Welcome to the Daggerspell Reread and Review Series, with Aidan Moher (your humble editor/blogger) and Kate Elliott (author of lots and lots of cool novels)! We thought it would be fun to bring two different perspectives (someone who’s read the series, someone who hasn’t), and explore Daggerspell together, comparing notes and reflecting on a series and world that are held dearly by many readers. We’re also hoping that, if you’re not familiar with Kerr, you might discover a new favourite author.
If you are so inclined, read along with us. I’m very excited about this.
Again, the introductory post about what we are doing and the schedule find here.
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Someone thinks it’s hilarious to use my email address to sign me up for things I am far from interested in. This was not requested by me. You should, as a best practice, require confirmation for ANY subscribe request for this kind of reason. Please ensure my address is removed from all your databases promptly.
If any reservations have been made in my name, cancel those as well.
In case you were wondering, this is not going to morph into a blog composed exclusively of me interviewing other authors. But I sure like doing said interviews, and I am now pleased to present another one!
I was intrigued by N. Griffin’s debut novel, The Whole Stupid Way We Are, from the moment I heard its excellent title. It’s about Dinah, church choir director’s daughter who sings off-key, and Skint, who walks coatless through brutal cold; about their friendship and the things that divide them. For a book whose characters have some very hard-to-deal-with experiences, it’s surprisingly funny, and the prose is always precise, whether evoking an escape from detention, the play of sunlight on a toddler’s feet, or how it feels when your help can’t fix what you want to fix.
So I asked N. Griffin some questions. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers, but if you are extremely concerned about such things you might want to wait to look at this interview until you’ve finished reading the book. Which, in case it wasn’t obvious from the above, I recommend that you do.
SR: I love the names in TWSWWA. How do you choose character names?
NG: Thank you! Naming the characters is one of the most fun parts about writing books, I think. For TWSWWA, Dinah’s name came first. When I was just starting to write the book, I was working with a woman whose name I adored. Let’s call her Mynah Deech. I loved saying “Mynah Deech” so much I worked it into conversation at every opportunity—“What do you think Mynah Deech would think of this?” and “We better check with Mynah Deech!” In fact, I wanted to steal her whole name for my book but I thought that would be too weird so I settled for a name that rhymed with it and came up with Dinah Beach. All of the other names just felt right to me, and some of the names are sort of a broken-up, messed-up version of a word that was central to my heart while I was writing the book. A MYSTERY! :)
SR: I was struck by Skint’s angry passion about social issues far removed from the considerable challenges of his day-to-day life. At what point in the writing process did that aspect of his character become clear to you?
NG: It was always clear to me; one of the first things I knew about Skint was this. I think this aspect of his character came from two places for me—first, I know so many kids who care this much about suffering and the world, and we never seem to pay attention to that aspect of teenagers. We prefer to think they are only and entirely self-centered, and I know that is beyond not true. I also knew that Skint’s passion for this was an outlet for all the anger in his life—he can’t express what is going on at home, but he can get riled up about the world in a public way, and all his personal hurt and upset gets added to his natural compassion and comes out with all the intensity that would suggest.
SR: Dinah genuinely cares about Skint, but also seems to see him as a project or a job. She comes up with strategies to distract & cheer him: “Outings, she thought firmly, and good ideas to think about. Pretending, talismans, things to do with trees.” I think many of us have known and/or been Dinahs. What do you think drives that particular intense need to help people who may or may not benefit from our efforts?
NG: For Dinah, I think it’s the same intense love and compassion as Skint has, only hers is focused on the personal and her own aching for Skint. I also think she truly thinks she’s helping him, and that can be an intoxicating feeling—who doesn’t want to feel like they are needed like that? But the balance is off for sure, and I think that’s something lots of people take years to make sense of. Not that I know anything about that. No sirree. ;)
SR: I hope I can say this without giving too much away: I was impressed that you leave certain things unresolved at the end. Did you always know you wanted to give that shape to the story, or did you have previous drafts that went in other directions?
