Writer’s Ink: Emily June Street

ejsheadnew1If you follow me–at all–you’ll know Emily June Street and I have not only an intense and amazing working relationship, but a close friendship as well. You may or may not be aware, but we’ve never met in person. She lives on the West Coast, I live on the East Coast, and 2,800+ miles separate us. However, we will fix this little detail when we attend the Writer’s Digest Conference together in New York City in August 2017. Can you imagine how excited I am?!

Emily June Street is the author of six novels: The Gantean, The Cedna, Sterling, Mage and Source, Secret Room, and The Velocipede Races. She has degrees in psychology and library science, but she divides her time between teaching Pilates and exploring alternate worlds in writing. She founded Luminous Creatures Press with Beth Deitchman in 2013.

Look for the next installment in the Tales of Blood & Light series, Light and Shadow, in 2018!
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Thanks for stopping by my website, Emily! Now let’s dive into some questions:

TS: Mage and Source is book four in your Tales of Blood & Light series, but for those who may not have read the foregoing books, could you give us a three sentence summary of the novel?

EJS: Magic is dead. The only hope for restoring it lies in the hands of a talented ex-mage and an enemy spy thrown together by fate and unexpected love. But an eastern foe seeks to destroy them both before they can uncover the true path back to magic..

old-books-1534109TS: I’ve only written, at the longest, trilogy arcs–three books that had to make sense from page one of the first book to the last page of the third book. Tales of Blood & Light is projected to be a whopping seven-book series. For lack of better wording, how in the world did you do it–keep everything organized, not drop plot threads, and maintain a solid story structure (one George R.R. Martin could certainly learn from you!)?
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EJS: Well, Tales of Blood and Light began as one book, The Gantean, no plans for any others in a series. Then I decided I needed a Book Two to tell the “villain’s” point of view from The Gantean, so I wrote The Cedna. Then I realized I needed to resolve the cataclysmic disaster that ends The Cedna’s story, and so I planned a book three, which was going to be Tianiq, Leila’s missing daughter’s story. Then I wrote a “companion book” called Night Queen, which was sort of a prequel to the planned trilogy set in the Lethemia world. Then I decided I didn’t like book three, Tianiq’s book, and wanted to revise entirely. Fortunately this was early on, well before I ever put out The Gantean, so I was able to revise all three books to adjust for this.
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But then I decided to write Sterling’s story, which came out very easily, and felt like a natural next step after the Cedna’s book. Only after writing Sterling did I decide to sit down and formally examine what I was trying to do with this series. That was when I finally realized I was telling a story about the fall and return of magic in this world, an apocalypse and a restoration. I was able to tease out from the exiting stories that I’d set up these seven stones (the Ophirae) that were vital to the return of magic, and thus, I could have seven books, each essentially describing a romantic relationship and the re-awakening of one of the seven stones needed to restore magic to this world. So, that’s when I finally realized I needed seven books. I tore apart everything and rewrote parts of all the books, dismantled the book Night Queen and turned it into Mage and Source, and now here I am with a completely pantsed seven-book series in the works!

So the answer lurking within all those words is…there was no planning, and what someone should learn from my experience is: this is not the best approach to writing a seven-book series!

Fortunately, I have a pretty good memory, which helps me keep track of the logistics of the story arc—that and a whole bunch of slips of paper and several maps. I also try to 1) trust in my subconscious to unearth the threads of the story that need to be unearthed; 2) keep track of essential facts with lots of folders and post-its (I like to have important information and details on paper rather than on the computer, as I like spreading out my papers on the floor and getting a big overall picture every now and again); and 3) endless reworking and rewriting.

In retrospect, this is a very labor-intensive way to write books, definitely not for people who don’t like the slog of rewrites and massive amounts of editing. Be a planner if you want a streamlined process! I’ve gone the planned route for other books, and it is much easier and it involves a lot less rewriting. That said, I do enjoy the endless managed chaos of my Tales of Blood & Light process. There’s something deeply satisfying about pantsing a story. It feels organic and sometimes you surprise yourself with connections and storylines you’d never have planned.

