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Carol Lynn Stewart
Carol Lynn Stewart lives in Northern California with her 18-year-old son and a cat christened "Demonspawn." She has a doctorate in Social Psychology and works at a major university. DOOR IN THE SKY, a novel of magic and mayhem in the middle ages, published by Hard Shell Word Factory, is her first novel.
Carol Lynn toils for her daily bread at a major university, cooking data and mumbling incantations over the bright young heads of first time freshmen. She also reviews strange and magical books for ForeWord Monthly News & Reviews: The Magazine of Independent Publishing. The real boss of her house, Demonspawn the tuxedo cat, rules both Carol Lynn and her son, forcing both to supply copious amounts of noxious, pasty cat dinners.
An Interview with Carol Lynn Stewart
PNR: Door in the Sky is your first novel. It could be described as a dark historical fantasy. The plot is very complex. It has been released in eBook format. Do you feel that e-publishers allow creative freedom with regard to plot?
Carol Lynn S: I sent a partial and synopsis of this book out to a number of print houses and two sent me letters saying that it got a really good first reader response so they sent it up the editorial chain. However, ultimately they didn't buy. One said it was too dark, the other said, in their opinion, it was not a romance. I was really pleased that the readers liked it and recommended it. I write for the readers, not the editors.
When I sent it to Hard Shell they didn't cringe at the length and they bought it right away. I believe that the e-publishers are a good choice for books that straddle the genre line or are hard to categorize. This book was too dark and sci-fi/fantasy for print romance markets and too much of love story for the sci-fi/fantasy publishers.
The complexity of the plot was a hard sell, too. I heard from an agent who read the synopsis and a bit of the manuscript and wanted me to cut 50,000 words before she would represent me. I felt that doing this would lose the subplot of the witch's mother, her lover and the witch's father, which Ihought was one of the book's strengths, so I passed on her offer.
Of course, now that I look at it, I wish I had cut a lot! I think the length may have lost me a star in the Romantic Times review of DOOR IN THE SKY, hehehe. Still, I'm glad I went with an e-publisher so my vision of the book was left standing even after the edits.
PNR: The heroine, Mariana, is the motherless daughter of a Baron. Though legitimate, the Baron has barely acknowledged her existence. For this reason she is tormented by her father's squires. What is the reason behind her circumstances?
Carol Lynn S: Her father is tormented by what happened to Mariana's mother Therese and canbarely look at his daughter. He does the minimum for Mariana to honor her legitimacy and to appease his sister and his mother. However, Mariana's position on the fringes of his life is worse than her life would have been had he sent her to be raised by her mother's people.
PNR: Mariana is unaware of the legacy her mother has gifted her with until one night when the teasing becomes unbearable. How is her power revealed?
Carol Lynn S: Her powers are revealed when she is attacked and defends herself magically. However, magic is double-edged and her instinctive wielding of this power creates a storm that draws unwelcome attention and ultimately extracts a deadly cost.
PNR: Mariana has been raised as a Catholic like her father. In these times it is quite dangerous to be anything else. What are Mariana's feelings about the power she has unleashed? Does she accept them readily?
Carol Lynn S: Mariana fears the power, but at the same time she is drawn to it. Though she was raised Catholic like her father, her near-outcast position at the chateau prevented her from making a strong connection to the Church. Deeply spiritual, like her mother and her mother's family, Mariana looked for other answers to the big questions of life and death, answers outside of the Church's teachings. When Therese's lover steps in to teach Mariana her mother's ways, she embraces the power, despite the danger it brings.
PNR: One young knight, Richard, stands up to his peers, championing Mariana. There are budding feelings between the two. However they have little time together. Once Mariana's powers are revealed she must go away to train. Upon returning home a year later Mariana receives news of two wedding in the offing, neither of them welcome. How does this affect her life?
Carol Lynn S: Mariana harbors a young girl's crush on the older boy. However, this crush does not fade, it burrows deep inside her and grows while she trains.
One of the two weddings, the up-coming wedding of Richard to Beatrice of Bourdeilles deeply wounds her. The other wedding of her father to Ysabel de Greves endangers her.
PNR: Another man enters the picture. This story is set during the Inquistion. Henri is a soldier of Christ who has been disillusioned more than once. His recent witnessing of the burning of Cathars at Monsegur has weighed heavily on him. He has taken on the mission to recover a sacred relic as a means to escape the horror for a time. How does this lead him to Mariana, and what significance has this relic for her?
Carol Lynn S: The massacre of the Cathars at Montsegur did not uncover a treasure the Inquisition was seeking. The Bishop of Narbonne suspected two Basque mercenaries of taking the sacred relic away from Montsegur, and sent Henri to the chateau of Mariana's father to search for it.
The relic falls into the hands of Mariana's mother's family. In her flight from the Inquisition, Mariana comes into possession of the relic and has to return it as the price of being allowed to live. She honors this bargain and in the course of doing so, fully becomes the woman she was meant to be, no longer hiding, but facing her fears and her accusers.
