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Russian Website Interview 2007

Started by Bynw, January 20, 2017, 09:50:10 PM

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Question: In our country you are known first of all thanks to your Deryni saga. Could you please tell us more about your way as a writer. How did you start writing? What themes and what topics were your first works dedicated to? In what circumstances did you start writing?

KK: I have always enjoyed writing, though when I was young, I didn't think it likely that I could actually make a living doing it. In fact, I trained first as a scientist, though I also studied humanities and history at the honours level at university. But I was a science major in those days, and took my first degree in pre-med chemistry. I attended medical school for a year, but found that I was unwilling to give up the creative life of the mind for as long as would have been required to complete a medical education. In short, I decided that I would rather write about medicine than practice it. So I quit and went back to graduate school in history—and I started thinking more seriously about writing fiction.

Question: How did the image of Deryni appear? How did this idea come to you? What features of this idea attracted you?

KK: This might sound trite, but it all started as a dream, while I was attending medical school. That dream, for which I wrote fairly extensive notes on 3×5 cards that still exist, became the basis for Deryni Rising. Initially, I wrote it up as a novella, just for my own pleasure, then expanded it into what became the first book of the Deryni Trilogy: Deryni Rising, Deryni Checkmate, and High Deryni.

Question: Which character is the closest to you?

KK: I think that Camber and Duncan probably resonate for me most strongly, though most of the major positive characters have elements with which I can identify. (And I'm sure that some of my nastiest villains reflect some of my dark aspects.) In my works outside the Deryni universe, I identify quite a lot with Peregrine Lovat and Prince William, of the Adept series and Lammas Night, because they ask the kinds of questions I've always asked, or wanted to ask, of those presenting esoteric information. I'd like to think that I also have at least a measure of the wisdom of Adam Sinclair and John Graham.

Question: In your works you describe in a very convincing way the internal life of an ecclesiastical organisation invented by you. Why are you interested in these questions and why do you have this in-depth knowledge of these topics?

KK: Well, the Church of Gwynedd has a strong resemblance to the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, so I can't claim to have invented it from whole cloth; but I've always been interested in comparative religion. In our own world, the authority of the Church permeated almost every aspect of life in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, for good and for ill. To some extent, some of the spiritual issues with which my characters wrestle have mirrored aspects of darker portions of history and of my own spiritual quest over the years. In that respect, I particularly identify with Cinhil's yearning for his lost priesthood, since I also felt a priestly calling that, as a woman, I couldn't pursue through traditional avenues—both because of my gender and because it would have required me to put aside my writing, which I feel is an important part of my life mission. Fortunately, I later found a way to bring my own quest to reality, and was ordained nearly twenty years ago in an Old Catholic apostolic succession similar to the Anglican tradition. This continues to be an important part of my life.

Question: What else are you doing (or were doing) except the literature?

KK: If you mean professionally, I've been writing fulltime for more than twenty years now, but before that I worked in law enforcement (as an instructional designer of police training material for the City of Los Angeles, California) and briefly in a television newsroom, in addition to a variety of part-time jobs while I was a student, mostly in scientific research and medical fields.

Question: Do you have hobbies? Could you please tell us more about them?

KK: For hands-on hobbies, I enjoy reading, of course, sewing and counted cross-stitch embroidery, interior decorating, stomping around historic ruins—and lately, I've become quite involved in the restoration of historic buildings. (We live in one, built 1832-37, and we've been doing extensive reinstatement and restoration for most of the past year.)

Question: What places on Earth do you especially like? What places could you describe as "yours"?

KK: I've always felt a particular affinity for Scotland, even before I ever went there, and I very much enjoy living in Ireland. (I grew up in southern Florida and spent nearly 20 years in southern California, but could never go back to live in either place!) I've always lived within about twenty miles of the sea—first the Atlantic Ocean, then the Pacific, and now the Irish Sea—and can't imagine living very far inland, even though I don't often actually go to the seaside. I just need to know it's there! As for other places, I much prefer places with human history rather than wilderness for the sake of itself. Give me ruins and historic buildings any day!

Question: What do you especially appreciate in human beings? How it is reflected in your works?

KK: Human beings are quite amazing folk, capable of incredible acts of kindness and unspeakable acts of depravity. Fortunately, my personal experience is far more of the former than the latter, but the interplay of both is what has made history so fascinating, and what makes for a good story.

Question: Do you believe in magic? Have there been miracles in your life?