.TS: Laith fascinates me in this book. His chemistry with Elena is undeniable. Tell me, did you use a blueprint for either character (Laith or Elena)–someone in “our world” who was your inspiration for creating either of them in Lethemia’s world? If so, who? What were the standout characteristics that you tried to translate over? If not, what famous person or character in this world might be most like Laith and/or Elena, and in what ways?
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talking-1430913EJS: I rarely model my characters after real people, honestly. I suppose my characters are creations “borged” from a multitude of people I’ve known, some I might not even remember, and also from parts of myself that don’t see the light of day. Laith does share some character features with my husband, Brady, namely being obsessed with his own interests and being fairly impervious to the negative opinions of others. Brady also tends to do what Brady wants, just like Laith. My husband, however, is a quiet man, and Laith is a huge talker. I have reams and reams of cut pages of Laith, just telling his stories. For a while he really wanted his own book all to himself, but he just rambled on and on.
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I had no particular model for Elena, although no doubt her perfectionistic tendencies and her favoring of reason over emotion come straight from me. I certainly haven’t used any famous person’s personality to shape either character; again, that’s just not my style.

I have done the Myers-Briggs Personality test for most of my characters. Laith is an ENTP and Elena is an ISTJ—very opposite types, but united by that thinking element. (Note: I am an INTJ, and I think my strongest domain is that T, that “thinking” quality. I find it very hard to write “F”s, or feeling types, because my brain just doesn’t work that way. I think so far only Sterling and Erich have been “feeling” types, and often I really had to pause and think to myself…what would someone entirely led by their feelings do in this situation? In some ways I think “F”s are easier for people to relate to, because that “T” quality can be very idiosyncratic, following a logic that isn’t always readily apparent, whereas everyone understands the basic human emotions and can relate to them immediately.

Appearance-wise Laith might look like a cross between Aiden Turner and Riz Ahmed, but taller than either of them, and Elena might look like Li Bingbing.

TS: You’ve told me that, according to many of your test readers, Costas Galatien, King of Lethemia, is not one of your more popular characters. Having read the books, though, I really dig the guy. He’s certainly a layered character with lots of depth. Where and how was he born in your mind? What went into his development? How did you pull off his tortured, wise, just, angsty, disciplined, and–dare I say it–dreamy layers? Asking for a friend. 😉
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king-1417290EJS: Costas (an ESTJ) is a favorite character of mine, too, but not for the reasons you may think. What I love about him is how we see him through the eyes of every one of my narrators, but never through his own eyes. As a king, he’s a man defined by his people and his mystique, and each character really does see him differently—most of them manage to see his complexities, too, but different complexities, with various beliefs about what is likable in him and what is not.
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I think some readers disliked how he treated Leila in The Gantean. They felt he wasn’t enough of a hero, that he was self-centered, a bit of a jerk. That is probably because they were sympathizing with Leila, the narrator, and at some points in the book, Leila and Costas were in direct conflict to one another in their actions (if not their in their emotions).
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Costas is complicated partly because his position is a complex one. He’s the King, but he is also a person with strong inner boundaries about privacy. He has his own desires that have nothing to do with his obligations as King, but he very strongly feels the duty of rule (even if he is sometimes unaware of its privilege). Sometimes he’s faced with difficult choices because of this—his personal desires (e.g., having Leila as his lover) are often in direct opposition to what is expected of him as King (e.g., marrying Stesichore Ricknagel and reuniting the Ten Houses). Costas picked duty over love at first, failing to understand the significance of the aetherlumo bind he shared with Leila. Unlike Laith, with his magical lore, Costas did not immediately comprehend that the aetherlumo is a BIND, meaning it not only joins him irrevocably with Leila, but it is forged by forces more powerful than human needs and desires. I think part of Costas’s character development is coming to understand that he cannot control everything, that there are forces to which even King Costas is subject. He is a controlling man, and he’s going to have to learn what he can and should control, and what he cannot and should not.

Costas is forever a work in progress, as you know. Each book shows a different side of him. In Mage and Source, we see a friend and subject’s view of him through Laith’s eyes. We also see an enemy’s view of him, as Elena has been sent to assassinate him at the behest of her Emperor. But Elena quickly complicates things, since her animosity isn’t based in her own emotions, only on her loyalty to her nation. Later in the series we’ll have a narrator who holds great personal animosity towards Costas. That’s been a tricky storyline to negotiate!

