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by Barbara Sheridan
Leslie Tramposch: Managing Editor - Sara Reyes: Marketing and Publicity
To submit articles of interest to our readers Email Barbara.

April 2001

Romance...With a Little MYTH-Story!

PNR CHAT, monthly - 3rd Tuesday, 9PM Eastern
PNR Poll: We Want More............Mythological Romances!

Roberta Gellis

Roberta Gellis has a varied educational background--a master's degree in biochemistry and another in medieval literature--and working history: 10 years as a research chemist, many years as a free-lance editor of scientific manuscripts, and well over 30 years as a writer. She is married--to the same man for over 50 years (no mean feat in these days)--and lives in Lafayette, Indiana with her husband Charles and a lively Lakeland terrier called Taffy. She has one child, Mark, who teaches Rhetoric (a fancy name for expository writing) at Kettering University inMichigan. Mark is married to Sandra and they have a lovely daughter, Elizabeth.

An Interview with Roberta Gellis

Roberta, you are a veteran author. You're career has spanned several decades. You written for magazines, the majority if not all the major print houses, and you've recently released an electronic book. You've written mysteries, medievals and other historicals, and romantic suspense which is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. You've written SF&F under a pseudonym and your own name from the late 1970's to the present and received several career achievement awards. What changes have you noticed within the industry during the course of your career, for better or for worse? How do you think the readers have changed?

Roberta G: The main change I have noticed in the industry is that there are fewer and fewer publishers. Most of the publishing houses I worked for have been swallowed not only by the large conglomerates, but sort of merged together. Along with that is a far more accountant-type mind in dealing with books. The independent houses were more willing to take a chance on a new author and build that author's career as well as allowing authors to take a chance on new and different material. The merged houses want to sell books like shoes--a prepared package in a style for that season.

I'm not certain readers have changed. The editors certainly now purchase
books that are shorter and much simpler than those I wrote in the past.
I have heard that readers now have no time or patience for complex
history-driven plots and want shorter books that concentrate only on the emotional relationship between the hero and heroine. This may well be true. I don't know because the only readers who contact me are those who like my kind of book and express their regret that I cannot write historical romance any more. I have no patience with heroes and heroines who spend their time examining their own belly-buttons to determine if s/he loves me or s/he loves me not while the whole world is falling apart around them.

PNR: At the dawn of a new millennium, what changes would you like to see in the next decade?

Roberta G: I haven't really got any answer for this at all. Naturally I'd like writers to get a bigger share of the pie and be able to publish and sell anything they want--but that's pie in the sky. I hope to see the very small presses grow a bit ... but not enough to make them a morsel for the huge conglomerates, and I'd like to see those all collapse and disgorge all the publishers they've swallowed to pursue their independent way again. More pie in the sky.

PNR: Before we get into the discussion of "Bull God", tell us about your recent e-book "Overstars Mail" for SWP. Why are more established authors turning to epublishing?

Roberta G: Well in the case of OVERSTARS MAIL, it was (laughably) just the
Opposite of what I have been complaining about. Science fiction and fantasy are going all serious and very, very long. I'm not complaining about this; I write rather long (although not too seriously), but sometimes I just turn out something light and silly and brief. OVERSTARS MAIL is a piece of fluff. In my opinion it's ADORABLE--and oddly in my agent's opinion, too, once I got her to read it. What happened was that I told her I had written this short, light, humorous (I hope) space-opera book ... and she said there was no market for that kind of thing, that space opera should be long and serious. So I put the book away rather sadly, because I love it. Anyway, about two years later I went to an SF Con, called LunaCon and the e-publishers had taken a couple of rooms to show off their stuff. I went to see what they had, and Penny Hussey asked if I had anything I thought would be suitable for them. I immediately thought of poor OVERSTARS. They loved it and published it. When I told my agent about it, she got curious and asked to see the book, and she loved it too. I don't know what will happen to it now. It still isn't long and serious.

PNR: Bull God is your fourth mythological fantasy? What is the appeal to writing this type of story?

