Monday, January 21, 2013

Starflower Guest Post


When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps the lovely Lady Gleamdren, Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission...and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.

But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?

Author Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, and STARFLOWER, with DRAGONWITCH due to release in 2013. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.

Where Do They Come From?
By Anne Elisabeth Stengl

When faced with the question, "How do you come up with your characters?" I always find myself struggling a bit to find a satisfactory answer. It's like being asked, "How did you come up with your brother?" Well, I didn't. He's just there, in all his unique eccentricity. Do you really think I could invent someone like that?

Of course, these characters do actually spring from somewhere in my imagination so, unlike with my brother, I am at least a little bit responsible for their existence. But it doesn't usually feel that way. I don't sit down and think to myself, "I am going to write a character who has all of these personality traits and quirks." I just write the story, and the characters come and go as they will, often surprising me along the way.

However, in the case of Starflower, I do have a slight advantage when faced with this "how do you come up with them" question. You see, a handful of these characters were not originally mine, but were plucked directly out of Celtic legend.

I am speaking of the Merry People of Rudiobus. They are ruled by King Iubdan and his fair Queen Bebo, who are directly stolen (all writers are thieves when you get right down to the nuts and bolts of it) from the legend of the Lepracaun.

Iubdan and Bebo have ruled the Lepracaun for centuries of myth and tradition. I first encountered them in a lovely illustrated volume of fairy tales and was completely taken with the details of their world. Like most of you, my primary experience with Lepracauns (or Leprechauns, as it is more commonly spelled) was the annoying little "They're Magically Delicious!" fellow from television commercials. I thought of them as cheap, silly little imps useful only for marketing sickly-sweet breakfast cereals.

 But then I encountered Iubdan and Bebo in all their majesty as they hold court in Mag Faithleinn. I read how Iubdan alone of all his people boasted jet-black hair, and how Bebo's own golden locks hung to her ankles in thick braids threaded with jewels. I learned of Glomar, son of Glas, the greatest warrior in the land, who could hew down a thistle stalk in a single stroke! And he, brave soul, always stood guard over the king's merry hall.

I also learned of Iubdan's magical steed. This horse, even though it is smaller than a rabbit, even small enough to stand in the palm of a man's hand, will "carry a grown man across the stammering sea." What a wonderful creature, I thought as I read. And beautiful too, with golden flanks, emerald legs, and a long scarlet tail.

Best of all, I read of Iubdan's chief poet, Bard Eshirt. What a merry, talented, impish man is he, ready to best anyone who dares in a battle of wits or wills! I was madly in love with him long before I reached the end of this story.

And before I knew it, I was writing stories of my own about these characters.

It didn't take me long to know I couldn't call them "Leprecauns" without coming face-to-face once more with that "They're Magically Delicious!" stereotype. So I placed them in the realm of Rudiobus Mountain instead, and called them "Rudiobans" or "the Merry People." Their hall was renamed "Ruaine" instead of the mouthful that was "Mag Faithleinn," but it was much the same as the original, full of light and laughter and dancing.

After much struggle, I eventually renamed Eshirt as well. I simply did not feel the name suited him, despite centuries of tradition. So I called him Eanrin, which means "handsome," and I liked him all the better for it.

I also gave my Merry People the power to take animal shapes, after the fashion of another Irish fairy, the púca. And so I watched them come to life for me, moving about my stories in fantastical ways, developing their own culture and ways, but still heavily steeped in the classic traditions of their history. I gave Iubdan's steed the name Órfhlaith, and allowed her to speak and be understood.

And I introduced Queen Bebo's cousin Gleamdren into the mix . . . a haughty beauty, darling of the court, and source of contention between Glomar and Eanrin as they vie for her favor.

Years before I wrote the novel that is now Starflower, I was writing stories about Eanrin, Glomar, and the rest. I even tried my hand at a ballad called, The Ballad of the Flowing Gold (for which Eanrin took all credit, of course).

That unfinished ballad ended up becoming the inspiration for the opening adventures of Starflower. It told of how the Dragonwitch invaded Rudiobus and stole away the fair Lady Gleamdren in an effort to discover the secret of King Iubdan's great treasure, the mysterious Flowing Gold.

It's such a delight, looking back and remembering how all of these characters came into my life. And such a delight for me to introduce you to them now! I do hope you will pick up and enjoy Starflower and my manic Merry People.

I also hope that you will someday find a copy of the fairy tale that inspired it all: "Iubdan, King of the Lepra and the Lepracuan."

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