TS: I love the colors so prevalent in this series. Was there any order in your plans as you assigned a particular color of magestone with a particular mage? How did you plan who got what stone? Is the aetherlight–the colorful strands that appear INSIDE the stones–in any way connected to the owners, and if so, how did you decide on those colors? Are they representative at all of personality or background?
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EJS: I really love that you seem to think I planned anything about these books. Sadly, no, my strategy has been entirely “on the fly.” If I had planned, I would have planned better and followed some kind of recognizable color theory. But no, it’s all completely idiosyncratic. In this world, people have auras of aetherlight, and (in my mind, at least) the color of their aura does say something about their personality. But it’s one hundred percent based on my own personal feelings about colors and personality, not any existing color theory.
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So Leila’s colors are watery and cool, and her personality is cool and unemotional, but resilient and adaptable, like water.

The Cedna’s color was black, since she was embodying the absence and darkness of the world. Her elemental themes were fire and ash, so her color was the char that was left after the fire.

Sterling’s color was sunshine yellow, since her basic temperament is optimistic and bright, despite her sufferings. Her elemental theme was air, and I see the air around her being shot through with sunlight.

Laith is opal, shiny and shimmering, full of hidden colors. His elemental theme was aether, the stuff of magic, so I wanted his aetherlight to reflect the power and complexity of magic. He is also cool, like Leila. He explained in The Gantean that cool aetherlight people are draw to warm aetherlight people, and vice versa. Elena’s elemental theme is earth, so her aetherlight is green and rich and warm, like healthy leaves.

color-1186259I have tried to reflect the aetherlight colors of my narrators on the covers of the books. The elemental themes of the narrators are indicated on the back covers, in the taglines: flow like water; fall like ash; rise on air; bright as aether, strong as earth.

As far as the colors of the Ophirae magestones and whether they match those of the couples who ignite them, unfortunately, not really. It’s been more about which stone was available given the storyline, and given the fact that these plotlines are completely pantsed, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for applying any logical color theory after the fact. I have to work with what I’ve already set up and written into “the canon.” For the Ophirae colors, I literally just picked colors I liked way back when and those are the colors, end of story. No planning at all.

TS: Stepping outside the series: do you have other books you’re working on, or is Tales of Blood and Light your sole focus for now? If so, can we get a peek at what we can expect to hit the shelves at some future point?
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EJS: Well, Tales of Blood and Light still has three books to go. All are at least partially drafted. I’m working hard on Book Five, Light and Shadow, right now, with a massive rewrite/revision inspired by a certain brilliant editor.
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TS: Who is this nefarious creature!?
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I have also co-written two all new fantasy books with a certain fellow author who greatly resembles my brilliant editor, as you might know.

TS: Apparently, there are doppelgangers.

charleston-mansion-1204334These books are: River Running (elemental magic and romance in quasi-American South Reconstruction Era) and The Eighth Octave (music, magic, and mystery in a fairytale 18th-century world). We’ll be pitching these books to agents at an upcoming conference in New York City. *gulp*

I’m working on a new fantasy series with a first book tentatively titled “Midnight Oil,” too. Similar to Tales of Blood & Light, it involves culture clashes, empire, and magic, but the world and the magic system are quite different.

TS: Time for some fun! Quick Answers (don’t think longer than a second for these):
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Song of Ice and Fire or Lord of the Rings? EJS: Apples and oranges. I pick fruit salad.
Piano or Cello? EJS: That’s just mean and wrong. Why, Tamara, why?
TS: Because… Westley
Phantom of the Opera or Les Mis? EJS: Finally, one I can answer! Phantom of the Opera.
Coffee or Hot Chocolate? EJS: Thank goodness for some easy ones. Coffee.
Yoga or Pilates? EJS: Pilates 4 evah
Editing or Writing? EJS: Both, always.
Spring or Fall? EJS: Spring.
Archery or Sword Play? EJS: Archery.
Dragons or Phoenixes? EJS: Phoenixes.
Legolas or Robin Hood? EJS: Legolas.
Co-Writing or Writing Alone? 😉 EJS: Piano or cello?
Facebook or Twitter? EJS: Facebook, mostly, but sometimes it annoys me.
London or Paris? EJS: Cello?
Travel choices: Europe or the Caribbean? EJS: Piano?
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And finally…
Heart of a Dragon or Guardian of the Vale? 😉 EJS: Heart of a Dragon!
HOAD Box Set
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Justification for any of the above? 😉 EJS: Emily does what Emily wants.
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Thanks, Emily! Check out Mage and Source, available now on Amazon!
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Mage and Source Cover

The next world arrives in a shattering fall.

