The Author’s Oracle Tag
I saw this at Sara Letourneau’s blog, and thought it looked fun. Also like something where I could omit this week’s letter with less effort than another chapter of “Peril-Led Princess“. (It is coming back! I promise!) Despite that they’re my own rules, I’m not sure how the Missing Letter Monday rules feel about using the forbidden letter inside a quote…so rather than change the questions or use the letter, I’m just gonna put a * in the place of the letter-of-the-week where it occurs in the questions.
So the point of this blogging tag is that there are questions loosely inspired by the major arcana of the Tarot, which an author is to answer, focusing on their current work in progress. Or, in my case, a major work that I keep putting off writing draft two of. *shame* But it’s been on my mind lately, so maybe this’ll get me working on that edit/re-write…once the semester ends, anyway.
Aaaanyway, let’s get on with it, ’cause I still need to do some reading this morning before I go to work. (All text in bold in the following section is quoted.)
The Author’s Oracle Questions
I’ll be answering these questions based on my semi-YA series which currently has no series title. Mostly I’ll be thinking about the first book (yes, I wrote the whole series in rough drafts before editing the first one) which needs a new title, as the one I had when I was working on it sucked quite atrociously. I narrowed down a couple of good candidates, but they both imply things that aren’t quite true, so I’m not so sure about them. Anyway, the first book takes place about 18 years after the end of the Trojan War, and my three leads are Atalanta, the (posthumously born) daughter of Achilles, Ariadne, the (illegitimate) daughter of Odysseus, and Eurysakes, the son of Aias and the only one who’s a genuine mythological character…though my Eurysakes and the real one differ wildly. Atalanta and Ariadne’s mothers were sisters, and they were…ooh, I can’t use that word! They were, um, household workers of a non-free sort in a particular city in Lesbos, and when Achilles and Odysseus had to go to Lesbos for complicated (but mythologically accurate) reasons, well, stuff happened, and nine months later…my heroines were born. Anyway, part of my point here — apart from the fact that the heroines must escape from Lesbos at the start of book one — is that both her companions are Atalanta’s cousins, ’cause I’m going on the more well-known, later form of the myth, in which Peleus and Telamon were brothers. (Originally, Achilles and Aias were not related, y’see…)
0. The Fool: Which of your characters is the most intuiti*e? The worst decision-maker?
Ariadne would be the most…uh…wow, most of these words use that letter. She’s the one capable of the best perception of a situation, usually. But she’s not as good at reading people as she thinks, so sometimes Eurysakes can make the better call. Atalanta is by far the worst decision-maker; she tends not to think much. It’s not that she’s not smart; she just got into the habit of letting Ariadne think for her.
II . The High Priestess: Do any of your characters ha*e *ery strong beliefs?
Yes, definitely. Atalanta has a lot of them: she’s deeply religious (which is quite different in ancient Greece than in modern times, of course), she has a lot of beliefs about her father (see below), and she has a lot of super-strong beliefs about what’s right and what’s wrong, and sometimes that gets her into trouble (usually the combat sort of trouble). Ariadne’s strongest beliefs tend to focus on her father (see below), but she’s also got strong religious ties where Athene is concerned (the other gods are more of an afterthought for her). For Eurysakes, the most normal of the three, again most of his strong beliefs focus on his father, but especially on how his father was wronged by the other Achaian kings (and especially Odysseus), and how it’s his duty to bring his father the respect and honor he merits. Korythos, the new King of Troy in Book 1, also has strong beliefs, but most of them would be spoilers. (Though the chances of anyone other than me seeing this book are pretty darned slim…) The whole-series baddies also possess strong beliefs, but those would really be spoilers.
III. The Empress: Who is your biggest supporter? Gi*e them a little lo*e here.
Er…my brother? I guess? I mean, he listens to me ramble about my characters and sometimes makes suggestions. On some of my other books, he’s been willing to read them, but he didn’t get far in this one before being repelled…which is not a good sign…
I*. The Emperor: Do you outline or plan? (You know… plotter or pantser?)
Like most people, a little of both. I come up with an outline, but I rarely follow it too far before it needs to change ’cause I end up going in a different direction. But a sparse outline helps me keep my characters at least a little reined in, and helps me to focus on where I’m going as I let the book follow its own flow.