Roberta G: For me the appeal started not with BULL GOD but with DAZZLING
BRIGHTNESS. My mother was a Classics scholar and I was born soon after she
Graduated from college. Actually it was a near squeak; she graduated in June and I was born in September. Anyway, I don't know whether she didn't like fairy stories or didn't know any, but when I started asking, "Tell me a story." I got the Greek and Roman myths--only I got them straight out of the Greek and Roman literature with not prissy Victorian translators turning the stories into what they thought was proper. To me Persephone was an awe-inspiring, terrifying goddess, not a silly little girl who wanted to go home to her mommy. I was disgusted, even as a child by the story of the abduction of Persephone; she was a good match for Hades and either didn't mind being abducted or made poor Hades sorry he had every taken her. When I found that my medieval romances were no longer acceptable because of their historical content, I offered a retelling of the story of Hades and Persephone. [To the Greeks, that was not the important part of the story; it was only used as an explanation for the existence of winter.] I did some checking in scholarly Greek studies and made sure my mother's interpretation was right and then I got a real kick out of writing the story.

The publisher liked the idea well enough to contract me for three books.(It was a major mistake; apparently readers of romance don't like the ancient Greek setting and the books didn't sell very well) but I did retellings of Eros (as the very ancient god of the Greeks, not the little cupid of the Renaissance) and Psyche (SHIMMERING SPLENDOR) and then of Orpheus and Eurydice. But ENCHANTED FIRE was not concerned with the actual myth of the descent into the underworld but an attempt to answer the question of _why_ Orpheus followed his wife into the world of the dead.

Most of my mythological fantasies try to put flesh on the bare bones we
have had handed down from the Greeks. The myths were not bare bones to
them; they knew so much more because we have lost so much. When a group
of plays that deals with the myths is preserved, like those of the house of Atreus, we see the people in the myth as real human beings. Mostly all we have is references and of those we have constructed the myths, but the characters are no long flesh and blood. I have always wanted to make the myths real.

That was largely the reason for BULL GOD. We know the Minotaur was born of Pasiphae. She was a woman; she could not have borne the giant monster
with a bull's head and a man's body described in the myth. What happened
to the Minotaur after birth? Who cared for the horribly deformed child?

Why was he first worshipped and then confined to Daedalus's maze? Why did Dionysos come to rescue Ariadne when she was left on Naxos by Theseus? Research answered the question about Dionysos and Ariadne-she was his priestess. But the other questions I answered myself.

The next mythological fantasy is about Hekate and that was a real challenge. There are no myths concerning Hekate, only characteristics. THRICE BOUND is an attempt to explain those characteristics.

PNR: There is definitely a romance in the story, though it develops over time. This is the story of Ariadne who grows from a girl to a woman, caught between two demi-gods. One who inspires her love and devotion, the other her compassion and pity. She is a priestess consecrated to the "god" Dionysus. What makes her special?

Roberta G: I can't say much beyond what appeared in BULL GOD. Ariadne was the seventh child, the third daughter of Pasiphae and Minos. The myth gave me a rather jaundiced view of Pasiphae. Research implied her older sisters were no longer resident in Knossos. Some play (I think; my research is no longer to hand and I'm too tired and lazy to look for the exact reference) speaks of the "marvelous dancing floor that Daedalus designed for Ariadne of the flowing locks." A seventh daughter with a younger sister dependent on her and a distant mother is not likely to be spoiled and is likely to have a strong sense of reponsibility. Of such clues and surmises, I built my heroine. That Dionysos, a "god" should treat her as if she were of importance to him (she who was important to no one, except possibly Phaedra, who was a lot like Pasiphae) would be enough to inspire love.

PNR: Tell us a bit about Dionysos. Why does he appear? Is he truly mad? What are Ariadne's feelings about his appearance?

Roberta G: Dionysos appears (see above) because Ariadne is his priestess.
"Marriage" between a human priestess and the god she serves is very common in Greek mythology. As to Dionysos being "mad," he is sometimes called the mad god and he is said to have induced madness. There is a play by Euripides in which a king scorns his worship and is torn apart by his maddened household, led by his mother. Again, forgive me but the reference is dim in my mind. If anyone is specially interested, he or she can e-mail me and I'll take the time to look the stuff up.

PNR: Ariadne's mother Queen Pasiphae is also affected by his appearance to her young daughter?