KK: I don't know about personal miracles—though I've had extraordinary good fortune in being the right place at the right time with the "right stuff," all my life—but miracles certainly exist, as does magic. The mystical is all around us, and the very fact of life is miraculous.

Question: What books do you like to read?

KK: I'm a very eclectic reader. I like straight history, historical fiction, mysteries (if in a historical context), science fiction, mysticism, architecture.... You'd be amazed at the odd assortment of books stacked on my bedside table on any given night.

Question: How do the position of the woman and the women's characters described in the Deryni saga differ (or do not differ at all) from the ideal (according to your point of view) of a modern woman in the real world? How do you think what the ideal woman-writer should look like?

KK: I've sometimes had readers ask why my female characters aren't more politically correct by modern standards, why there are no female warriors, and so forth. I reply that I'm showing these women as strong within the context of their own culture, which I've chosen to base on our own Western European history—and women of the nobility, at that. (Peasants and commoners, however kind and noble, rarely had the leisure to take off on adventures, because so much energy was spent on mere survival; so they're rarely the source of inspiration for fantasy worlds—unless, of course, they're really lost nobility. But they don't become interesting until they start to discover this about themselves. This is one of the big differences between fiction and reality.)

So during the Middle Ages, which is the model for Gwynedd, women had pretty strictly defined roles to play—though I did try to draw on some of the strong historical women as templates for Gwynedd's noble women. Evaine MacRorie is a strong case in point, modeled directly on Sir Thomas More's daughter, Margaret Roper—an extremely intelligent and well-educated woman of her time, who could have held her own quite well in our modern world. (Think of that wonderful scene in the Paul Scofield film of A Man for All Seasons, when King Henry VIII comes to Sir Thomas More's home and meets his daughter Margaret, who is far smarter and more fluent in Latin than Henry is. That's the kind of women I like to write about!)

But women were constrained by their biology and by the lack of technology that we take for granted today, most of which has only really changed in the past fifty years or so! Historically, one of a woman's principal duties (even a noble one, or especially a noble one) was to provide heirs, to educate them for their future roles, and to provide the domestic support necessary for her household, either in person or by directing servants to help with this task. In a non-technological age, that would have been a fulltime job, and more. (It still is, even with modern technology; but the women do bear the babies, and end up usually being the primary care-giver.) Mass manufactured goods did not exist until Victorian times; every item had to be made by hand, one at a time. That doesn't even begin to address the energy that went into growing food, or hunting food, or cooking food, or cleaning up after food. Given this reality, it's a wonder that anyone did anything beyond mere survival.

Question: Many readers like you. What is your approach towards your celebrity status? You do not pay attention to it or try to influence human spirits or try to help or act according to the principle "make no harm" or just act as your forces and your talent enable you?

KK: In many respects, writers aren't that different from anyone else—except that we actually do, or write about doing, what others only dream. If we create a world that readers find exciting, inviting, that's a great compliment to the writer. And the better we are at what we do, the more people we're apt to influence, even if it's just by planting the seed of a new idea. So in that respect, the writer's job goes beyond just entertaining—though that's always the Prime Directive. But given the ability to influence many readers, it behooves one also to gently instruct, if possible. Or, as one person put it, I don't try to change people's minds; just to open them.

Especially in the area of spirituality, of organized religion, I think I've succeeded fairly well. I get frequent letters from readers who had been let down by the faith of their childhood, had rejected it, but then return to take another look, because of the example of some of my characters. There are several who have entered the clergy of their religious tradition. Many at least have resumed a corporate expression of some kind of faith in a Higher Being. It doesn't matter to me, what religion it is, so long as it's one that is focused on the Light. There are many paths to Divinity, and all are valid, so long as they harm no one. In many respects, I think of faith as an aesthetic call, in which one envisions one's personal ideals of what a Supreme Being ought to embody—er, ensoul....

Question: Tell us please about your present work, if it is possible. What are you writing?

KK: I'm currently well into the second book of the Childe Morgan Trilogy, which begins before Morgan's birth (as told in the first book of that trilogy, In the King's Service, released last November), and will take us up to just before the beginning of Deryni Rising. Incidentally, a lightly polished edition of DR is scheduled to be released in July, in its first hardcover edition—what I refer to as the Author's Cut—with a new introduction that puts the book into perspective as a foundation of the modern fantasy genre. (After all, it was written more than thirty years ago, and I was making up the genre as I went along!) The changes are subtle; but I wrote that book more than thirty years ago, so I've learned a lot in the meantime. Hopefully, there will be many more adventures of the Deryni!
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