The Cedna is dead, and magic is broken. Laith Amar, a famous mage, must learn to live without his skill as all of Lethemia reels from the Fall. Fighting despair and skeptical colleagues, Laith seeks any solution that can return his talents.

From hidden sources, hope emerges.

Angered by losing the war against Lethemia, the Eastern Emperor dispatches Elena Rith, a trained potion-mistress, to assassinate the Lethemian King Costas Galatien and to learn what she can of the West’s fallen magic. Alone in a foreign country, Elena battles new hazards and old fears as an Eastern hunter tracks her.

A new alchemy ignites an old power.

After fate throws them together, Laith and Elena discover an intriguing method to revive magic that depends on them both. But when Elena’s foe finds her, can Laith save her from a past of pain and violation?

Only love can resurrect Laith’s faith and Elena’s hope, but darkness surrounds them as their enemies close in.

Magic’s restoration hangs in the balance.

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The Cedna: Emily June Street

I have the pleasure of hosting fantasy author extraordinaire, Emily June Street, on my website today, where she discusses her latest novel, The Cedna, with me–its magic system, which of her characters she relates to most, and why she’s put out with me for making her answer the last question. 😉

Come read what she has to say, and then do yourself a favor and look up her books on Amazon. Besides The Cedna, she also has The Gantean for sale, and other works such as The Velocipede Races. I highly recommend all of them; Emily is one of the best there is. Follow her on her website or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

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1.) In three sentences, tell me what The Cedna is about.

The Cedna is the second book in an epic fantasy series that explores intersections of women, fantasy, and magic. In a world governed by the magical powers of blood and light, a rebellious woman selected to serve as a sacrifice desperately seeks a different solution to save her waning culture. When she travels south to save herself and her people, ethnic prejudices, old animosities, and a handsome stranger quickly overturn her plans, leading her on a world-shattering adventure of love, heartbreak, and war.

g-vs-e-2-16004072.) Every good story has a protagonist and an antagonist. Tell me about the character, the Cedna. What characteristics of each of these does she carry in her? How does she reconcile the two? 

A big part of the exploration I am doing in my series, Tales of Blood & Light, is about perspectives. Each book is told from the perspective of a different character, and my hope is that each book acts as a puzzle piece to fit into a larger whole that tells a broad and deep story. So each volume in the series lets the reader take another step back and get a wider view on the world and the story.

The Cedna was one of the antagonistic characters from the first book, The Gantean, though she was kept a bit in the background, in the wings, waiting for her entrance. We knew she had abandoned her people in a time of need, and we knew she had done some terrible deeds that affected the first book’s narrator, Leila.

Book Two is the Cedna’s bold entrance, where we finally see what her motivations have been for everything she has done. She becomes the protagonist of her own story, and it’s left for the reader to decide whether she is good, evil, or simply human.

I haven’t written typical protagonists and antagonists in these books, for a few reasons. First, so much of how people frame conflicts has to do with perspective, so this series, as an exercise in perspective, has a lot of “grey area,” rather than the clearer “black and white” of a standard story conflict. There is a lot of fluidity in my characters in terms of whether they are serving as protagonists or antagonists, depending on which character is the current narrator.

The other aspect of the books that makes discussing protagonists versus antagonists tricky is that in both The Gantean and The Cedna (and in subsequent books) I’d say one of the central conflicts is an internal one: the characters versus themselves. That isn’t to say that there is no external plot conflict—there is, but each character has a war going on within herself where she’s playing both protagonist and antagonist, and I think this is true of the Cedna more than any of the other narrators I’ve written for this series.

The Cedna is the figurehead of a desperate culture whose leaders will kill her to protect their livelihood. She has been told for her whole life that this sacrifice is natural and that she should be accepting of—or even honored by—her role. In direct conflict to that we have her very natural feeling that she would prefer to live, and live on her own terms. This conflict within her gives rise to a whole bunch of choices that spiral out into other conflicts—setting her at odds sometimes with her own people and sometimes with the southern culture her Gantean people hate.

