By Karin Rita Gastreich
In chapter 2 of Eolyn, Ghemena, a maga of the Old Orders, pokes fun at imaginative villagers and their stories of old hags in edible houses.
“A house of sweet bread!” Ghemena scoffs. “Who would invent such nonsense?”
Of course in so doing, Ghemena also pokes fun at me, the author, who proceeds to lead the reader into a world where an amulet transports a prince halfway across a kingdom, where a young woman learns to cast flames from the palm of her hand, and where dragons sail fierce and silent over mist-covered forests.
I’ve often been asked why I write fantasy.
I write fantasy because I wanted to write Eolyn’s story.
So the real question, then, is this: why did I write Eolyn?
This novel has been brewing for a very long time, and many events, places, stories and dreams influenced the 118,000 or so words that became the novel. So I can’t cover all the “why’s” of Eolyn in a single post. But I can talk about a few sources of inspiration.
My earliest memories of scenes from Eolyn date back to my college years, when day dreams and fantasy gave me a break from the rigors of studying. I didn’t have names for the characters, or a story outline, or anything written down for that matter. But I knew Eolyn would lose her family to a violent fate, and that this would somehow be connected to a dangerous act committed by her mother. I knew Eolyn would be a gifted maga in a world where magic was forbidden to women, and that her nemesis – the Mage King – would, through some trick of destiny, also be her closest friend.
It’s probably no coincidence that during my college years I read JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for the first time. We’d be hard pressed to find any fantasy writer who has not been inspired by this great author. I remember loving those books, and yet – as a young woman – feeling disappointed by the lack of engaging, well-rounded, and prominent female characters.
In the 20 years since I read Lord of the Rings, women have carved out their place in fantasy. There are many books and movies that feature strong female protagonists, often written by incredible women authors.
Still, given that the first stirrings of Eolyn came at a time when I was reading Tolkien, I have to recognize that a driving force in the creation of this novel was a very personal need to have a fantasy novel in which women played meaningful and complex roles. I wanted a woman protagonist, and many minor women characters, all of whom could make courageous decisions that would alter the destiny of their people, even if they lived in a society largely controlled by men.
In short, Eolyn is an epic fantasy character I can relate to and admire, a woman capable of overcoming extraordinary challenges and making a positive difference in a brutal world. I feel very lucky to have been given her story, and I am very excited to be able to share it with you.
Karin Rita Gastreich