*. The Hierophant: What do you feel is your most *aluable piece of writing ad*ice?
Mmm…most of it I come across doesn’t quite seem to fit me. If “keep writing but keep it to yourself” was out there as a bit of writing wisdom, that’d probably be the best fit for me.
*I. The Lo*ers: Which of your characters follow their heart? Is it for the right reasons?
Well, Atalanta does, because it’s all she knows how to do; I don’t know if that’s “the right reason” or not. Ariadne would claim she’s following her heart, I’m sure, but she’s really only doing so when she’s doing something for Atalanta’s sake. Or for Athene’s sake.
*II. The Chariot: Tell us about the first “darling” you e*er “killed.”
In this series, she’s…well, just in case, I can’t say who she is or how she relates to the others, but she takes a while to show up, and longer to establish herself as a character, rather than a bit part. She was always antagonistic to Atalanta, because reasons, but…after a while I came to the realization that the bad guys would be out of character if they didn’t recruit her. And they had the perfect hook to make her want to help them, so there was no way she would choose the side of the gods instead of the side of the baddies who want to destroy them. It was heart-breaking for me, because she’s the offspring of two mythological figures, and I really wanted things to work out well for her, especially since her mother really got a raw deal in the original myth and in my continuation of it. But once she turned on me — I mean on my heroes — I mean on the gods, I had no choice, and she had to be taken down. Of course, she’s technically immortal, so she wasn’t actually killed…but she was thrown into Tartaros, so she may as well be dead.
*III. Strength: What do you feel your greatest creati*e strength is?
Coming up with story ideas; I think of lots of ideas that feel like they’re really great. It’s just what I do with them afterwards that’s no good.
IX. The Hermit: Can you write in coffee shops or other busy places, or do you need quiet?
I used to be able to watch a film on the tube and write at the same time, but I can no longer do that, I’m sorry to say. Writing in public places is still fine, so long as no one’s around me is talking in such a way that I can’t help but listen in. (You know the kind of thing I’m talking about, right?)
X. The Wheel of Fortune: Do you ha*e a set routine or schedule?
Nah…but this summer I’m planning on making one. I seem to spend extremely little time (if any at all) writing lately, so I plan on making a schedule for that and a few other things that need doing. I’ll be posting about it sometime in early May, once I hammer out the details.
XI. Justice: What’s the biggest consequence that your main character will ha*e to face? (If it spoils the plot, feel free to be *ague.)
Well, she’s always risking life and limb in combat against an assortment of enemies, some human and most inhuman. There’s one point in the series where the baddies try to coax her into joining their side, at which point she’s risking the consequence of a lightning bolt to the face, ’cause Zeus is watching her quite closely. Other than that…well, there are a few minor run-ins with foreign kings that are of a less than pleasant type, but…mostly the only consequences would be if she fails in her goals of stopping the bad guys.
Wow, my books sound really shallow all of a sudden.
XII. The Hanged Man: What sacrifices do you make for writing time? Or, what must your main character be willing to choose between?
Hmm…what does Atalanta need to choose between? I can’t really think of anything, which is alarming. But the thing is, I was kind of following the mold of some of the more grand myths, like Perseus’ quest to protect his mother from the lecher who wants to marry her, or Jason’s quest to get the Golden Fleece (minus the part where he starts being a horrible cad and all the wretchedness that follows) and there’s not a lot of…it’s just…the mode of the story is pretty simple: go, do, fight, triumph. I tried to add a little more to it than that, but…yeah, still ends up sounding really shallow, no matter how I try to shine it up.
XIII. Death: What do you do after you’*e finished a project?
After I finished the first book in this series, I went right on to the next one. I wasn’t ready to stop writing yet. Besides, I knew my pantsing would continue to affect where the story was going, and that later books would probably contradict earlier ones, but that the later tales would be better…and I was right about that: something I had to say about the causes of the Trojan War in Book Six contradicted something from…Book Two, I think it was. Either way, Book Six’s new wrinkle was much better, and might actually be truly original, so…yeah, I think I made the right call there.
XI*. Temperance: Please share your best-tested & pro*en tip for balancing writing and “the rest.”
I can’t balance anything; my life is chaos.
X*. The De*il: E*eryone has a nasty habit they can’t shake. What’s your main character’s?
