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Three Days of Fey: Day Two With R. J. Anderson

February 11th, 2009 (12:00 am)
tired

current location: my bed
current mood: tired
current music: none

Today we glean insights into the (currently) Canadian author, R. J. (Rebecca) Anderson! To crib directly from her official bio, Rebecca was born in Uganda, raised in Ontario, went to school in New Jersey, and has spent much of her life dreaming of other worlds entirely. (How many of us can’t relate to that last part?) Her novel sounds awesome (details below), so let’s hear all about why she wrote it!




The Beautiful Other: or, Why I Write About Faeries

When shveta_thakrar asked me to participate in this year's Three Days of Fey, I was delighted to accept. But what to talk about? So much has been said about faeries already, by authors far more dedicated to and knowledgeable about the subject. Did I really have anything new to add?

But then I looked back at last year's posts, and realized that I might be coming at this topic from a slightly different angle from my fellow faery authors after all.

You see, what interests me about faeries, or at least what led me to write my own faery book, is not their immortality, or their unearthly beauty, or their power, or their inhuman cruelty and caprice. All those elements are certainly present in the lore about faeries, and other authors have written compelling books based on those faery traits. But I wasn't interested in exploring what faeries are and have, so much as what they aren't and haven't.

Up to that point most of the faery-related stories I'd read were about humans being seduced or abducted or otherwise brought into contact with faeries, and the faeries were seen through a very mystical lens as these beautiful, dangerous Others. Now and then I'd also seen faeries portrayed as frivolous, comic figures, like Tinkerbell. But either way they were always viewed from the outside, through human eyes, and I found myself wondering about the faery's perspective. How might the human world, with all the aspects of daily life we take for granted, appear to a faery who'd never seen it before?

The more I thought about this idea the more I liked it. Specifically, I wanted to play with the idea that faeries might be just as fearful of and fascinated by humans as humans have traditionally been of them. What would the first encounter with a human being be like for a faery? What would she find shocking, or frightening, or enticing about us?

Obviously the idea of faeries being afraid of humans is easier to understand if there's a size difference, so I quickly settled on the idea of writing about small, winged faeries in the Victorian mold (though the idea of faeries as tiny humans with wings didn't actually start with the Victorians: as Melissa Marr has pointed out, you can find something similar in the Welsh legends of the Ellylon). But small faeries can easily come across as twee, and I didn't want that. So as an antidote I decided my faery heroine would be dangerous in a purely physical sense: not some delicate child-woman dressed in gossamer and flitting about on butterfly wings, but a fierce, deadly assassin who could maneuver like a fighter jet, and take on enemies twice or three times her size.

But here the logical part of my brain raised an objection. Why would a faery need to develop those kinds of fighting skills if she could just as easily defeat her enemies with magic? The answer was, of course, to remove the magic. Which then handily supplied me with one of the most important elements of the plot, as my heroine sets out to discover what happened to her people's lost magic and try to get it back.

Still, I didn't just want to write a story about vulnerable little faeries vs. scary giant humans, so somehow my heroine's natural fear and hostility toward a potential predator had to develop over the course of the story into a powerful attraction, similar to the allure that faeryland and its inhabitants have traditionally held for humanity. And here I found that far from having to turn the old fairy tales on their head, my ideas were actually confirmed by them. Time and again in the folk tales we find out that the beauties of faeryland are only an illusion, that its riches turn into withered leaves by the light of day, or even that the faeries themselves are hollow inside. The ordinary world, for all its flaws, is far more meaningful and real, and the human traveler enticed away by the faeries eventually finds himself longing for home.

So ultimately, Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter is not about the perilous beauties of some enticing magical realm and its inhabitants so much as it's about finding the magic and the wonder in our own human world--discovering, in essence, that we are the Beautiful Other. Which is not to say that our existence is perfect, or anything close to it. But there's a dignity and a privilege in being human, in being "made in the image of God" as the Bible puts it, that's worth recognizing and celebrating, even though as humans we often fail to see that and long for immortality or stunning beauty or magical power or all the other kinds of things that faeries represent.

But I couldn't have explored that idea nearly as effectively through the eyes of a vampire or a werewolf or a zombie or a ghost, because all of those creatures were once human themselves and the human world comes as no surprise to them. My heroine needed to be from a race similar enough to humans to be plausibly interested in them, yet different enough to see them through fresh and wondering eyes.

And that's why I write about faeries.


So, lovely readers, leave any questions you have for our guest author in the comments.

And keep your eye out for rj_anderson's upcoming novel Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, because it's time to "[f]orget everything you think you know about faeries. . .The last thing Knife is likely to wield is a magic wand." You can learn more here: http://www.rj-anderson.com.




Tune in on Friday for the final guest on our tour, Ms. Janni Lee Simner (janni).