I don’t want to discuss how the Cedna reconciles these internal conflicts, because that’s really the crux of the book and the conclusion of her story. I guess you’ll have to read it to find out!

3.) Was this book harder to write than the Gantean, or easier? Why?

In terms of time, it was easier. The Gantean took me decades to write, partly because I started it when I was really young, and then I had to rewrite it over and over again as I became a more skillful writer. The Cedna only took me years, maybe five or six. With The Cedna, I had a better idea of where the story was headed, although there were a couple of big issues I had to figure out—one example is that for the timeline to work and to have the Cedna’s story dovetail with the story of The Gantean, I needed a large chunk of time to pass without having a lot of action occur, so I had to hide her out somewhere for a decade or so. That was a tricky decision and a tricky portion of the book to write.

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4.) Your magic system is so elaborate in this book so that I was gaping in awe at parts. How did you conceive of the system? What went into its development?

The magic system developed very organically out of my imagination. I knew I wanted it to be partly emotion-based—the “matter” of the magic was what I might call psychic energy or the energy of emotion. That energy is also connected to the earth—crystals, to be specific—and relies on those crystals to be focused and channeled.

I wanted to have magic be a predictable force that was the same across cultures, but I wanted the two cultures (Gantean and Lethemian) to approach its use and maintenance differently. The Ganteans use the life energy in blood to maintain magic, whereas the Lethemians use the life energy from reproduction (sex) to maintain it. So the Ganteans’ relationship to magic is one of pain and darkness; the Lethemians’ is one of pleasure and light. How they relate to this power tells us a lot about their cultures.

Conceiving of the system took years but had no particular plan. I talked about it a lot with my husband while we walked our dogs. We often talked about altered mind states and how reality is perceived differently when your senses are altered by ecstatic experiences or psychedelic drugs. I wanted the magic in these books to be like that, an altered state in which practitioners can perceive and affect parts of reality their regular senses can’t normally observe.

The magic system is really one of the centerpieces of the whole series, I think, and if you can stick with all seven books, you’ll probably see the magic system getting more and more involved in the plot. Everything in these books gets developed very slowly over the course of seven books; they are definitely written for patient readers. That was a conscious choice on my part, even though I recognize that most people these days prefer fast, straight-forward reads. I let myself write the books I wanted to write with the Lethemia series, and one of the things I like best about them is how they really are like a jigsaw puzzle, and no single book in the series can tell the whole story. I figure if a reader is too impatient to enjoy a slower process of discovery, so be it; there are plenty of other faster-paced books for them to read!

ship-log-book-15639515.) What’s your favorite name of a place or a character that you made up for the story? How did you arrive at these names? Did you just open a dictionary and close your eyes and point, or was there a method? (Hint: my favorite is The Hinge; what an awesome place/entity name!)

I loosely organized the naming conventions of the cultures involved in the story by existing nationalities and then made certain kinds of tweaks. The Gantean names are based on Inuit languages, though I added a few additional syllables that I liked so I could use certain names I came up with that I wanted to use (Mikien, Ikselian). Careful readers may notice that Gantean women’s names often end in –ian, and the men’s names often end in “-ien, –at, or –uq.”

The Lethemian names are split into three regions: the northern region of the country uses slightly Gaelic-tinged names (Malvyna, Culan); the central regions use Greek names (Costas, Mydon, Stesichore); and the southern regions use Arabic names (Laith, Jaasir) There is some overlap and crossover, since Lethemia is one country and one culture. I tried to make the naming conventions a bit organic all around, so the place names are a mix of names taken from ancient Greece (Amphicylix, Hemicylix) and names that are more conventional or descriptive (Queenstown or Orioneport).

The eastern culture that emerges in this book, the Vhimsantese Empire, is sort of a mash-up of Ancient Rome and the Russian Empire. So they have Russian or Roman-sounding names, like Vilanov or Proseri.

I have to acknowledge that when I first conceived of this world, I was twelve years old and really unorganized and uninformed about stuff like naming conventions or geography. So some of the most flowery and extravagant names are holdovers from that era of the story’s existence (Vhimsantese, Lysandra, Ricknagel). Those came straight out of my imagination or from bizarre and random sources I was into when I was twelve. I could have changed them but I guess I wanted to honor my twelve-year-old self and keep a few of them in there to add a touch of random, childish spice.