For Atalanta, that’d be running off half-cocked. She gets excited easily, and can’t stop herself from acting. But she also has self-doubt that interferes at the worst times. For Ariadne, it’s thinking too much and paralyzing herself by coming up with too many contradictory plans and/or possible pitfalls. Eurysakes…honestly, I think it’s his way of talking. He talks extremely slowly, just like his father did, which annoys those around him, and makes Ariadne cut him off a lot, because she’s pretty impatient about stuff like that. (Though Atalanta is more or less the lead, it’s a team book, so I think it’s okay to list all three here.)
X*I. The Tower: Ha*e you e*er had to scrap an entire project and start o*er? How did it feel? Were you frustrated, sad, relie*ed, etc.?
Yeah. This past NaNo’s project, “The Island of Dr. Tanaka.” I was writing it specifically for these two characters I rescued from another book’s backstory, but then I didn’t finish it during NaNoWriMo, and as I kept working on it, it just got slower and slower and I couldn’t finish and I couldn’t finish…until I finally realized it was the two characters who had gotten the project going in the first place who were also killing it. They just don’t fit the story. But I like the story, so I don’t want to just abandon it. So now I’m going to need to start again, with new characters in their places, and come up with something else for them. (There are a number of my Insecure Writer’s Support Group posts on this subject…)) It is exceptionally frustrating. To the point that I’m not ready to work on either of the projects yet. When the semester ends and I get my summer break time, I’m either going to finally re-write Book One of the YA project I’m talking about here, or work on a superhero-themed short story I’m working on coming up with characters for.
Or possibly both, trading off one to the other on my whims.
X*II. The Star: What is your fa*orite part of starting a new project? New notebook smell? Getting to know the characters? Building the plot?
Probably the plot. It’s usually what gets me interested. But sometimes it’s the characters. When it’s both, that’s when I feel the most compelled to write. That happened with this semi-YA series; I was excited about both the characters and the whole-series plot.
X*III. The Moon: What’s the biggest lie that your main character is telling herself?
For Atalanta, it’s that her father was a great man. Achilles was certainly great on the battlefield, but off it he was pretty reprehensible. (Though my Achilles in the books (each book starts with a prologue during the war) isn’t nearly as reprehensible as he should be, ’cause I’m not good at writing that kind of character.) At one point the heroines go to the the house of Hades to talk to a shade (because how could they not?) and Hermes and Hades both work pretty hard to make sure that she doesn’t meet her father’s shade, because they don’t want her to get disillusioned and fail in her quest, since that would be bad for the gods. (Part of Atalanta’s main impetus to be heroic is to try to be worthy of who she thinks her father was.)
Ariadne is also telling herself lies about her father. At first, she’s telling herself that the men who fathered her and Atalanta weren’t really Odysseus and Achilles, but a couple of con men (in modern parlance) claiming to be Odysseus and Achilles. (This despite that Atalanta — at nine years old — was strong enough to throw a grown man onto a one-story roof.) Once the oracle at Delphi had addressed Ariadne as the daughter of Odysseus, it was harder to claim her father wasn’t really Odysseus, so then Ariadne starts lying to herself that Odysseus is the scum of the earth, the worst man in the history of humanity. While Odysseus can be pretty reprehensible, he’s nowhere near that bad. And when Ariadne finally spends some time with Odysseus, she’s quite cold to him, despite that he wants to take up his responsibilities as her father and he genuinely cares about her. (Of course, at her age, the only responsibility left to a father towards his daughter is to find her a good husband and pay a big dowry, but…he both offers to do both and also promises that he won’t force a husband on her. Which is pretty astonishing for the time period.) So one of Ariadne’s major growth points is coming to accept him, at least a little bit.
But I came to realize that Ariadne is also telling herself a much bigger lie about the way she feels for Atalanta. I started writing a follow-up to the final book, which starts out with them going to all the places they gained help during the main series, and letting them know that the enemy has been defeated. But when they get to Troy, they’re going to meet up with the daughter of Hector, and following some desire on her part to kill Atalanta because of what happened between their fathers, more stuff will happen and they’ll end up on their way to Hattusa to see the Hittite king, and other stuff will happen, and I didn’t really get too far. (They hadn’t reached Troy yet.) Anyway, as I was writing that, returning to the characters after about a year, I suddenly realized that Ariadne didn’t just possess the standard cousins/sisters feelings for Atalanta: she wasn’t aware of it, but her feelings were more romantic in nature. I had not intended that to be the case, so I was pretty surprised by it. I had Eurysakes point it out (he didn’t think it was right, since Atalanta and Ariadne had been raised pretty much like sisters) but Ariadne of course denied it utterly, unable to understand that about herself. I’m not sure if I’ll make her realize he’s right or if she’ll keep denying it. And I’m not sure if I’ll try to make it apparent in the main series as I re-write or if I’ll let it remain as it already is.