Roberta G: This is my invention based on my reading of Pasiphae's character and the myth of her courting of Poseidon. I decided that the in-flesh appearance of a god to her little-considered daughter made Pasiphae envious (perhaps jealous, too), and drove her to try to Call a more powerful god.

PNR: Dionysos has visions that frighten him because he cannot interpret them. It is clear early on the Ariadne has that gift. How is the vision connect to Ariadne's parents.

Roberta G: The vision merely relates Minos' plea to Poseidon, the coming of the white bull out of the sea, Minos' refusal to sacrifice the bull, and Poseidon's punishment--mating with Pasiphae and breeding on her the Minotaur. Dionysos, not being omniscient doesn't know these things and so the events, somewhat distorted by his Vision, are completely incomprehensible to him. The interpretation soothes him by showing him that these things are connected to reality.

PNR: A child is born to the queen with the head of a bull on a child's body. The queen wishes to proclaim him a new god, but Dionysos predicts he will be the curse of Knossos. He wishes for her to end the child's life. Is Ariadne conflicted by this?

Roberta G: Yes, very much so. She only sees the Minotaur as a poor, helpless, deformed child. Dionysos "sees" the future, sees into what the Minotaur will grow. He feels for the good of all, including the Minotaur himself, that the baby should die. Although Ariadne wants of obey her god, she is repelled by what she considers callousness and resists.

PNR: Dionysos is a mage, the son of Zeus and Semele, a human woman. What powers does he possess?

Roberta G: Mostly the ability to use the power that I posit exists all around us, which most of us cannot reach. He can take a spell and make it work. He is not a great magician, though. He has spells for stasis, for creating fire, for teleportation. Gifts are different from spells. He had the Gift of wreaking havoc with emotions, he can affect the growth and quality of grapes and the quality of wine merely by passing near and wishing the grapes to be rich and sweet, the wine to be smooth and strong.

PNR: It soon becomes apparent to Ariandne that Dionysos is something less than a god. Though long lived he shares many of the human frailties. Yet she is unwilling to expose him to others. Her deformed brother is also the son of a god and a human woman, her mother. Both are young and not in control of their emotions. How does Ariadne justify the distinction she makes between the two?

Roberta G: I'm not sure she makes much of a distinction. She is maternal toward the Minotaur and toward Dionysos, too, although she is also sexually attracted to the latter. The Minotaur is really nothing; he has none of the Olympians' ability to use power. He is no more than a monster and a feeble minded one at that. Aside from being larger than human and physically stronger, he is not in any way godlike. Dionysos has Gifts that are more than human ability; he has bred true to the Olympian abilities. Although not a god in the sense we think of God, as being omnipotent and omniscient, he is definitely greater than an ordinary human.

PNR: As the years pass Ariadne's love for Dionysos grows, while the Minotaur grows more and more violent and feeble minded. What is her effect on each of them?

Roberta G: She has some minor control over the Minotaur because she is the only one he loves and trusts and will sometimes obey her. Dionysos sees in her the growing ability to stabilize him and to use power as the "gods" do. He both desires and respects her.

PNR: Ariadne has become vital to Dionysus, he wants her to live with him. Their desire is mutual, yet he doesn't act upon it. What makes her different from the priestesses whose attentions he's freely accepted. Does this cause conflict between the two? What part does the Minotaur play in her decision to stay or go?

Roberta G: Dionysos doesn't act on his sexual desire for Aridane for two reasons: the primary one is that he fears that a sexual relationship will damage the friendship that has developed between them. He has no relationship with his other priestesses than the feral coupling required to fertilize the vinyards. He is afraid that he will lose Ariadne if he uses her.

The only conflict Dionysos' restraint causes is to worry Ariadne. She doesn't understand and is somewhat jealous of the priestesses who, she thinks, have a fuller relationship with him. The Minotaur is only part of Ariadne's reluctance to go to Olympus. She is a human girl and never thought much of herself. She is afraid to go to Heaven (Olympus) and live with gods. She also does feel responsible for the Minotaur because no one cares for him except her.

PNR: What kind of growth does Dionysus experience?

Roberta G: Actually, not much. Ariadne's presence gives him confidence and stabilizes his volatile emotions so that he is happier and doesn't lash
out at others.

