"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
April 2003 Issue
Writing in diverse time periods and in universes which she has created herself, this versatile and prolific author has stunned the publishing industry and earned a place on Ingram's Top Fifty Most-Requested Books for each of her last five novels. Publishers Weekly praises her work for her fresh and vital characterizations.
Stobie lives in Maine with her three children, two horses, four birds and a tank of exotic fish.
An Interview with Stobie Piel
you are quite a prolific writer, writing thirteen novels and novella’s
for seven anthologies in a space of eight years. What inspired you to
Stobie P.: To be a writer - I think I was pretty much born a writer. Maybe 'writer' isn't the right term. Storyteller! It's what I've done all my life, in my head, relationships, everywhere, so as you evolve as a person, you find the best niche for your self. And writing is that. The stories in my head, like the slant I put on life, is a mixture of fantasy and romance, so that's how my work gravitated. I don't see my historicals, for instance, as reproducing history, but my own fantasy of what it would mean to have been there. I think, depending on your personality type, the way you experience any time, setting, or event, will be vastly different. In the most realistic, modern terms, I think that's also true. How one person experiences the changes in Iraq will be very different from the person next to them. So we create stories along the same parameters of our own selves. But what inspired me to actually focus my storytelling on books rather than, say, film-making or photography or cartoons - that was Tolkien. I knew what it meant to go into a fantasy world & find it more real than where I was, and that's what I want to create for myself, with my own values and dreams.
PNR: Your romances are set in time periods other than our own, either historical (two of which were time travels) or futuristic. What is the appeal of exploring different time periods?
Stobie P.: For me, historicals depend upon my interest in the time period. If a time period engages my imagination, then I want to go there in my stories. I love the Civil War - my first 2 books are set there, and I love them. I think they're some of the best work I've ever done, though they're not as polished as later works, perhaps. My heart is in them with great power. I wrote one book during the American Revolution - it didn't grab me the same way. I gravitated to a Free Thinking Englishman, and the Iroquois Nation - you have to go where your heart is, I suppose. I wrote a story in Anglo Saxon England, thinking to write about the Celts, and found myself most interested in the Saxons. Maybe that's part of the reason I love Tolkien so much. That's a culture of my heart. (Rohan) Futuristics are another step. (I was first inspired to try this genre by Mickee Madden and Kathleen Morgan, who I consider kind of pioneers.) You get the beauty and epic sweep, the history, of historicals, and the freedom of imagination in fantasy and science fiction. It's the Star Trek/Star Wars/Tolkien type story and setting that I love best. I think you write what you love, where you most want to live, what kind of person you most want to love, and that is reflected in all your tastes, all the people you love. My favorite movies are Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Last of the Mohicans. So all those things are in my books, too. Or for me, they are. The person I love, he's in there, too.
PNR: Which of the two do you feel is more challenging to write?
Stobie P.: At first, futuristics are more of a challenge, I guess. Because you make up your own history, your own logic. But I didn't start with those, so I was prepared. It's harder to have those criticized. These are MY worlds - I love them more than I can say. For me, the challenge in writing has nothing to do with creating or writing - it's in the business of writing, the pain, the discouragement, the hurt. (Isn't THAT pleasant???) But I love writing itself. I am happiest when I'm in my stories. They are with me all the time, though I go through a true period of mourning when I've written The End. (which I always do in manuscripts - I'm always sorry it doesn't show up in the actual book) Post-Partum Depression. I didn't have that after birthing my children. They're still with you, they're always growing. But books fade into ghosts and that makes me sad.
PNR: Readers want to know, why such a long wait between THE WHITE SUN and LORD OF THE DARK SUN? Do you feel, as many do, that the market is more open to futuristic romance now than it has been over the years?
Stobie P.: I was pretty much told by people of influence (not my editor, but others who influenced my decisions) that I should write historicals. (not great advice, by the way) I thought if I could write something more acceptable, I'd be more free to do futuristics, too. When I went back to writing historicals, I put more fantasy in them. I didn't have the passion for those periods or settings, as I had with the Civil War and the Saxons. But I loved my characters - honestly, they could have been from my futurisitcs, and maybe that made it hard for readers. I suppose that won't work for tradtional historical readers, but I did it for me. I don't mean paranormal elements, but a certain style and feeling that I associate with my futuristics. Much more character-based. I wrote LORD OF THE DARK SUN because I had one book left on my contract and my editor let me do what I wanted most. I loved it so much - I was as happy writing this as when I wrote my first books, and I learned that this has to be the most important thing for me. I have to have that magic inside me. I don't know if the market is more open. There's certainly a wide variety of successful settings out there. I have 3 more in the works, BUT they're not under contract. I guess I'm going through a career re-evaluation, but this is what I want to do. We'll see. I hope it works out! For publishers, it's in the numbers. I have no clue what my 'numbers' are, but whether I sell more or not probably depends on that.
PNR: LORD OF THE DARK SUN introduces a new generation, the heroine is Ariana of Valenwood, daughter of Arnoth, the hunky hero of THE WHITE SUN. Hakon the son of Dane Calydon, another hot hero from your novel THE MIDNIGHT MOON, who also plays an important role in the story. The transition of beloved characters from young lovers to middle aged parents is often difficult for the readers to accept. How do you help them to do so?
