Yesterday, I reviewed Darkling, Yasmine Galenorn’s latest book in her Otherworld (Sisters of the Moon) series. Today, she’s generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions.
DE: The books are all written in first person, the “first” being whichever sister is the focus of that book. Because of your intense schedule, where you’re usually writing one and in edits or galleys for another, do you ever find that sometimes the voice of one “bleeds” (no pun intended) into one of the other stories? Or does one of the sisters sometimes jump into a different sister’s book and want to say something from her perspective? How do you handle that?
YG: Actually, I’m very good at narrowing my focus and multi-tasking, so this hasn’t been the problem I thought it would be. The only time it was a problem was when I started Changeling, because I hadn’t realized my publisher wanted me to write the books from different POVs—I had planned that it would all be from Camille’s perspective. I tossed 200 pages when I figured out that I was writing Delilah the way Camille saw her, not the way she saw herself. Once it dawned on me that each sister sees herself differently than her other sisters see her, I was able to make the leap. I like the round robin approach because we get to see how Camille, Delilah, and Menolly view each other—and then how they view themselves, and the differing perspectives don’t always match up.
When I start a new book, it’s like I “jump out” of one skin, into the next, and settle in. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Camille wouldn’t do it this way” or “Oh man, Menolly would react a totally different way” but I don’t think bleed-through ever presents a serious obstacle for me.
DE: Each of the sisters is involved in at least a triangulated relationship, if not a more complex web. The relationships show genuine love and growing trust in a way that is unique. That a protagonist can successfully have more than one lover is fairly new ground in traditional publishing. Laurell K. Hamilton deals with this in her books, but, in my opinion, it’s a means to a different end. Even many of the erotica publishers insist that once the protagonist and her “hero” have sex, neither character can have sex/make love with anyone else. Did you meet any initial or do you meet any ongoing resistance to that from your editor or publisher? Was that a discussion that happened early in the series, or have they simply trusted you enough to follow your vision?
YG: My editor(s) seem quite happy with the direction in which I’ve taken my sisters. I started out with a different editor for Witchling and Changeling. Christine Zika was also with me through all my mysteries—let me take this new series where I needed to take it. Then she was hired by a different house and I started working with Kate Seaver, my current editor, who is as wonderful—and innovative—as Christine was.
At first, the publishers weren’t even sure what the series was—and to be honest—neither was I. The story arc has evolved as I’ve written the books. And the sisters and their relationships have evolved organically through the writing. I think what helps it work in my Alterverse is that I haven’t tried to foist anything on the characters from the outside. Multiple pairings seem to be their natural bent, so the situations ‘feel’ natural in the writing.
The same with the bisexual and gay characters—I don’t have any agenda with regards to the sexual bent of my characters. They are who they are. My current editor did discuss the same-sex scene with me—the one Menolly has in Darkling. In no way did she ask me to remove it, but she gently reminded me, some readers might be uncomfortable with a F/F sex scene. I thought about it, but it had to stay. Menolly is bisexual, and with the background she has—with what Dredge did to her—she is leery of men. I refuse to tiptoe around the issue. She will—on occasion—have women lovers. Actually, all the sisters have the possibility, but for Menolly it seems to play out more. If it pushes a few buttons, well, then it will have to push a few buttons. The worlds I create aren’t sanitized—they aren’t nice and pat and tied up with a pretty bow.
For one thing, I’m openly bisexual (although I resist labels—I happened to fall in love with a man; it could have been a woman depending on who I met). Actually, when you look at human nature, monogamy is a social construct, for the most part. Now, I’m monogamous in practice, but I can understand the natural instincts to gravitate toward different partners. It can cause a lot of havoc, but it also opens up whole new avenues for plot and character development.
I also think that since I’m writing urban fantasy instead of romance (regardless of what you see on the spine of the book), there’s less resistance to the multiple pairings. I’m not focused on relationships or sex, they just happen to be part of the story—they aren’t the whole plot.
DE: Have you made any changes in your own spiritual practice as you explore the worlds and the practices of the sisters more deeply?
