Friday, November 26, 2010

Interview with Sharon Green

I did this interview with Ms. Green a few years ago, but it still has good information.

Sharon Green is the author of several Fantasy novels full of strong women characters and understanding men characters. She writes many romantic adventure Fantasies that are infused with romance, a lot of action and subtle themes. Many of her books have shapeshifters and other interesting magical systems. Though she writes Science Fiction too, her Fantasy novels are entertaining. Her first foray into Fantasy came with The Farside of Forever about the sorceress Laciel. This was followed by Hellhound Magic. Later, she wrote the beginning of a five book sequence starting with Silver Princess, Golden Knight. These books involve the stories of people that are shapechangers in their cultures and the problems this entails. There have been other novels in between, but her most recent popular series is the “Blending.” The se novels are about a world where everyone has magical powers tied to the five elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit. Five very different characters must learn to blend their powers into a powerful force to save their world. Convergence, Competitions, Challenges, Betrayals and Prophecy. These books are followed by a new trilogy in the “Blending” beginning with Intrigues and Deceptions, which was published this month. She has new novel coming out in May 2001 that she is publishing herself. It’s called Silver Bracers, an omnibus of previously published Lady Blade, Lord Fighter and new part called The Argent Swords. It is available through her web site at .

Debbie Ledesma: Why did you become a writer?

Sharon Green: I've always been involved with writing, but when I was married I was very unhappy and needed an escape badly. So I began to visualize other places and people, and the need to write about those places and people got me started. I think I ought to mention that my initial efforts were really *bad*. It takes practice - of the right things - for your writing to be readable.

DL: It seems all sorts of things can trigger you into writing. I started one day because I was bored at work. What direction did your first published books take?

SG: My first published book, The Warrior Within, was written in response to something I read - one of the Gor books - that made me hit the ceiling and bounce. I felt that John Norman had missed on all counts: not only didn't he understand that there are women who won't *allow* themselves to be made slaves, he even got the "h ®elpless" kind of woman wrong. The Warrior Within was meant to show what a three-dimensional "helpless" woman would be like, and The Crystals of Midas, my second book in print, showed the other side of the coin: a woman not helpless in the least. “The Warrior” series eventually grew into an effort to show how only you can keep yourself from being "helpless," and even having really strong abilities doesn't do any good unless you have the right attitude to go along with the abilities.

DL: Why did you pick the Fantasy genre to write in?

SG: I started out as a science fiction writer, which is what I consider
myself. I got an idea for a fantasy so I wrote it, and that became The
Far Side of Forever. After that I was offered contracts only for
fantasy, so that's what I'm now writing. I should mention that I'm also
looking for a science fiction publisher, since I have a lot of unwritten
ideas that don't fit in 7to fantasy.

DL: It was a good thing for readers that you branched out into Fantasy. The definition of what Fantasy is is always under debate. What is your definition of Fantasy?

SG: For some reason the basic, original definition has been lost along the way. The definition I learned years ago goes as follows: if what you write can happen in this, our universe, without changing any natural laws, then you're writing science fiction. If you have to change a natural law in any way at all, you're writing fantasy. For my own stuff, I should add that if it *looks* as though you're changing a natural law, these days it's also considered fantasy.

DL: How do you approach world building in your Fantasy books?

SG: My answer to this question is going to be very unsatisfactory. I've heard the term "world-building" quite a lot during the past years, but have never engaged in the practice myself. I usually start with a character and/or a situation, and then think about the circumstances the two would fit into. That gives me the kind of world my characters and situation need, without having to sit down and visualize a world. The world comes with the package, so to speak.

The most important thing to me is the people who are caught in some kind of situation. How they interact with their world is more important than what the world is; the nicest or most horrible of worlds can be the worst or best environment, depending on what's expected of you in those places. Humans have the ability to cope with and overcome he most trying of hardships, and then trip and fall over something some would never even notice. Most writers seem to use the idea of an ordinary person being thrust into a situation where he or she has to strive to become a he
ro. I prefer to use a hero who runs into something he or she can't handle, something that an ordinary person might have no trouble with. If you're really good and know it, you also know, on a subconscious level, that you'll never find a situation that you can't handle. If you *do* find a situation like that, you just aren't prepared to cope with it. Makes for an interesting story, I tend to think.

DL: I find Fantasies that have a mythic underpinning very memorable. Do you use mythological themes or sources in you books?