NG: Nope, that was always how it was. I think I wrote the last scene when I was only a third of the way through the first of my million drafts. For me, the arc of the story is that of their friendship, not of their whole entire lives. And when that arc was complete, so was the book.
SR: And finally: Dinah and Skint regularly embark on “Fantastic or Excruciating?” adventures:
“An FoE is an entertainment where you can’t tell beforehand whether it will be fabulous and surreal or only just a misery-making fiasco that will make you ache for the performers involved because it is all so awful and the performers are unaware. Or maybe they are aware. And then it is even worse.”
Have you ever done this yourself, and if so, can you describe one?
NG: Oh, my lordie, yes, all the time and even still! Every single FoE in the book except for Walter is one that I have actually experienced. There are so many more, too! I would adore to hear about other people’s FoE’s. I live for this kind of thing.
Amazon is currently selling Love is the Law on pre-order for 35 percent off. This is a guaranteed price. If you have Amazon Prime and get free shipping, amazon will depending on where you live, either barely break even and perhaps even lose money on every sale.
PRE-ORDER TODAY STARVE THE GLUTTON DESTROY THE BEAST
So, I am at WisCon, and have already had a delightful couple of meals with friends whom I have not seen in far too long. Also, it was delightful to be able to eat things. This morning, I even risked a latte, with no unfortunate effects (my first coffee since last Thursday). I shall spare you further talk of my innards....
If you're a Twitter user, here are the hashtags for the panels I'm on: #ModSquad #ImaginaryBookClub #XenogenesisPanel #TheDoctorIsAJerk #Moderating201 - the con itself is #WisCon without the 37 attached.
I find myself at loose ends until The Gathering, which starts at one; I actually brought a few items for the clothing exchange this year, including a happy banana yellow pullover, bought on clearance years ago, which has always looked terrible on me but is cashmere so I suspect someone will want it.
My first panel isn't until 4:00 pm. This is a very happy state of affairs. Tomorrow is the Farmers' Market, then my first panel at 10:00 am, another at 1:00 pm, and another immediately following at 2:30 pm, luckily one which I will not be moderating and about which I can talk with little mental effort (Dr. Who). My last panel, in which I will moderately moderate a panel about moderating, is Sunday at 2:30 pm.
Had that discussion again yesterday in which we try to figure out who people are and can only do so by their usernames - so please feel free to tell me who you are if I do not appear to know who you are despite following you on LJ or whatever for the past decade or more. I will attempt to do the same.
When I was in Dublin this week I was fortunate to stay with Lynda Rucker, and her housemates Liz and Charlotte. Liz has a fabulous dog called Coco who is a sweetheart. As I’ve mentioned before my dog Minnie is not one for PDAs, but Coco is a total extrovert with her affection. I couldn’t resist taking a snap of her with my mobile phone.
Minnie gave me a glad welcome when I arrived home, and a proper sniffing. I wonder if she was thinking ‘The cheek of her! Spending time with another mutt.’
I snuck into a few shops in Dublin, and spotted this incredible Lady Gaga-esque pair of shoes.
I’m already tall but I would be a giant in these. I was thinking how heavy they would be to wear, and how awkward it would be to walk in them. Imagine sitting down, crossing your legs, and… impaling your shin with the back of the boot.
Still, those shoes have attitude in abundance. My respect to those who can wear them – or afford them!
As nice as it is to visit the city it’s also wonderful to return to the woods. I think the aristocracy had the right idea – one should have a town house and a country estate. One day!
In the meantime, here’s a glorious temporary shelter that’s cropping up all over the place – only good during sunshine, alas.
Con or Bust’s dinocorn T-shirts will be available for sale in the WisCon dealer’s room, at the Aqueduct table, hopefully starting late this afternoon (that is, after my flight gets in and I claim my boxes from the hotel).
Crew-neck shirts are available in red or green (“forest”) in sizes S-3XL (details):
V-neck fitted T-shirts are available in purple in sizes M-2XL (details):
Shirts are $20 each; all profits are used to help fans of color/non-white fans attend SFF cons.
