept the world as it is given them. They may have the strength and courage to overcome the challenges of that world, but they are rarely allowed to implement real changes in the fabric of the society to which they are born.
So in order to introduce women warriors, fantasy authors have created societies in which women-at-arms are basically accepted, even if as an exception to the rule. To make a woman part of a matriarchal power line, we imagine worlds where matriarchy has existed for centuries, with no real or effective challenge to that status quo. Worlds where women and men have equal opportunities in a wide range of societal roles are well-established as such by page one of the novel in question.
These are examples of wonderful fantasy worlds where our women characters, our true heroines, have been able to flourish. But what about the other possibility? What about the struggle for change that breaks open opportunities never before available to women? And not just for that exceptional character who proves she can do it just like the guys, but for all women everywhere?
I am a proud daughter of the Women’s Movement. I look back on the society to which my mother was born, and I can’t help but feel a deep gratitude for the sacrifices and struggles that made it possible for all the women afterwards to enjoy privileges unimaginable even sixty years ago. We are living a revolution, a struggle that in many ways has not yet ended.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see that revolution, and its makers, honored as metaphors in our stories? Wouldn’t it be nice to promote change as an integral part of the journey of fantasy?
I didn’t realize it when I started Eolyn, but these were some of the questions that motivated the series. What if women – key women, of a particular character – were given the opportunity to change the world? Would they imagine it differently from the men before them? Or would they subscribe to the same power structures, the same intrigues, the same tools for resolving conflict?
There are many possible answers to these questions; and a thousand stories waiting to be written that might address them. Eolyn, High Maga, and most of all, Daughter of Aithne are just three examples.
As with Eolyn, the denouement of Daughter of Aithne flies in the face of conventional fantasy. It is a dangerous ending in some ways, one that may get me into trouble with certain sectors. Readers will either love it or hate it. In fact, my worst fear in sending the manuscript to my editor was that she would advise me against the ending. But Terri didn’t do that. In fact, she loves the vision behind Daughter of Aithne, and she is just as excited as I am to see it in print.
That is, once I finish fixing all the things she told me to fix.
It’s taken two novels to set up Daughter of Aithne correctly, but now I’m almost there. This is the book I’ve always wanted to write, and I’m very much looking forward to sharing it with you.