Joanna Fay is a writer of fantasy novels, short stories and poetry. The first two novels of her epic fantasy sequence The Siaris Quartet, Daughter of Hope and Reunion, have been published by Musa Publishing. Six of her short stories have been published, three of which are set in the Siaris ‘story-world’, and two were shortlisted in the International Aeon Award. Her poems have been much awarded and published. Joanna lives in the Perth hills, Western Australia, with her teenage son and a menagerie of small pets, including a magical white rabbit. She writes and works as a therapist by day, and keeps an eye on the sky for low-flying unidentified objects by night. You can find Joanna at her website, Facebook and Twitter.
Hi Joanna, welcome to The Complete Write-Off and congratulations on the publication of Daughter of Hope and Reunion, the first two novels of the The Siaris Quartet. Can you tell us about the books, and also about your story-world, Siaris?
I’ll start with Siaris, which goes back to eight years of age, when I started drawing and dreaming of winged people living in a vast, hollow world sustained by magic. During teen years, stories grew about these people, and they became distinct characters with their own languages. By late 20s, I’d written more than 3000 pages of a ‘dramatized hundred thousand year history’ that probably meant I had read Tolkien’s Silmarillion too many times!
After binning most of that unwieldy mass of words, I found the last few hundred pages many years later in a packing case and wondered if it might gain a readership. It was a vulnerable feeling, putting what was purely personal writing ‘out there’ into a writing group, so I started with a short story – featuring a daughter of the lead villain in the Siaris story-world. From that traumatic fragment, a longer story spooled out in a rush and eventually became a full-length novel. Daughter of Hope really sits as a prequel in front of an already existing, complex story that my critiquing group let me know needed to be a trilogy. So The Siaris Quartet wasn’t planned as such. Its evolution has surprised me greatly, as did the amount of work needed to trim, tighten and focus my writing craft. Luckily, I went in naïve, or it might have scared me off.
You write poetry as well as prose fiction. Does poetry provide you with an avenue for expression that prose cannot? Do you find yourself addressing the same themes in each form?
Yes and yes. Poetry is condensed, crystallized phrases that carry a lot more ‘space’ than prose, in both form and function. With poems, I let an idea percolate, sometimes for months, and then catch it in a stream of consciousness moment when it’s ‘ready’ (I learned the hard way not to answer the phone in the middle of that stream). They tend to land on the page as a fully-fledged ‘unit’ which I don’t edit much. This process holds true for flash fiction and short stories of up to a few thousand words, but the same method can’t be applied to epic fantasy novels! The crafting, tweaking and restructuring has been entirely different, complicated by attempting to rework material that was more than twenty years old. By the time I got half way through the third novel, I had the confidence to throw the original work away and write ‘fresh’, which is so much easier.
As for themes, the cross-over is always there. The acute observations of nature poems find their way into the detailing of Siaris. Much of my poetry contains mythic content; it is also there in Siaris, in more subtle forms. A reader might not say ‘that’s a reworking of the Isis and Osiris myth’ or ‘there goes Orpheus into the Underworld’, but the traces are there. I find it hard not to think in mythic terms of reference in generating ‘my own’ world, and am constantly fascinated with the recycling of archetypes and archetypal stories embedded in the collective consciousness.
The Siaris Quartet books are being published by a relatively new US publisher, Musa Publishing. What attracted you to submit to Musa?
I had submitted a story to the editor of a small press in Australia. It didn’t suit her, but she had just heard of Musa, and thought they might be a ‘match’ for my writing. I sent off a query letter before Musa had officially opened their e-doors, and within a month found Daughter of Hope contracted, then published in mid-2012. Reunion was released three weeks ago, and the third novel Vow’s Answer will come out later this year. It’s been an exciting process and a high learning curve for me, particularly in the arena of promotion and marketing, as a (formerly) reclusive technophobe! Still learning, but Musa are a great team, and their support has smoothed the way.
Hot off the press, here is an excerpt from Reunion:
Immortal love was never meant to be broken, but the road to restoring it is beyond imagining.
The world of Siaris has been thrown into chaos. Xereth, still reeling from the loss of his children, has bided his time and waited years for the perfect time to exact revenge. That time is drawing near. Little does Xereth know, he’ll have unsolicited help along the way.
Long-dormant prejudices have surfaced among the humans and elden of Siaris, and they are turning their hate toward their Guardian protectors. Neither visions nor spell-craft can predict the mutiny being prepared in their protectorate, and when a human and Guardian fall in love the rule banning their marriage only ignites the drive to retaliate.
In the world Riana and her Guardian family protect, war has broken out, led by the man who once loved her, now Lord of the Shadow Realm. The old rules are crumbling, the spells engraved in the Guardians’ bones are breaking down. Will Siaris and its Guardians survive the changes?
Strength coursed through Riana’s body as if a river had been unleashed, driving her into a sprint. She hurtled down the dark hallway, swiveling an image of the fortress around in her mind’s vision. Locking onto her position, she took an ascending passage.
She ran hard. Mottled folds of cloth whipped around her ankles. The fortress’s black walls pressed in close, dank and smothering. Her footsteps were muffled, all sounds eaten in the gloom. Her bare feet stung where they met the fierce cold of the floor. She veered around a twist in the corridor and rocked back on her heels. Eyes gleamed in front of her, colder than the stone beneath her feet.
The voice slid like ice through her head. No mercy lit Maegren’s features, no hint of the knowledge she’d seen. Torchlight licked at the hem of his cloak, sent a chill line down his black feathers.
Riana forced down panic. “Maegren, let me go.”
She held herself still, but a betraying tremor touched her words. He laughed. Backing away, Riana spun about and slipped into a narrow opening to her left. She fled down a pitted slope into deeper blackness lit only by her fractured halo.
She ran until the breath caught in her lungs, until her feet began to slow. The strength she’d built was sapping from her limbs, draining from fractures in her spellsheen.
I can’t escape.
Every turn and kink in the line of the path was drawing her further into the fortress. The dark communal will at its centre closed in fast, tightening the noose. The soft mutters of the gods gnawed at the edges of her mind. Ancient decay cloyed in her nostrils. She lurched to a halt.
Impossibly, Maegren stood before her again. A vindictive smile curled his lips as he swept a low bow. The black hair framing his face swung in glittering sheets. Catching a faint blue glow at the periphery of her vision, terror knifed through Riana and sent pinpricks though her limbs. She glanced back over her shoulder, searching the darkness. In the corner of her eye, an indigo form closed in on her with predator stealth.
“Xereth,” she whispered.
Her cousin’s blue eyes narrowed, transfixing her.
Run to ground like a wild thing.
Sensing something else, unbelieving, she looked down. Low in her belly a point of light welled. New cells sparkled where an egg snuggled in the wall of her womb. She gasped and put a trembling hand to her body. Maegren’s suppressed sound of shock caught her ear. Reacting to Xereth’s presence, she shielded her sudden awareness with all the power she could muster. The white glow in Maegren’s eyes dulled. Weakness crept up Riana’s legs as a picture formed in front of her. She sank to her knees, oblivious to the icy bite of the floor beneath her hand. Before her stood a little boy, quite calm, his eyes shining. He held a hand out to her, one cheek dimpling.
“Mother, it will be all right.”
Thanks, Joanna, that was excellent! You can find Joanna’s novels at the links below. Thanks for coming onto my blog to talk about your work and good luck with the two books and indeed the remainder of what promises to be a very exciting series.
Daughter of Hope links:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/reunion-joanna-fay/1114377658