PNR: Mariana's power is both natural and light, however there is one within her household who has evil intentions and uses unnatural means to obtain her goals. What are Ysabel's motives?
Carol Lynn S: Ysabel is governed by her desires. She seeks to use any means necessary to have what she wants: revenge, power and satisfaction of her sexual urges.
PNR: Richard returns, unwed, for Mariana's wedding. This coincides with an unpleasant discovery regarding her betrothed and also a plot by her stepmother which will bring the Inquistion down on her family. Mariana's must make a choice between protecting her mother's people and her own father. She must also make a choice regarding the men in her life. How is her decision made? Does she struggle with her choice?
Carol Lynn S: Before she flees, Mariana struggles with the choice she must make. Should she stay and try to help her father? Should she flee and let events develop as they may? In fleeing she abandons not only her father but the dreams she had of a life with Henri.
In the end her choice is governed by the life inside her. She will not abandon, nor will she endanger the child growing within her.
PNR: One of the irony's of this story is the corruption within the clergy. While hose who exhibit "unnatural" behavior of sort are prosecuted, the church harbors a villain whose tastes are grossly malicious and abusive in nature. Would you say that this character underscores the premise that true evil lies in the quest for power at the expense of others, along with the hatred and bigotry that resides in the souls of mankind?
Carol Lynn S: During this time, the Church's war against the Cathars was such a success that a whole industry of clerical and legal structures were born and nurtured. Once the Cathars were wiped out, the combined secular and clerical industry was loathe to let go of the power and wealth that marched with the search for heresy. When the sexual urge is ruthlessly repressed, the urge twists into something horrible if there is no true sublimation of desire into a love of God. Without the inspiration of a St. Francis, abbeys suffered under the rule of men whose frustration had no outlet. In this sense, the Inquisitor was as much a victim as the boys entrusted to his teaching and guidance.
PNR: In those times anyone with Mariana's gifts would have been labled a witch and disposed of. It was thought that true power for healing etc. could only come from prayer. Anyone human with "gifts" would be thought to be in league with the devil. Human nature being what it is, accusations abounded as a way to rid oneself of any enemy. Though witches are no longer burned at the stake, misconceptions still abound basedon that afore mentioned premise. Would you care to comment on the true beliefs and practices of witches and also those who follow the Wiccan faith?
Carol Lynn S: In those times, before the Inquisition turned its eye to witches, the crime of witchcraft came under the Law of St. Boniface, where it was stated that witchcraft was a foolish endeavor, and women should be instructed to change their ways. Secular law, however, could take property and life away the woman charged with witchcraft. After the eradication of the Cathars set up the legal and clerical machinery of the Inquisition, when it was profitable to go after witches, the Church would do this.
Wicca is a new religion born of a collection of people who looked to resurrect the "Old Gods." Wiccans are generally pantheistic, seeing manygods and goddesses rather than one God, though several traditions look to a Goddess and a God as their deities. Wiccans generally follow two rules:
"Harming none, do what you will," and "Whatever you send out comes back threefold."
are a different matter. There are many people who claim lineage from
a witch family, and who have an old tradition they follow. In this sense,
they are not wiccan but follow an older path laid down for them by their
ancestors. Others have no family tradition, but have studied and been
initiated by a witch who does come from a family where the Craft was
practiced for generations. Before the flowering of the Wiccan faith,
these "fam-trads" kept to themselves and to this day, many
of them still do.
PNR: As I mentioned before, "Door in the Sky" is your debut novel. Do you foresee writing more paranormal romance in the future. What is next for Carol Lynn Stewart?
Carol Lynn S: I am working on the sequel to DOOR IN THE SKY, called WILLOW MOON, Which is the story of Caitlin Creed, an Irish wisewoman who discovers a French knight who lays badly injured on the beach near her home in Connacht. She rescues the knight and finds that he is fleeing the Inquisition. In his care is a sacred treasure he must return to the One who made it.
I also have a contemporary angel story nearly complete, called Spirit Walker, which is the story of Joe Littlehawk, Lakota marine who in 1968 stepped on a mine in Vietnam and the next thing he knew he was looking at a guy with wings. Joe becomes a spirit walker, a ghost who helps people, and is given three rules: don't interfere, don't ever let people see you, and most important of all, don't ever, ever touch.
Before Alena Morgan, Joe had never broken any of these rules . . .
Comment: "I read the beginning of Spirit Walker when I first met
Shell Word Factory
DOOR IN THE SKY - Mariana de Reuilles, beautiful half-Basque witch, comes into her full powers torn between the love of two men. Breton knight Richard de la Guerche, her childhood sweetheart, knows of the old ways, the circle fires and standing stones. Henri de Baucais, tortured soldier of the Inquisition, was sent to destroy her. Yet he can't bring himself to carry out his orders. When a treasure from the massacre at Montsegur falls into her hands, she must choose . . .
Healing Song by Carol Lynn Stewart (Erotic Fantasy) the tale of the centaur Chiron and the water nymph Chariclo.
Look for other works by WITCHES IN PRINT
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