Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Feathered Edge Tackles Norse Mythology

My relationship with Rosemary Hawley Jarman is all Tanith Lee's fault. Which is actually a good thing. In my more whimsical moments, I suspect there is a secret society of British fantasy authors who, if they don't actually know one another, enjoy only a single degree of separation. (Sometimes that degree is me, and it's both odd and delightful to be performing introductions across the Atlantic between people who live on the same island, but that's another story.) So when Tanith introduced me to Rosemary, Rosemary and I also had another connection, which is that the small press Norilana was publishing both the first anthology I'd edited and Rosemary's romantic fantasy, The Captain's Witch. Her 1971 novel, We Speak No Treason, featured the much maligned King Richard III.

Rosemary is one of the authors who teach me about editing. It's quite a humbling experience to work with writers with far more years and experience than I have. I feel privileged to get a peek into their

"Ever since my first glimpse of fjord and glacier," she writes, "the Norse legends have become emotionally significant. The magical sword I see as the archetype of mortal striving and desire. In this story I have departed from the Wagnerian tradition and it is a woman who, like the hero Siegfried, renders the broken weapon into a sacred force. The Ring has elements of the Sleeping Beauty, the longed-for princess, and the flames symbolise the ordeal to be passed through in search of fulfillment. Nothing changes, even today, so long as love is pure."
own processes. More than that, I've come to see that editing-according-to-Deborah is like a dance. The author does her best to put her vision (or, as Rosemary puts it, her "creative plan") into words on a page, and I do my best to discern the heart of that story and, upon occasion, to make suggestions aimed at realizing that heart more fully. Sometimes I'm spot-on, but at other times I can misperceive or get overly enthusiastic about what I think the story is about (as opposed to what the author intended). I know I'm on the right track when I'm able to judge when to drop it, what is the author's creative prerogative, and when to press a question, when there's something unresolved that in my judgment impairs the story from reaching its potential. Working with Rosemary, especially seeing how she thinks in terms of a "creative plan" has given me great insight into the flexibility needed for good editing. This was especially helpful with "Fire and Frost and Burning Rose" because she's taken a mythology and shaped it in unexpected ways.

As with Rosemary's other stories, it's best to leave your expectations at the door when you venture forth into her world. Just when you think you have it figured out -- oh, this character is this Norse god, and so forth -- she spins the story around and you're not in Kansas -- er, Norway -- any more, but in a realm that sometimes playful, sometimes tragic, sometimes erotic, always refreshing.

Rosemary lives in an antique stone cottage between sea and mountain in West Wales, which strikes me as an exactly perfect place in which to write her stories.

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