Comments

Posted by: maggie l. wood (faerie_writer)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 12:46 pm (UTC)

That was fascinating, Rebecca! Thanks for sharing your quite original insights. :D

Posted by: R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
Narnia - Dem Fine White Witch

Thank you for reading them! The essays you and Maggie wrote last year were my inspiration. :)

Posted by: Sarah Prineas (sarah_prineas)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 01:24 pm (UTC)

So interesting!! And points out exactly what I loved about the book: the fairies aren't types, they're real, and they really inhabit their world.

Posted by: R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 03:12 pm (UTC)
Knife - Green

That's just what I wanted to do -- to examine what it would be like to live as a Very Small Person in the world we know, as opposed to some elusive faery plane of existence. I'm very glad it came across!

Posted by: AngelinaContessaLouisa FrancescaBananaFanaBoBesca3 (golden_meliades)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 03:20 pm (UTC)

Sounds interesting (especially since I've always used and been interested in the idea that the faery are just as mesmerized by humans as humans are by them.) Unfortunately, it's not available in Canada...Amazon lists it but Chapters does not.

Posted by: R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
Knife - Faery Rebels Cover

No worries, that's just because it's not out here yet.

The UK version (KNIFE) was published back in January, but the North American edition (FAERY REBELS: SPELL HUNTER) won't be available in Canadian bookstores until this April.

Clear as mud, I know! :)

Posted by: AngelinaContessaLouisa FrancescaBananaFanaBoBesca3 (golden_meliades)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)

Chapters usually lists things about half a year in advance of their release date, but as it happened I looked up the UK version. (When I looked up the North American version it showed up...April 26.)

We often get the UK version of stuff here rather than the one that goes out in the States. Harry Potter, for example...we had the version that went by the original title of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone whereas the US version was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Seems kinda silly to change it but sometimes these things seem almost arbitrary.

Anyway, I found it. I buy many, many, many books a year, so this one will get picked up, too. :) Is it complete as is, or part of a series?

Posted by: R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
Knife - Official UK Cover

You're preaching to the choir here: I live in Canada too. :) I love that we can often get UK-published books here, or at least the UK editions of those books.

But in the case of KNIFE / FAERY REBELS: SPELL HUNTER, the agreement was for my US publisher to handle all North American distribution, so we won't be seeing KNIFE in bookstores over here (except for Amazon.ca, apparently!).

Anyway, thank you very much for your interest in my book! It is a complete story in itself (or can be read that way), but there are plot threads which lead into the next book, which will be released in 2010.

At present I have just two books in the series, but there's certainly room for a third or perhaps even a fourth later on...

Posted by: AngelinaContessaLouisa FrancescaBananaFanaBoBesca3 (golden_meliades)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)

Oh, I'm sorry. For some reason I thought you lived in New Jersey. (OR maybe New Hampshire or some other 'New' place.) But if I happened to be looking up your book and spotted New Jersey written on anything at the same time, even a piece of paper lying around, they could easily have gotten all messed up in my brain. It happens all the time. (To me, that is. Not sure about people with better organized brains.)

Posted by: R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC)
Author Portrait

Not a surprising mistake: my bio mentions that I went to school in New Jersey, and since that's the last reference to a place I've lived I can see how people might get confused!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
Faery Rebels

That sounds very intriguing. What intrigues me most is the gift you have...imagination...! Wow. I will definitely have to read this book.

Posted by: R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Re: Faery Rebels
Knife - Faery Rebels Cover

Thank you for stopping by! I hope you'll enjoy the book!

Posted by: Sherwood Smith (sartorias)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)

Loved reading that!

Posted by: R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Author Portrait

*bows gratefully to you*

Posted by: A good grammarian can outwit any word. (cesario)
Posted at: February 11th, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC)

Well said!

Posted by: kristin (kristin_briana)
Posted at: February 12th, 2009 07:18 am (UTC)

Very cool. Can't wait to read the book!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: February 23rd, 2009 12:10 pm (UTC)

Ive just read knife and it was amazing! are you planning on writing anymore books soon?

Posted by: R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson)
Posted at: February 24th, 2009 12:38 am (UTC)
Wayfarer - Timothy

I'm working on a sequel to be published in early 2010 -- thanks so much for the kind words!

Posted by: Julie Kagawa (sylverkit)
Posted at: February 13th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)

Fabulous. Two of my favorite subjects are faeries (obviously, since I write about them), and assassins (for reasons I should probably tell my psychiatrist about). A story about a faery assassin makes me dance about in glee. Can't wait to read it.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: April 25th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
WOW!

I've just read Knife, and being a lover of Fairies and magic, I was blown away! Very well done :) Thank you for sharing this with us!
Claire,
13

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 8th, 2013 07:09 pm (UTC)

I just read Knife and I found it really good.. I hope Rebel is just as good, and each one after that!!

Posted by: Shveta, bursting with stars ॐ (shveta_thakrar)
Posted at: January 8th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
Garba

My favorite so far is Arrow. :) Hope you enjoy!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: October 28th, 2013 04:42 pm (UTC)

I love ALL R J Anderson books!!! I've read Knife, Rebel, Arrow, Swift, Ultraviolet and Quicksilver.... Can't wait for Nomad!!!! :D

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