The Hinge is a one-off name that I have to admit is an unkilled darling. I probably should have given it a more Gantean-sounding name, but I just couldn’t because I like the idea of a place that is the Hinge or the crux of all magic in the world. The world hinges on the Hinge.

6.) How many books do you plan to write in this series? Must we be content with only The Cedna and The Gantean, or do you have more of this world to unravel and feed to our grasping fingers?

There will be seven books. Book Three, Sterling, is drafted, and I hope to release it in 2016. The next four books are all also drafted but they are rather a mess. I expect to take a while to untangle those knots. So yes, there is a lot more of this world yet to be revealed. So far, we’ve only had Gantean narrators. The next three narrators are Lethemian, or at least they grew up in Lethemia. We’ve also thus far only heard from women. There will be some male points of view in later books.

TGCOVER7.) Of the two girls, Leila from The Gantean and the Cedna from The Cedna, which one do you connect with more? Why? Do you think one or the other appeals more to specific audiences? Why or why not?

That’s a really tough question. I think if you asked other people, they’d say I’m more like the Cedna—headstrong and apt to make my own independent choices, however deviant they may be. I like to go my own way, and I tend to do it without much remorse.

That said, Leila’s inspiring element was water; the Cedna’s is fire. I actually feel that if I had to pick an element for myself it would be air. (An air character is coming, and she is probably my true secret Mary Sue in this series.) So Leila’s approach to life is to “flow like water.” The Cedna’s approach is more destructive. Fire eats what it touches, and whatever choice she makes, it seems to end up being ruinous.

I hope both Leila and the Cedna are complex characters, nuanced enough that readers can relate to both of them, or at least understand why they make the choices they make, even if the readers themselves might make different choices in the given circumstances.

Leila is softer, more adaptable, and perhaps more typically feminine than the Cedna. The Cedna is angry, impulsive, and strident—characteristics that our culture has a hard time with in a woman. This was one reason I started out with Leila’s book, even though chronologically the Cedna’s story comes first. I think Leila is a more immediately likeable character to a wider range of people. But what do I know, really?

holding-on-15224858.) You obviously are an extremely skilled fantasy writer. Just for kicks, what would TC look like on the extreme opposite end of the scale… as a romantic comedy? Let’s have it–a five sentence synopsis of a romantic-comedied The Cedna. 😉 (I’m really excited to see your answer to this one.) 😉

Oh dear. Oh dear. This is just the worst. I can’t believe you are making me do this, Tamara. I’ve never been able to write comedy. And I struggle with romance, too. I have about six half-written romance manuscripts, and all of them “turn dark” at some point. I have to hide them deep in the bowels of my laptop.

But here goes:

The leader of a harsh, northern culture escapes a dire fate and stumbles—quite literally—into the arms of an unrepentant rake while she poses as a southern housemaid. Unused to southern customs, the Cedna cannot help but draw notice as she flagrantly fails at her housemaid duties. Some women just aren’t made for keeping house.

Lord Onatos Amar is not amused as his newest housemaid bungles her duties and his palatial Alcazar begins to crumble around him.

Soon the Cedna’s secrets are revealed, and Onatos must decide between saving his troublesome housemaid and sending her back to her fate in the cold north.

The Cedna available on Amazon:

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Every Cedna is born to die, paying the balance that keeps magic alive.

This Cedna desires a different path, free from the pain that comes with the sacred duty.

As Gante faces destruction at the hands of Lethemian raiders, she fights against her fate as a ritual sacrifice.

Though dangers loom on every side, the Cedna travels south in a desperate diplomatic bid to protect the island.

Ethnic prejudices, old animosities, and a handsome stranger who pulls on her with a magical bond quickly overturn her plans, leading the Cedna on a world-shattering adventure of love, heartbreak, and war.

Every choice is final.

Author Interview: Emily June Street about The Gantean

I’ve been excited for a long time to host Emily June Street on my blog. I’ve lived in a perpetual state of amazement for her as editor, flash fiction contributor, reviewer, book formatting genius, and now author. I’ve had the privilege to read two of her books (Velo Races and The Gantean) so far, and the way she condenses heavy story into few words rivets my attention. I love her works, y’all, and I think you probably will, too, if you’re at all a fan of fantasy.