SG: Not deliberately, but the subconscious can't be trusted. Mine tends to steal from everywhere and anything, and I have to be careful about making sure I'm not treading on toes that have walked the trail before me. But I'm also one of those people most others won't play Trivial Pursuit with because I tend to remember the most useless, obscure things I come across. I've been exposed to a good deal of mythology, of course, so you never know when one bit or another will surface - usually changed in some way.

DL: Your women characters have changed over the years with your new books. Do you find a lot of gender stereotypes in Fantasy?

SG: There are gender stereotypes everywhere, and I've noticed something strange: if I'm not mistaken, books with "helpless" characters, both male and female, seem to be more popular; the bigger the "fraidy-cat," in effect, the better the sales. I have a weird theory to cover the
trend, but I'm not quite sure how sound the reasoning of the theory is.
The situation links into the very popular "sitcoms" on tv these days, I
think, which makes the theory even more convoluted. If you'd like me to
go into the theor ùy, let me know. It isn't a short explanation.
Other than that, I have to say that my personal taste in characters is
tired to death by the "young, inexperienced beginner" too many people
use as major characters. That kind of character also seems to be part of
the trend toward using the helpless as role models, and I'm afraid I
can't connect to it. I like to see people who already know what they're
doing tackling a bad situation, not someone groping through the time
making it up as she/he goes. The second *can* be entertaining and
riveting, but most writers don't seem to be able to handle the
crossover. Does that make any sense?

DL: Maybe beginning writers have trouble with the second kind of character because they don't feel experienced enough to write them. Tell us about your theory?

SG: To state the theory as briefly as possible, we have too many nonfighters in this country today. Nonfighters can't cope with a situation the way a fighter can, nor should they be expected to... See, I can't be brief. There are two kinds of people in the world: fighters and nonfighters. The fighter carves out of the wilderness a place that people can call home, and then defends the area against anyone trying to take it. The nonfighter then builds on the land and makes the "home" comfortable. Fighters and nonfighters *should* be partners because neither can go forward without the other, but our weird situation in this country has changed that state for the worse. Nonfighters call fighters "warmongers," and fighters call nonfighters "peaceniks" and "wooses." Did you know that after a war, the birth rate of male children goes up? It's an established fact, and shows that Mother Nature is trying to replace the males who were killed in the war. The trend continues until the population is balanced again. Now, think back to how long it's been since we had a war “ ON OUR OWN SOIL. That, I think, is very much a part of the need for a change. We haven't had a war in this country in many years, so Mother Nature thinks we need fewer fighters - and therefore causes less of them to be born. That leaves much too large a preponderance of nonfighters, which explains why our reps in the government are trying to legislate everyone into safety instead of doing something more direct - and more effective.

Now, too many of the nonfighters are unhappy with their jobs and their lives. They're afraid to lose their job because they don't know if they can get another, so they swallow down their unhappiness and don't dare to say "boo" in their places of work. But when they get home they watch sitcoms, because then they can laugh at the fools in the program WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT BEING SAFE. The fool on the screen can't hurt them, and certainly can't take their job away. They can't tell fools off in their lives, so they laugh at the fools on dtv.

To extend the idea, the nonfighter reader can most easily identify with the helpless character. They know they would be just as helpless in the same situation, so identification is easiest. Phew! Does any of that make sense to you? There's more, but I won't go into it now.

DL: That is very interesting. So, how do you come up with characters? Which are easier for you to write male or female characters?

SG: To take the second part of your question first, females are easier for me to write than males because *I'm* female. I've had enough close male friends in my life to have learned that men and women may look at the same thing, but they're not *seeing* the same thing. I don't understand the male point of view more than distantly and from the outside, so I have to fake it as best I can. My male fans sometimes tell me if I'm doing a good enough job, and I've been told that I'm getting closer...:] Now, how do I come up with characters... Sometimes I have the character first, and then think about a situation that will give her/them the most trouble. Sometimes I have a situation, and think about what kind of person would have the most difficulty with that situation. But then, sometimes the two come together at the same time, and all I have to do is write it down.

DL: What authors influenced your writing?

SG: The very first s.f. book I ever read was at the age of 12, and the book was Wild Talent by Wilson Tucker. The book grabbed me so hard that the fact I couldn't understand what was going on didn't matter. After that I started to read juveniles, went through them fast, then continued with more adult fare. (Ahem) After having been exposed to most of the writers of the day, my favorite was - and still is - Robert Heinlein.