YG: No. The Otherworld Series—and the Chintz ‘n China Series, for that matter—while they have a background in folklore, and while actual magical practices can’t help but creep in, they’re both fantasy. Fiction.
My spiritual/magical practice is grounded in…what…at this point…28 years of magical practice I have as an eclectic shamanic witch. I do work with dragon energy and I’ve always worked with Faerie magic, but I consider my spirituality and my writing two separate parts of my life. I am a witch. I am a writer. I’m not writing metaphysical nonfiction wrapped up in the guise of fiction—I already wrote nonfiction books on the subject. While my spirituality guides the way I approach life, and being a writer guides the way I perceive life, they don’t necessarily overlap all the time.
DE: Have you created an overview for the whole series, with a specific ending in site, or does that shift from book to book? Is the series growing organically, or do you make sure to hit certain touchstones in each book?
YG: No—no specific ending. There will be an end to the spirit seal story arc eventually, but another story arc is opening up in Dragon Wytch (book 4, which will be out July 1st 2008) and there will be others. The series is evolving organically. Although, I have to say, by this point—I’m about to start book six—I have an extensive research notebook detailing story threads, subplots, characters, aspects of Earthside/Otherworld, etc.
DE: One of the things I love about the series is the strength of the love and the sense of hope between the sisters and those close to them, even when things are at their darkest. They’re active, and they use love as a catalyst rather than a reason to hide or not act out of fear of loss. It seems that so many decisions nowadays are made out of fear instead of out of love, hope, or integrity. Is that something rooted in your own belief?
YG: No, actually. I’m not an optimist by nature, and I don’t hold much hope for humanity’s future with the way things are going. But we can’t give up. In my opinion, we simply have no other option but to continue the fight, to do what we can, and cross our fingers that maybe, just maybe, it’s enough.
I make my decisions by looking at what needs to be done. What is my part in the scheme of life? I try to act out of a sense of honor. I’d defend my loved ones to the death, because nobody hurts those I protect/call family. I suppose, for me, a sense of honor with heart is a strong motivator. I do recognize, though, that some people confuse honor and pride—and that brings tragedy.
The sisters were raised to be the daughters of a Guardsman, they were raised to be courageous, to stand up for those in need, to follow through on promises made. However, each sister is a little different in the way she approaches danger and action.
As I said, Camille feels a strong sense of duty/honor to her family, to her father, to those she’s bound to by oath or by heart. Camille is the one who would go rushing willy-nilly into battle, screaming, “Do you want to live forever?”
Delilah, well Delilah’s trying to find her courage. She’s trying to grow past her fear. You’ll see—in Death Maiden—how she is evolving out of the ‘Scaredy Cat” into a courageous young woman/feline, ready to stand her ground.
And Menolly, oh yes, for Menolly it’s all about the underdog. She does what she needs to, even when it’s uncomfortable or ugly, because she’s unwilling to let the sadists and the perverts of the world win. She’s been to hell and back, and she’s determined to prevent others from falling to the same fate.
All in all, the Otherworld series is really about the underdogs of the world. The heroes who get thrust into the journey rather than the ones who go looking for it—the people who are scared out of their minds but they know they have to fight and so they somehow find the courage to face their demons. Really, my Alterverse is all about the misfits who band together to save what they can, to help where they can, and to have one hell of a party doing it. And by gods, if they’re going to fall to the enemy—they’re determined to take the bad guys with them! ~grins~
(And no, do not read anything into that—I’m not killing off the Sisters. Or Maggie. I promise you this: Maggie may be in danger at times, but Maggie the Gargoyle will never be tortured or killed).
DE: Thank you, Yasmine!
USA Today bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn writes the bestselling urban fantasy Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon Series for Berkley (Witchling, Changeling, Darkling, etc.). She also wrote the paranormal Chintz ‘n China Mystery Series, and the Bath & Beauty Mystery Series (the latter written as India Ink) and eight nonfiction metaphysical books. She’s been in the Craft for over 25 years, is a shamanic witch, and describes her life as a blend of teacups and tattoos. She lives in Bellevue WA with her husband Samwise and their four cats. Yasmine can be reached via her website at www.galenorn.com and via MySpace: www.myspace.com/yasminegalenorn.