XIX. The Sun: Do any themes, symbols, or objects come full circle in your story?
Hmm….I can’t think of any, off-hand. Except the prologues: the first one shows the, well, the introduction (and leading off to the bedchamber) of the heriones’ fathers to their mothers, and then shows their births nine months later, while the final prologue returns to Lesbos and shows the girls at about nine years old, and shows their mothers again, while intimating some new things about why they were born. I’m not sure if that’s really “full circle” or not, though.
XX. Judgement: Do your characters get what they deser*e? Why or why not?
Well, in the books already written, two of them basically do…sort of. At that point, they’re all three heroes, and they should get a happy ending, right? So at the ending of the last book, they’re all setting out on a journey together, to share the news of their triumph, and generally to enjoy the trip, glad that they won’t be attacked so much anymore. This is exactly what Atalanta and Ariadne want, though they do merit better still. Eurysakes wants to marry the woman he adores, but at the end of the book he still can’t, because Helen has not yet coaxed Ramses into allowing his adopted daughter to marry a non-Egyptian. (Yes, Helen, Queen of Sparta, is trying to play matchmaker between a Greek prince and an Egyptian princess. It’s that kind of series.) So he hasn’t gotten the happy ending he wants yet.
After the books, though (and I mean after the unfinished one here), Eurysakes will get to marry his Egyptian princess, and he’ll go to rule Salamis, at least until he and his brother gift it to Athens. This is will break up the trio, though of course the girls are welcome in Salamis at all times. But their happy endings get less and less happy, because I had in mind another series, set millennia later: Atalanta will be forced to accept immortality and marry a god (and yes, “forced” is the word, because she doesn’t like him) and Ariadne will be left alone. So after the books, the heroines don’t get the happy ending they should. Which I recognize is really weird, and a little messed up, especially considering the male in the trio does get his happy ending. (Though Ariadne will end up in an Amazon-like town the heroes help establish in one of the books, so she’ll be all right, except for the pain of being parted from Atalanta.)
It’s probably weird that I came up with this much of what happens to them long after the books end…
XXI. The World: At what point did you know that you had to write this project?
After seeing two back-to-back film trailers that utterly desecrated the entire idea of ancient Greece, in my seething fury at Hollywood, I was re-reading and re-writing my Trojan War book. When I got to the part about Achilles killing Thersites and being sent to Lesbos, where Odysseus would perform the purification rite to cleanse him of the homicide, I started wondering what happened when they were there other than the purification rite. I started imagining a dialog between them, as Odysseus kept getting Achilles more and more drunk, mostly for the laughs. (This dialog ended up being a large part of the prologue of book one.) When I knew I had to write the project was when I started wondering what the two girls would name their daughters (who in my initial imagination were just going to run off to be Amazons) and as soon as I decided the daughter of Achilles would be called Atalanta, I knew I had to write their story in full. (Naming her Atalanta was actually an inside joke to my Trojan War book: when Thetis took the nine-or-so-years-old Achilles to Scyros to disguise him as a girl, he suggested that his girl name should be Atalanta, which of course Thetis rejected.)
So, that’s the end of the questions. Since I’m just borrowing the questions and wasn’t strictly speaking tagged (she just left an open “anyone reading this” kind of tag) I’m not gonna tag anyone else. ‘Cause weird.
Anyway, for those unfamiliar with me talking about these books, I want to point out that this is the first time the heroines’ names appear on my blog. (Well, in connection with these characters, anyway. The names show up in talking about the original mythical characters for whom these characters are named.) I’m not sure if using their names like this is proof that any hope of publishing has disappeared, or if this means I actually secretly still think it’ll someday be publishable and I’m subconsciously trying to raise interest.
Ugh, this turned out way too long. (Took like two hours!) Why do I always think long things are going to be short?
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