Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Interview With Author L. Marrick

This week, I was lucky enough to interview author L. Marrick about her new historical fantasy The Hallowed. I really enjoyed the novel, which is a unique prequel to the story of King Arthur and Merlin (you can read my review here).

Welcome to the blog, Ms. Marrick, it’s great to have you here. Let’s get started with a question that’s been percolating in my mind since I finished The Hallowed.

Q: The series is titled the “Dynasty of Arthur and Merlin,” but it begins with the emperor Constantine III in the early Fifth Century. Why did you choose to start your series with Constantine?

Thanks Joseph, and I’m so thrilled to be on your blog!

I started researching the Arthurian Legend back in high school, when I first fell in love with it. One thing that really caught my imagination was that King Arthur had ties to Roman history. Constantine III was not only a British king and Roman emperor, but also, according to some stories, Arthur’s grandfather. I loved the idea of a single family leading Britain out of Roman rule to independence over the course of several generations. I loved the idea of starting from a structured, historical place (Rome) and seeing a more mythological realm slowly rise as the family turns away from “the establishment” and finds their own identity.

Q: In your Author’s Note—which is very good by the way—you mention there’s a historical basis for the character of Julian. How much of Julian was historically based and how much was the product of your imagination?

We know very little about Julian. Edward Gibbon mentions him in passing (basically to tell us when he died). We know he was Constantine’s son. But I’ve corrupted even this one little existent fact, and made him Constantine’s nephew (because I have no respect for the dead).

I’ll admit, I didn’t pay much attention to Julian when I first started writing. Constantine was supposed to be the main character, but for some reason it just wasn’t working. It felt forced. So I decided to do a little writing exercise from a different character’s perspective. I picked someone who would have been close to Constantine in his final days, and that was Julian. Once I started that “little” writing exercise, the book blossomed. Before, it had felt as though I was trying to tell Constantine what to do (and he would never have that!), but once Julian showed up and started doing things all by himself, I knew I’d found my true main character.

Q: Much of the story is focused around the power that makes Julian “Hallowed.” What inspired your thoughts on this “Hallowed” power?

I guess I could talk about being inspired by The Force from Star Wars, or Harry Potter’s wizarding powers, or Professor X’s telepathic abilities. The Hallowed arts are a lot like all of those. I didn’t go out of my way to be different, but neither did I try to copy anything. What I really took my cues from was my own practice and experiences of meditation, and the power the mind has in relationship to reality. I wanted Julian’s powers to give him a connection to other realms, like the afterlife and the otherworld, but most especially to his own higher self. I believe that when we access our highest selves, anything is possible, and meditation is probably the best tool we have for that.

Q: I thought the character of Guntilde was really well-written. What inspired you to create her for this tale?

Thank you! I have a particular affection for Guntilde, although she probably wouldn’t return the sentiment.

Guntilde is a Frankish woman in Constantine’s army. She was raised by the men of her clan, and is married to one of them. She could very easily have become a classic “warrior woman”—all about girl power while swinging an axe and falling in love. But I’ve never appreciated that archetype (Stereotype? Cliché? Whatever.). I wanted someone different.

Guntilde isn’t into girl power. She hates anything that has to do with being a woman. If she could turn herself into a man, I think she would. She’s afraid of her own emotions, and Julian—who is not “a man’s man,” and who seems to need her protection—brings those emotions out of her. He makes her feel vulnerable and she can’t stand that. But at the same time, her emotions for him are strong, so she can’t leave him alone.

Q: Although I didn’t mention him in the review, I also really liked the character of Edobich. Is he a historical figure? And what can you tell us about him?

Oh, I took a lot of liberties with the historical character of Edobich! Seriously. A lot.

He was real. He was one of Constantine’s Frankish generals, who drummed up reinforcements when Constantine was besieged. As far as I know, the real Edobich was not a freed slave, nor was he physically unable to speak. But I wanted a character who had once been made to feel very powerless (a tongueless slave seemed to fit the bill), and yet found an inner place that not only helped him survive, but also to access his own wisdom and courage. Given a position of power, I thought a man like that could be truly great.

For reasons I can’t get into here, I modeled Edobich on the kind of talent and loyalty I thought a knight of the round table ought to show.

Q: Can you give us a hint about whether Book 2 in the series will continue Julian’s tale? Or will it move up in the timeline closer to the actual days of Merlin and Arthur?

Both! Book 2 will include several more familiar Arthurian characters, but we don’t have to move forward too far in time to see that happen. King Arthur was said to be doing his thing in the early Dark Ages, so we’re talking about the fifth/sixth century—not long after Julian’s running around get caught in sieges.

Q: Last question: About a year ago I ran a post titled “Who Was King Arthur” about the potential historical origins of the legendary British king. As an author of Arthurian fiction, what is your view?

Historically, I think that Arthur was probably a warlord—one of many chieftains who was particularly good at beating back invaders and rallying men of all stripes to help him do it. The name “Pendragon” means “Chief Dragon” or “Chief of Warriors,” and it was adopted by Arthur’s father and uncle (it wasn’t their given name). That’s my historical take.

But versions of the Arthurian Legend that try to eliminate mythology and just focus on history are miserable, in my opinion. The story has bones but no soul. That’s not what’s made the legend endure. Mythologically, there’s a lot more to Arthur. He’s a savior-king who can deliver a golden age of peace. He has access to powers other men don’t, such as magic (Merlin) and innocence (Sir Galahad). He has allies in the otherworld. He has access to his highest self, which makes him the best choice for a King of kings. He dies, but doesn’t really die.

I hope to elevate the history and bring the myth down a notch or two for my Arthur.

Me: After reading this, I'm really looking forward to Book 2! Thanks L. Marrick, and best of luck with The Hallowed!


Amanda said...

Great interview, and I'm so excited to read this book!

Joseph Finley said...

Thanks, Amanda - hope you enjoy the book!

Bill said...

Good informative interview. Another book to look forward to reading.

You may know the "Arthur" story as imagined by Jack Whyte in his series. If not, I recommend it also.