And now, here’s Emily:

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(What a fun office, and… a wand collection?!?! I’m insanely jealous)

1.) In three sentences, tell me what The Gantean is about.

After being kidnapped from her stark existence on the cold island of Gante, Leila must learn to survive in a southern culture her native people disparage. In this lush, intricate society, exotic temptations greet her at every turn, including a dangerous love affair with a man she never should have known. When civil war threatens, Leila is forced to choose between southern love and northern rituals.

2.) What inspired you to write The Gantean? How many drafts of this story have you written to get it to what it is now?

I started the book when I was twelve. I was originally inspired by Mary Stewart’s series about Merlin. I was particularly taken with the character of Mordred, and I wanted a girl version. That’s how the character of Leila began.

I don’t count drafts. I’d give up if I did that. I do have my original handwritten drafts from 1990. (Opening line: “All her life, Leila had heard stories about the great sea goddess, The Sedna, who roamed the Forbidden Cove.”)

In college I started over again, but I think those drafts are lost now. About seven years ago I started the version that now exists, much changed. I have probably done close to a hundred revisions on this version. It’s been a difficult book.

3.) Tolkien was renowned for creating an entire Elvish language in Lord of the Rings, and you’ve created words and phrases of your own in The Gantean. How complete is the language? How did you come up with it? Can you describe some of the process of creating the words you did?

Someone asked George RR Martin a similar question about making up new languages in fantasy, and I recall the jist of his answer, though not the exact words: the only new language he invents is the new language he needs. I took that to heart. I don’t want to spend my time inventing grammar. I focus on relevant words.

I turned to the Inuit and Inupiat languages for inspiration. I liked their guttural, hard sounds, plus I was already doing research on those cultures to learn about living in cold environments. I tried to familiarize myself with their syllables, and then I selected ones that would be my core Gantean sounds (such as iks-, -uq, -aq, and –ian) Occasionally I used actual words, when I really loved them. For instance, my character Pamiuq’s name is from an actual Inupiat name that means “seal or animal tail,” and The Cedna’s name is a slight variation on the mythological being, Sedna, who is very loosely incorporated into my Gantean cosmology.

4.) If you were thrust into the world you’ve created, how much sympathy would you have for the characters you created? Would you find yourself more on the Iksraqtaq side, raw, pure, and tough, or the Sayantaq side, full of emotional influences? Why?

I’m more sympathetic to some characters than others, partly because I know their backstories—not all of which are presented in The Gantean, the first book of—urg—seven. I feel sympathy for my lead, Leila. She’s always been the centerpiece of the book, but I put her into so many tough situations, and she’s so torn between duty and desire. But her watery personality is nothing like mine. I’m intense and I’m very decisive. I don’t identify with the water element, literally or figuratively. I’m like a cat; I don’t like to get my ears wet. Also, most water is cold and I hate that.

My natural temperament is more Gantean. I’m an INTJ—stoic, introverted, uncomfortable with showing emotions, preferring rational detachment. Like Ganteans, I have rigorous standards. Even so, I can’t fully sympathize with the Ganteans. They’ve made some poor choices. Also I’m extremely independent. I wouldn’t be happy in their deeply communal culture. I’d want to have the freedom of belief and expression that the sayantaqs have. Besides, I could never survive on Gante. I can barely handle winter in California.

On the sayantaq/southern side, I can’t sympathize with their artifice and deception. They’re too self-absorbed; they’re too privileged. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my own temperament is a blend of the two extremes. I’m moderate.

5.) Tell us two things about yourself that few people would know.

One, I wanted very badly to be a ballet dancer when I was growing up. It didn’t work out. Two, I hate driving. I cannot spend more than 30 minutes in a car. It gives me a migraine, so I mostly bike for transportation.

6.) You’re a part of the illustrious short-fiction group known as the FlashDogs, and yet you write books that are way over 100,000 words. What are the biggest differences between constructing a 150 word story and constructing a 150,000 word story?

Well, I try very hard not to have my books be way over 100,000 words. The Gantean, believe it or not, is only 105,000 including front and back matter. That said, I’m aware that it reads like a longer book. You cannot imagine the amount of editing I did to achieve this. It went from a 250,000-word manuscript with essentially the same amount of story—with a few sidetracks that got cut—to what it is now. It’s dense.