PNR: Well we don't want to give any spoilers. You have a new book coming out in August, "Thrice Bound", is this another mythological fantasy? Tell us a bit about it.

Roberta G: The new book is called THRICE BOUND and will be published in August 2001. It is about the goddess Hekate. As I said above somewhere, there are no myths concerning Hekate, only characteristics. She was said to be the greatest magic worker among the gods of Olympus; she was an outsider among them; she had few or no temples and was worshiped at cross roads; she was often depicted as having three faces; she was associated with a black dog. I took all the characteristics and tried to build a coherent story that explained them all. I hope you will all buy THRICE BOUND and read it and either email me or leave messages on my website: to let me know how well or how poorly I've succeeded. I hope you will all come to like Hekate as much as I do and that you will enjoy her _very_ unusual love story. By the by, Dionysos is a character in THRICE BOUND where you will see him as a child as well as grown into a man.

PNR: What is next for Roberta Gellis?

Roberta G: Next is the third Magdalene la Batarde mystery. In BONE OF CONTENTION which is my current work in progress, Magdalene is summoned by her patron William of Ypres to Oxford. There she gets involved in a marriage plan that erupts into murder with the groom as the chief suspect. Magdalene and her faithful knight Sir Bellamy of Itchen must solve the crime to save the groom and William of Ypres' reputation.

Roberta Gellis



Buy it now!

Baen Books
May 2000
pb; 480 pages
ISBN: 0671578685


When gods still walked the Earth, a king could pray for a sign and have a white bull rise from the sea to confirm his claim to the throne. But a god's price was high, and when Minos did not keep his promise to the god Poseidon, the god meddled with Minos' wife...and the Minotaur, a child with the head of a bull, was born. The question is, did Poseidon intend his son to be worshiped as a new god, or is he the god's curse on Knossos, a monster that will destroy it?

Ariadne was the Minotaur's half-sister, the only one who would touch him and care for him when he was born. She was also high priestess of Dionysus, sworn to interpret his Visions, but one Vision destroys her peace. Dionysus Sees that the bull-head must die or bring disaster upon the realm. Can Ariadne agree to the slaughter of the deformed half-brother who clings to her as the only one who cares for him? Can she protect the Minotaur in defiance of Dionysus' vision and dare the god's wrath? Should she?


Minotaur, in Greek mythology, monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man. It was the offspring of Pasiphaë, queen of Crete, and a snow-white bull the god Poseidon had sent to Pasiphaë's husband, King Minos. When Minos refused to sacrifice the beast, Poseidon made Pasiphaë fall in love with it. After she gave birth to the Minotaur, Minos ordered the architect and inventor Daedalus to build a labyrinth so intricate that escape from it without assistance would be impossible. Here the Minotaur was confined and fed with young human victims Minos forced Athens to send him as tribute. The Greek hero Theseus was determined to end the useless sacrifice and offered himself as one of the victims. When Theseus reached Crete (Kríti), Minos's daughter, Ariadne, helped him escape by giving him a ball of thread, which he fastened to the door of the maze and unwound as he made his way through it. When he came upon the sleeping Minotaur, he beat the monster to death and then led the other sacrificial youths and maidens to safety by following the thread back to the entrance.
Quoted from the MSN Encarta Encyclopedia - Minotaur

Other Paranormals
by Roberta Gellis

A Tale of the goddess Hekate

Baen Books
ISBN: 0671318349

Buy it now!

Starlight Writer Pub.
StarFarer Line
eBook; August 2000
ISBN: 158697086

reissued by Gale (Five Star)
August 2004
ISBN :1594142289

Buy it now!

March 1998
pb; 377 pages
ISBN: 1575662728

Buy it now!


Reprint edition
February 1996
pb; 352 pages
ISBN: 1575660024

Out of Print - PARANORMALS

Pinnacle, December 1996

Pinnacle 1994

Pocket, 1977
(SF - pseudonym Max Daniels)

Pocket, 1978 (SF - Max Daniels)



Featured in this Issue:

Interviews with :
Roberta Gellis
Elizabeth Rose
Julie Kenner
Kathleen Nance

























All book synopsises are copyrighted to the authors/publishers.
Minotaur graphic ~Pegasus2u's Wings4u~

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