Thursday, July 4, 2013

An interview with Janet Morris

I conducted an interview with Janet Morris last night. It was really good.
Brian: Welcome Janet, Sacred Band of Stepsons and a number of the other books are mythological fantasy books. What do you find most appealing about the genre? 
Janet: I am always writing about the human condition, which means writing about our brains, our souls, our bodies, and our place in the universe, all of which are central to mythopoeic thought. Now that we are learning more about ourselves, we are learning that humans naturally organize information into story form. That's the logical explanation. Noe the illogical explanation: I feel the mythos moving; I'm drawn to stories that connect to our most ancient notions of self and world; and -- when I am lucky, I find a tie of myth that carries me farther into story and mystery than logic can ever take me.

Brian: Do you have a particular favorite of the books you've written? 
Janet: Of the books I've written, or co-written, The Sacred Band (with Chris Morris) and I, the Sun are my favorite. Tempus and the Sacred Band of Stepsons, more than any other characters or stories, take me "a world away," as mythos and ethos mix, and story becomes the glue for a metaphysical and visionary experience that some call "myth" and some call "heroic" and some call history. I call it the book I want to read, which is what I always write. I the Sun was an entirely different challenge, since fragments of the first-person annals of the viewpoint character exist in the historical record. But Suppiluliumas grabbed my heart, brought me to the world of hist story, and if not for him in his demanding world of historicity and passion, I never would have found my way to Tempus and the Sacred Band of Stepsons. I have written many novels and stories with strong intellectual foundation, intriguing suppositions upon human and superhuman nature, but these two are transport me like no others.

Brian: Most recent was "I, The Sun." I'm sure it took a lot of research. What is the most interesting you uncovered while writing the book? 
Janet: While writing I, the Sun, I uncovered my own passion for the Ancient Near East, early civilizations, and the truth that reaches across the ages to ennoble us. Suppiluliumas' own annals, both as paraphrased by his descendants and in fragments that remain begin: "Thus speaks the Sun Suppiluliumas, Great King, King of Hatti, Favorite of the Storm God, the Valiant." He was all of those. Falling in love with this king brought me reaches beyond counting. I hired Calvert Watkins, then at Harvard, as my consultant. I studied hard and long. But most of all, I let Tasmi take me into a world that shaped our own. I found, and find, it fascinating to mix fact and fiction, historical and scientific rigor with poetic flight. I suppose I am still in love with this king, and his time, and the ethos behind him, but I have used the approach I learned writing his story to enrich many other stories, in fiction and fantasy both. So it wasn't so much facts that I learned, but how to subsume myself in a character while staying true to a story's historic and visionary nature.

Brian: The covers are works of art in my opinion. Who designs them?
Janet: I hope you're correct and that the covers are, if not works of art, then worth of the stories they contain. They are, at least, from works of art: the greatest artists of all the ages are available today to one who looks for them. I was truly insulted by many covers put on my books by New York publishers. One of the reason we decided to try small press publishing was to get cover control. I choose the art, which is often Old Master or Classical or Baroque art; then I work with my cover designer, Sonja Aghabekian, by sending her a scan of the painting I want to use and telling her which detail of the painting I want to make most important. I then let her suggest several approaches, calligraphy, and nuance the front cover. When I have worked with her to select what may be one cover approach out of three or four, we move to the back cover design. We try to remain flexible, but we set a general style for each series and we flex within the goals we have established. On single novels or anthologies, we can be very bold. When you see the next two Beyond books, Beyond The Veil and Beyond Wizardwall, which are finished and waiting for production to catch up, you'll see a truly remarkable trilogy approach to covers: each of these Rubens covers contains the gray horses that Tempus calls "Tros" horses, and each painting is appropriate for the action in the book, yet all were centuries ago. I the Sun was our greatest challenge yet, because we wanted to feature the actual kingship seal of our hero. We managed to do it well; we think Suppiluliumas would be amused, or even pleased.
As for why we put so much time and money into covers: if a reader is going to spend the money for a trade paperback or hardcover of ours, they should get something extra: a beautiful cover, respectfully presented.
You can buy Perseid Press books, including The Sacred Band, Tempus, Beyond Sanctuary, The Fish the Fighters and the Song Girl, I, the Sun, the Heroes in Hell series in all its infernal glory, and whatever else we feel is worthy of our efforts, at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, on Nook or Kindle. We are beginning to publish novels by various authors who interest us, not simply anthologies, and enjoying it very well. And now we are releasing audiobooks at The Sacred Band will be our next audiobook release. Mage Blood is our most recent audiobook release, available on Amazon and from direct. We love the experience of both creating and listening to audiobooks: this ancient art form of the oral tradition is coming alive again in the 21st century, and we're excited to be a part of it.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. For Chris Morris, myself, and all our Perseid authors, Brian, thank you for giving us this opportunity to invite you and your audience into our world of books for the experienced reader....

Brian: Thank you very much.

Where you can find "I, The Sun"

Where you can find "The Sacred Band"

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done! I have been intrigued by this series, but have yet to get them. I'm beginning to think these would be a great selection for my husband, as this genre is what he focuses on most.


Thank you very much for your comment.