Saturday, November 1, 2014

Guest post by Satima Flavell

Today's post is by Satima Flavell, author of The Dagger of Dresnia

Many thanks, for giving me the opportunity to share my fantasy-writing journey with your readers. Fantasy has always been my favourite reading matter, ever since I was told fairy tales when I was a pre-schooler. I learnt to read on the Rupert books – tales of a bear who had loads of adventures. A walking talking bear that wore clothes – what could be more fanciful?

From Rupert I progressed to Enid Blyton and thence to Elizabeth Goudge and Mary Stewart. I knew the Arthurian stories before I read Stewart’s realisation of them, of course, but once I’d read The Crystal Cave I was seriously hooked. Thereafter if a book wasn’t either speculative or historical (preferably both!) it had to be very special indeed to capture my attention. So it was inevitable that when I finally started to write fiction, my work would be in the historical fantasy genre.

I didn’t start until I was in my fifties, and it took me fifteen years to get a story published. I’d been writing non-fiction for years as a freelance journalist, but I honestly thought I had no gift for writing fiction. So imagine my delight when stories finally started to flow! My first published fiction piece was La Belle Dame, based on Keats’s poem. It was short-listed in a competition and eventually accepted for an anthology called Mythic Resonance. Edited by Stephen Thompson, it is still available as an e-book on Amazon.

The first idea for the trilogy came to me while I was on a Vipassana meditation retreat. Vipassana is a stringent discipline. Conducted in total silence over a nine-day period, the practice involves alternate sitting and walking practice for up to eighteen hours a day. The mind becomes still, so it’s in a very creative state: one in which story ideas can flourish. Of course, the intention of Vipassana is spiritual growth, not the invention of stories, but that retreat opened my mind to all kinds of things, including the plot that is now the basis of book three of my trilogy, The Talismans.

I realised very quickly that the story I stumbled over on retreat was the end of an epic, not the beginning. So I started writing what I thought was book one, only to realise that the story of two princesses who marry for love instead of going along with the matches their parents had in mind was the second book, not the first. So I had to start again and thus The Dagger of Dresnia was born. It took five years to write and another five to find a publisher. Imagine my joy when Satalyte Publishing sent an email to say they liked it!

In brief, the trilogy is about Ellyria, a medieval queen whose identical triplet sons have each inherited a third of their father’s kingdom. However, they have fallen ill and seem likely to die when an offer of help from a foreign doctor seems to present a way out. But in fact it’s the start of mayhem!

The Dagger of Dresnia carried themes including the many forms of love; the growth of intimacy; the singularising nature of an unusual talent; dealing with consequences; internal conflict; family conflict; problem teenagers and racial conflict. On further reflection, I could add another - the potentially healing power of family ties.

The story is possibly unique among historical fantasies in that the main character is a middle-aged woman. There may be other fantasy books with such a protagonist, but if there are I have not come across them. I know a lot of fantasy readers are older women, who may well relate to Ellyria’s family problems. However, there are younger characters, too – Tamirayne, one of three princesses who come from foreign lands, each to wed one of the triplet kings – is only sixteen and will appeal, I am sure, to younger readers. It is as much Tammi’s story as Ellyria’s. The Dagger of Dresnia is not suitable for people under senior high school age, though, as it contains graphic sex scenes.

Satima Flavell

Book Two of The Talismans, The Cloak of Challiver, is due for release mid-2015, and I am busy collecting ideas for book three, The Seer of Syland. Meantime, you might like to check out The Dagger of Dresnia, which is available as a paperback and also as an e-book from Satalyte Publishing.

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