Flash fiction can be finished in a matter of hours. Books take me years, but I’m more comfortable with a book’s space to maneuver. Flash fiction is hard for me—the time constraint, the word count. I feel confined by it.

My mission for flash this year has been to write historical flash or stories set in cultures other than my own, and that additional parameter makes it even more difficult. I decided to focus on historical settings and other cultures because so often in flash we use expectable commonalities in our (largely Western) experiences to do the work of setting and character; I wanted to take that away from myself and see what I could do. So, um, yeah, still working on making that work.

I also think the two forms—flash and novels—ask for different writing styles. My natural style is honed for novels. Hopefully it’s clear and simple. If you use a simple style in flash fiction, you’d better have a really good story idea, one with impact or a twist. If the story is quieter, you generally have to turn to more poetic language for the flash-pizzazz. Poetic language is not my forté. When I write poetically, it always sounds like a sentence full of purple darlings; I usually have to cut it. You don’t want to have sentence after sentence of poetics in a novel. It’s too much. You need to focus on clearly telling the story, keeping it moving. In flash you can be more poetic because it’s so short, and often the story doesn’t have to be entirely uncovered. You can leave more to the reader’s inference.

7.) And finally, if you were set adrift on an ocean in a rowboat with only a compass, a cooler of water, and several bags of trail mix, what five literary characters from any genre throughout history would you most want to take with you, and why?

First off, thanks for the water and the trail mix! That makes it easy to pick Ender Wiggin as my first companion. Ender might not be that useful in the short term survival game, but if I have some supplies, I know his strategic mind will be a great asset in the long game. Plus, I’m sure he could navigate us to the nearest hospitable island using triangulation and a toothpick or something.

I’d like to have Paul Atreides from Dune. He’s a resourceful man who knows about water deprivation, and he has rare abilities, like perfect prescience and weapons training and chemical body control. He could possibly transform salt water into something drinkable when the water in the cooler runs out.

Anyanwu from Wild Seed, with her shape-changing abilities and her near-immortality, could go down and get the dolphins to assist us, if we could convince her it was worth her while to save the rest of us. She’s also very self-sufficient and versed in low-tech survival.

Hermione Granger has a cool head—most of the time—and she’s skilled at magic. She’s modest and willing to play a supporting role. My boat doesn’t have much room for egos with those first three on board. Hermione might even have a time-turner stashed away in her magical purse, which would help us go back in time and make a better decision so we wouldn’t be stuck on this rickety boat.

And finally, I’d need to have Miki from The Gantean. He grew up in a culture that hunted on the sea in low-tech conditions, so he knows how to survive with scant resources on the water. He’s tough, he’s not a complainer, and he’d feel responsible for helping the rest of us, because of all that communal Gantean indoctrination. He also has a magical wayfinding ability that might get us back to a familiar location. If he works with Ender, we should be home in no time, with trail mix to spare.

Now is the time to hurry on over to Amazon and grab The Gantean for your very own. Huzzah!

TGCOVERAfter being kidnapped from her stark existence on the cold island of Gante, Leila must learn to survive in a southern culture her native people disparage. She has no choice but to follow the creed of her clan, flow like water, and adapt to a foreign new world. In this lush, intricate society, exotic temptations greet her at every turn, including a dangerous love affair with a man she never should have known. When civil war threatens, Leila is forced to choose between southern love and northern rituals.

But at what cost?

Her choice may have consequences even she cannot predict.

ebook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZJOV0SI

print via CreateSpace store: https://www.createspace.com/5495337

goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25714305-the-gantean

Emily June Street is a true Gemini: she teaches people Pilates by day and edits, writes, and formats by night (and very early morning). She is the author of three novels, The Gantean, Velo Races, and Secret Room, and her short stories have appeared in numerous publications. She likes to pretend she’s a superhero on her bike, and she has a collection of magic wands. She lives in California with her husband and her shoebox puppy, Stella.

Learn more about her writing and freelance editing, formatting, and self-publishing coaching at: https://emilyjunestreet.wordpress.com/ or https://luminouscreaturespress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EmilyJuneStreet

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