After WisCon, the shirts will be available by mail; I’ll put up a post when they are. Please spread the word!
A week ago I attended the first night of the revival of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. As of today, I'm still under the spell of the play: laughing at its jokes, pondering its philosophy, and occasionally overwhelmed by the profound grief that underlies the wit. The play is about gardening, math, sex, love, loss, weekend guests, and a turtle, and it is hilarious and thought-provoking in equal measure.
Arcadia, set in an English country house, moves back and forth in time between the Regency and the present day. The play poses and possibly solves several mysteries about the events of the past. What happened in 1809 that led to the disappearance of the poet Ezra Chater? Who was the mysterious hermit who took up residence in 1812 and lived many years in the grounds?
The nineteenth-century residents include the teenage Thomasina Coverly and her brother Augustus, her tutor Septimus (a friend of Byron's), and her mother, as well as Chater. (Neither Byron nor Mrs. Chater ever appear, but they are important characters nevertheless.)
In the present day, descendants of the Coverly family still live at Sidley Park: another teenage girl and her brother, a scientist, as well as a second brother who speaks only once in the play. This time their houseguests are a historian named Hannah who is researching the hermit, and Bernard who is trying to prove that Lord Byron was a guest in 1809 and killed Chater in a duel.
The present-day scholars are trying to decipher those events with, as it turns out, incomplete data, an inability to see the importance of what they do have, academic arrogance, and a great many theories in the way of the truth. Which is also true of the audience, at least of the audience members unfamiliar with the script. Stoppard inveigles the audience to misjudge the importance of almost every character; essentially, we see the play the way the modern-day characters see the past.
Stoppard is not generally considered an emotional playwright, but beneath the intellectual banter and the offhand adulteries runs a profound vein of love, sorrow, hope, and loss. Ironically, the repeatedly demonstrated point that we can never really know the past offers hope. So does the recurrence of lost ideas. And the house, Sidley Park, preserves the apparently meaningless artifacts that testify to the facts of the past; that continuity is essential to the play's action but also to its meaning. Individuals die; cultures and houses continue.
The production seems good. The basic set—a garden room with a table—serves for both eras. I was too ablaze with the play itself to pay much attention to nuances of performance. The American Conservatory Theater is housed in the spectacular Curran Theater, which is elegantly decorated but whose seats are sized for elves. (Seriously. Airplane seats offer more legroom.) It's worth going anyway. Go see this play. It runs through June 9. Then come back to talk to me about it.
“THOMASINA: ....the enemy who burned the great library of Alexandria without so much as a fine for all that is overdue. Oh, Septimus! -- can you bear it? All the lost plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at least by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides -- thousands of poems -- Aristotle's own library!....How can we sleep for grief?
SEPTIMUS: By counting our stock. Seven plays from Aeschylus, seven from Sophocles, nineteen from Euripides, my lady! You should no more grieve for the rest than for a buckle lost from your first shoe, or for your lesson book which will be lost when you are old. We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library of Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?” ― Tom Stoppard, Arcadia
I’ve never been one for big cities. In some ways, I think of it as an extension of my introversion. Big cities = too many people, too much going on, and I get twitchy just thinking about it.
But I’ve watched my fellow authors do the occasional New York trip to visit with editors and agents, and it’s been strongly advised by a number of folks that I do the same, especially with the relative success of Libriomancer.
I am both excited and a bit intimidated. I’ve been to NYC once in my life, helping a friend move, and that was more than a decade ago. On the other hand, I’ll be spending time with a lot of great people, and attending an event devoted to the awesomeness of books. How can you not love that?
So blogging will be light to nonexistent next week. This will be my first time at BEA, and my second time in NYC (the first was more than a decade ago, helping a friend move, and I didn’t see that much of the city). My plan is to try to have fun, hopefully collect some books, and shamelessly gawk at everything.
Wish me luck, and if you’re going to be at BEA, then I hope to see you there!