Even back then I noticed that Heinlein didn't just tell a good story - with a writing style that to this day I can't copy - but he also included excellent advice for living. For instance, I picked up what I consider my most important rule of life: honor is an individual thing. It doesn't matter what anyone else in the world does, you're responsible only for yourself. If you lie a znd cheat and steal, what you're doing is announcing to the world that you can't get what you have *without* lying, cheating, and stealing. Even if no one else in the world is honest, that doesn't matter. Only what you do matters, so whether or not you behave honorably is entirely up to you.

Wow. I'd never had things explained like that before, and I knew Heinlein was right. I decided to live my life as honorably as possible, and also try to show characters who do the same. In addition I also try to pass on what I consider good advice. And, hopefully, tell a good story at the same time.

Over the years, I've realized that what Heinlein said was that we need heroes. We don't have enough heroes in our culture, so I do what I can to add to the numbers.

DL: We certainly need heroes now. Do you think September 11 will change the genre? Has it affected your writing?

I think people will just go back to their old ways of looking at things as September 11 fades in their memories. Too many people still think that trouble will disappear if you ignore it, which is what made the trouble to begin with. But fearful people don't understand that point, and truthfully they shouldn't have to. It's something that fighters ought to be facing, not non-fighters, but we have too many non-fighters around these days due to the lack of wars in our own country. Are you aware of the fact that after a war more boy babies are born than girl babies? It's an established fact; nature is trying to correct the imbalance that death in war brings. It's my theory that the same happens with fighter and non-fighter kids. If there are wars, more fighter babies are born. If there are no wars, more non-fighter babies are born. Since we've had no wars in our country in a very long time, the number of fighters in our popul Íation is way down. September 11 will likely change that, but not in time to do much good. Seeing tv commercials against "violence" gets me very upset. The various stars come on and state that there's never a need for violence. Excuse me? What world do they live in? You might want to hope that violence will never be necessary, but in the real world violence is always there and waiting to pounce. The only way to cope with that is to be prepared, not pretend it will never happen. I raised my sons (fighters, like me) with the attitude that's proper for fighters: you don't start it, but if someone else does the starting you do your best to finish it. One more comment and I'll get off the soapbox. Isn't it about time that people were told the truth about school - and "otherwhere"
- bullies? Bullies aren't fighters; they're non-fighters who are being hurt elsewhere, probably at home. If you hurt a fighter kid, that kid will get even with you even if he or she has to wait until you sleep or he/she grows up. If you hurt a non-fighter child, that child is too afraid of you to do anything to you, so he/she looks for someone weaker to pass the hurt along to. A true fighter will never pick on a non-fighter; there's no challenge in besting someone who doesn't want to fight in the first place, and the only name you get from that isn't a nice one. If we make sure to raise our fighter kids in the proper way, no non-fighter will have to fear them. Right now our fighter kids are being penalized for being what they were born to be, and that's a recipe for trouble if there ever was one. As far as my writing goes, it will stay the same as it's always been. I've been on this soapbox for quite some time.

DL: There are a lot of books by authors like Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Terry Goodkind, etc. that are popular. Do you find a lot of the Fantasy books hitting the bestseller lists derivative? Do you think they’re helpful to further the field?

SG: Most of the books that are really popular aren't derivative, but are new ways to look at old ideas. The only problem is, once something becomes popular too many editors want the same kind of thing rather than something else. Experienced editors know better, of course, but there are a lot of newcomers in the field these days. And what furthers the field is anything so well done that you can't put it down. That kind of book is welcome no matter what story line it has.

DL: The Harry Potter books have brought a lot of young readers into the genre. What do you think of this? Is it helpful to the genre?

SG: I haven't read the Harry Potter books, but anything that makes kids stretch their imaginations is a Good Thing. And once they're past the simple beginnings, they will probably move on to more mature efforts. I think that's what the Star Trek people are trying with Enterprise this season. The only problem with that idea is the much-too-PC characters and scripts being used. I watched the series with high hopes, but have since given it up. No one in their right mind would appoint an overgrown boyscout to command a star ship, but that's what's been done with both Enterprise and Andromeda. Too bad, too. They both had lots of promise.

DL: Movies are a different medium, but do you think any of your books would make a good movie?

