Reblogged from Through the Mists of Time by Nicole Evelina, 3/4/2013
Today I’m honored to feature an interview with Kim Headlee, a fellow Arthurian author whom I’ve admired for years. She and I were on the same Arthurian list-serve back in 1999 when I was first conceiving my own Guinevere books and I’m so thrilled to have connected with her once again!
1. Please tell us a little about Dawnflight.
Dawnflight is the first installment of The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles, a series that I hope will span at least eight volumes, including two which precede Dawnflight in terms of the characters’ chronology. Dawnflight features the romance of Gyanhumara (“Gyan”) and Arthur beginning in the aftermath of the first of Arthur’s twelve battles, in which he defeated her people and established the treaty clause that she must marry a nobleman from his side of the border.
Of course, treaties, like all other rules, are indeed meant to be broken. The trick lies in how to break them without creating calamity for all involved. Throw in an enemy invasion for good measure (battles two and three on Arthur’s list of twelve), and our heroes have quite the conundrum, indeed.
2. What inspired you to write it?
A combination of factors contributed.
When I was 7 (I’m dating myself, but I stopped caring about such things decades ago), my parents took me to see the movie Camelot in the theatre. The two images I liked best from that first viewing were Guinevere in her white fur wrap and the knights fighting on top of the Round Table and breaking it. Both foreshadowed the direction of my Arthurian fiction.
At age 9, I read a modern-English rendering of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur cover to cover and became hooked. I began devouring every Arthurian title I could lay my hands on. In those days, that meant editions such as The Boy’s King Arthur, a version of Malory illustrated by Howard Pyle, an umpteenth reprinting of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and an almost-umpteenth reprinting of The Once and Future King.
In high school, my parents gave me a first-edition copy of The Hollow Hills, which made me thirst after historical adaptations. The highest compliment any reviewer has paid my work to date is to give it a favorable comparison to Mary Stewart’s novels; she was my primary literary hero in those days. She still is.
High school was when I first started writing my own version of the Arthur-Guinevere relationship. I still have a couple of drafts of that—and read them recently, in fact. What a hoot! 100% teenage girl, no question about it.
Then Marion Zimmer Bradley came out with her iconic entry into the Legends (Mists of Avalon and, yes, I have a first edition of that, too), which concentrated on “rehabilitating” the reputation of Morgan le Fay.
Through all of this—and I include the works by Nancy McKenzie, Persia Woolley, Sharan Newman, and Helen Hollick—I couldn’t find a rendering of Guinevere that I well and truly liked. So, as the adage goes, “If you want something done right…”
3. You are a woman after my own heart! What’s different about this new version from the award-winning one released in 1999?
Glad you asked!
The most obvious difference at first glance is the inclusion of my digital line-art renderings of images engraved on Pictish standing stones found throughout Scotland, plus some of my original artwork inspired by said stones. These drawings function throughout the text as clues to the reader of an imminent viewpoint shift: the doves represent Gyan, the dragons Arthur, and so forth. With more than ten viewpoint characters, I decided my readers could use a bit of help!
Linguistically—aside from tighter wording and hotter sex—I have expanded my characters’ vocabularies to include additional epithets, endearments, insults, and mythology in order to more richly define their world. I never would have dared to do this had I not decided to include a glossary. Since my work has truly epic scope, I also include an index of characters who appear or who are referenced in the book. This index defines each character’s function in the story and gives other pertinent details.
4. I’ve heard you say that yours is a Guinevere “people will actually like.” What do you mean by that? What makes her different?
She’s smart (and sometimes a smartass!), she’s strong willed, she has a fairly firm idea of who she is and what she wants from life—and from her life-partner—and yet all that strength forms a shell around a compassionate, vulnerable core. She wants to do the best thing for her people but sometimes doesn’t have the first clue how to accomplish it and seeks approval along the way. Consequently, she is mercilessly hard on herself when she perceives that she has failed to meet others’ expectations. In short, she is very much a woman that female readers can relate to despite the fact that most of us don’t rule clans or collect heads. I once described the book to a coworker as, “a female assertiveness training manual.” It’s not far from the truth. Male readers can simply sit back and enjoy the view, along with the battles and political intrigue and whatnot.
5. What made you choose Scotland as the location for your novel when England is the traditional setting?
Several research works I read in the 1980s—before Dawnflight first took shape upon the page—suggested to me that the Border Country was an ideal location for Arthur’s military operations. Plus, I was attracted to the cross-cultural aspect of having Arthur be a Romanized Celt and Gyan a Pict (or “ban-Caledonach,” as she would call herself in my newly invented Pictish terminology). In fact, the more I delve into Scottish Gaelic to create Pictish terms for place-names, the more I am convinced that southern Scotland/northern England was Arthur’s home turf, in spite of what others may insist. The wording, in comparison to traditional Arthurian place-names and battle sites that nobody can identify with anything approaching certainty, fits far too nicely to be mere coincidence.
And, yes, I firmly believe Arthur, his wife, and their associates existed. To do anything less would be a gross disservice to my writing and to my readers.
6. I’ve read that you purposefully stripped your tale of the magic usually associated with Arthurian legend to focus more on the history. Why?
Oh, the magic is there, trust me! But it is the magic of visions and prophecies, the magic of prayer, the magic of curses and blessings, the magic of herbal lore…and most of all, the magic that happens when two charismatic individuals unite to forge a better world for themselves, each other and their people.
7. The summary for your book puts forth an interesting premise: Gyan (Guinevere) marries someone other than Arthur. What made you choose such a bold departure from previous legend?
Good question! I think it may have been inspired by some obscure, ancient tale…after having studied the Arthurian Legends for more than four decades, it’s safe to say that I’ve forgotten far more than most people know about the subject.
Actually, to be fair—and this isn’t really a spoiler alert—Gyan is betrothed to Urien. After she and Arthur meet and become attracted to each other, they spend the rest of the book trying to figure out how she can extricate herself from the betrothal without making Urien start a civil war.
8. Dawnflight has a sequel, correct? What can you tell us about this book and when it will be available?
Morning’s Journey picks up the morning after Dawnflight leaves off and follows Gyan & Arthur through more battles and family changes and triumphs and tragedies. And it delves a little farther into the relationship of Gyan and Angusel (Lancelot). Morning’s Journey is available in ebook format and will be available in print next month.
9. What else might readers like to know about Dawnflight?
If you choose to buy the print edition, message me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/kim.headlee) for instructions on how to obtain an autographed bookplate. If you buy the e-book edition, I can mail you a magnet… but I wouldn’t advise putting it anywhere near your device!
10. When and where can readers find your books?
Please see the links on my blog's sidebar for current retail outlets for all my books, including audiobook editions.
11. How can people find out more about you?
Friend me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kim.headlee. I like to share stuff about cats and Star Wars and writerly things and inspirational sentiments and, oh yeah, the occasional original thought.
Thank you , Kim, for joining us here. I hope you find great success with Dawnflight, and best of luck on your future works!