A number of my books would make good movies, and apparently someone in Hollywood agrees with that. My agent there is working with a producer who wants to do Haunted House, my first Harlequin Intrigue, as a tv movie. It's the best mystery I've done so far, so I hope it does get made into a movie. After that I mean to try to interest them in The Far Side of Forever, which is a fantasy. The book is very visual, so it ought to translate really well to the big screen.

DL: What books will we see from you in the future?

That all depends on which proposal is bought next. I have a couple of science fiction ideas going around, a couple of fantasy ideas, a mystery, and a mainstream serial murderer novel.

DL: Thank you very much for your time. We’ll all look forward to your future endeavors.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Robin McKinley

Fairy tales are an important part of the Fantasy genre. They play a part in many Fantasy books and are part of its history. Many authors use fairy tales as a springboard for their stories, either as retellings or using their elements to write new books to capture the interests of readers. Robin McKinley is one of these authors. She is an imaginative author of revised fairy tales and two Epic Fantasy books. Her characters are realistic, the stories memorable and descriptions vivid, providing readers with deeply unforgettable books.

Ms. McKinley’s first book was Beauty. It is a strong retelling of the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.” The book follows the original story closely, but the author deepens the characters with r ealistic motivations and flaws. Beauty is a strong, practical young woman that develops a friendship with the Beast that grows deeper as time passes. She explores the magic of the castle to learn how to help the sad creature. A dramatic story is created by the author’s descriptive talent for bringing fairy tale worlds to life.

Her next book is a collection of short stories. The Door in the Hedge contains four fairy tale stories. Two retell the fairy tales of “The Princess and the Frog” and “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” The other two are the author’s works told in fairy tale style: “The Stolen Princess” and “The Hunting of the Hind.” They are all told in Ms. McKinley’s unique style, breathing new life into some original fairy tales.

The author ventured into Epic Fantasy with the next book The Blue Sword. Her Fantasy world is called Damar. Harry, the main character, is a young woman who comes from a sedate culture. She is kidnapped by the king of Damar and taken to a harsh desert kingdom where she discovers her magic, finds the legendary Blue Sword and becomes a warrior. This is a story of a mystical land full of magic and destinies. Ms. McKinley fills the book with memorable images with her writing.

Her next book was the second Epic Fantasy novel The Hero and the Crown. It is a prequel to the previous book, taking place hundreds of years earlier in the land of Damar. Aerin is the daughter of the king. She has a painful childhood, facing the death of her mother and treated as an outcast by the people. With the Blue Sword and a special ointment, Aerin becomes a renowned dragon slayer. This is a powerful book with strong themes. The author won a Newberry Medal for this book.

The Outlaws of Sherwood was a bit of a departure from Ms. McKinley’s usual stories. She adds a vivid texture and realistic struggles to the characters of the Robin Hood legend. Though not a Fantasy, the story is given interesting new twists with feminist themes included. The book has romance and a lot of adventure. It is very entertaining.

Next, Robin McKinley turned to an adult fairy tale with a dark edge with Deerskin. Princess Lissar grows up with the same beauty as her dead mother. Her father abuses her throughout her childhood which ends in a sexual assault. Lissar flees her home into the woods. She spends a long time to find a new life, but without the traditional fairy tale ending. This book is not for children. It is a disturbing read that deals with the hard issues of child abuse. Ms. McKinley does an excellent job of telling a difficult story.

The author has branched out in recent years with other books. She has a book with vampires called Sunshine. The world has been taken over by vampires. Sunshine, who works in a bakery, is kidnapped by vampires and held captive with a vampire named Constantine. She uses her magical powers to free herself and Constantine then they flee. Together they strive to save the world from the control of the vampires. This is an interesting, entertaining different book by the author.

Her latest book uses Pegasus from Greek mythology set in another world. Pegasus is the story of a princess bonded to her Pegasus. The two species live in uneasy coexistence on their world. Special speaker magicians are the only ones who can communicate between the two species until the princess and her friend come along. Their ability to talk to each other threatens the status quo of the world. This is a beautifully written new book to the author’s body of work.

Fairy tales are an important part of the Fantasy genre. Readers of all ages have been exposed to fairy tales and enjoy them. Robin McKinley is a Fantasy author that retells fairy tales, creates new ones and writes Epic Fantasy using her imaginative talent. Her books add depths to the characters that live in vivid settings. She incorporates modern day issues and important themes in her books. More information can be found at her site:

Other books:

A Knot in the Grain and Other Stories

Rose Daughter

Spindle’s End



A Knot in the Grain