Stobie P.: Dane is the easiest character I've ever written. I think I was Dane in another life! I can write him at 7, or 25, or 95. He's been 7, actually, in THE DAWN STAR. I know him so well. I love him no matter what age he's at. One day, I want him to reincarnate as a lingbat, and I could write him then, too. Arnoth was already old in his book - he's pretty easy, too. Those are the two who show up most in my other books. Dane will be active in the next 3, too. I see my people as more than hunks, I guess. Even if a man is really handsome, very sexy, there has to be more for me to love him. (in life, as well as in art) A twinkle in the eye, a spirit and an energy that I just love. Sexy doesn't hurt, of course. So if I love them, if I 'feel' them, I hope that reaches readers, too. I think it probably does. Not all readers. I guess you're looking for people out there with compatible dreams. You don't try to please everyone, because you can't, and it wouldn't be desirable to do so, even if you could. I don't want to be generic - I don't want to please everyone a little. I want to really reach the hearts of those that 'get' what I do. That means the most to me - more than being on a bestseller list. More than anything. Hey! It's kind of like men!!!! You know - you don't want to attract every man out there - just those very few with whom you can share the deepest connection. Maybe only one. Building a career this way (or a relationship, one supposes) perhaps takes more time than writing in the middle... Anyway, I'm off on a tangent here... (it's lucky my editor doesn't get his hands on this article!!)
PNR: LOL! Tell us a bit about Ariana. How does the daughter of the Intersystem leader become a captive on a dark sun world?
Stobie P.: With Ariana, I suppose I put a lot of myself in her. That isn't always the case. For instance, Nisa in THE DAWN STAR had elements of my friend Neesa Hart (aka Mandalyn Kaye) & my daughter Sophia. She isn't me, though I really love her. The heroine in RENEGADE'S HEART has a lot of my daughter Natassja, a mildness and just a certain way of being. But a few have had me - Ariana is one . Her mother, Sierra, was another. (Incidentally, I DO take criticism of those particular characters very personally!) Those heroines end up with men most like my own choice, too, which is kind of neat and not at all planned. Ariana has been raised with great love, great friendship. She is imaginative, very bright, very confident, partly because she is so young. (college-age) She can't imagine anything going wrong. She leads her friends on an expedition into an area of space that isn't protected by her father's realm. (not a realm exactly, but that definition will suffice) She's taken captive by creatures, sort-of robots, with no sense of life, no sense of who or what is important. They just need breeders for a mining colony. Ariana is tossed in among these men - I wanted a Lord of the Flies type race, very primal, brutal, but inherently human. Whereas the Automon, the robots who capture her, are the product of a race which has forgotten its primal, physical roots. It's a very 'mental energy' that controls these robots... Anyway, in a sense, Ariana isn't very connected to her most primal self, either. But in the cavern, she finds it - both fury and love. The villainess finds it, too - but her innate motivation is dark. (the 'Dark Side of the Force,' whereas Ariana represents the positive energy of that.)
PNR: Ariana is a proud, spirited, intelligent, and resourceful young woman. With all the implications of her capture, why is she so dispirited by the loss of her hair?
Stobie P.: Because *I* love my hair!!!! No - it symbolizes her luxury, herself, what she considers herself. It is all she has built up, all that protects her. Long hair is very protective. It's symbolic - to me and to her. That these creatures can tear away all that she is, this leaves her bare, literally and figuratively. It has to grow back. Also, the hero falls in love with her at her most raw, her most primal. Not the luxury of her life, not the princess, but the barbarian. I wouldn't say she was dispirited, but shocked. I think she understands what has been taken from her. That she no longer has her loving parents, her status, her best friend. She is alone, she is naked. I wondered if women would understand this - it's so horrible to have a really bad hair cut or to have your hair colored weird. Devastating - it's an outward expression of who you are, whether very neat, elegant, romantic, whatever. It takes time to grow, just as it takes time to build who you are out in the world. Just symbolic. So many women spend a lot of time and energy on their hair - I don't think it's just vanity, but something a bit more. Or... I'm just a vain flake...<g>
PNR: Tell us about the world she finds herself on.
Stobie P.: Lord of the Flies! Where humans have been captive from ages, bred from generations of other captives, mixed races from ages ago. Where the strong survive... But there is more. There is a love of art. The original impulse to art, perhaps, to define what they are, to make sense of their existence. That's very important in my book, though maybe it's not obvious. Who they are, the core of a person, is incredibly powerful, well-defined. Incidentally, it's this 'core' that Hakon has to find in his own book. (with Fia, whose core is very strong and well guarded) It's a short-lived generation of boys & young men - they are raised by mothers who never knew parents, they have never known their fathers, they have no guide on which to build their lives. They have only themselves and their work, mining, which they hate. They have sex, fight, food. But in a sense, their hearts are very pure. (My Lord of the Flies is more positive at the heart than the original!)
PNR: Ariana is quick to assess the situation. It is clear that the barbarians know nothing of what exists beyond their world and that the women have been brought here to broaden the gene pool so to speak. She soon finds herself to be the bone of contention between the barbarian leader and a younger male who we will later come to know as Damen. What is it about Ariana that inspires these two men to battle over her? What is it about the Damen that makes Ariana hope he wins?
Stobie P.: Ariana is quicker than the others in her group because she has grown up loved, by parents whose lives were not easy. She has a sense of herself, though not her own power. She isn't motivated by comparative thinking like the villainess. She is very individual and open. She doesn't have a strong ego or need to gain power from without. So on a world where everything comes from within, she has an inner connection already. This is perhaps why the villainess goes the other way, into darkness. Ariana has a sense of history from her parents and her world, though her own life has been ideal. She is strong and confident, and in this mining colony, her strength is what attracts the males. Like a pack of wolves, really - they almost 'smell' the strongest female. The alpha female. But the first leader chooses her solely because the younger man, who he senses as a rival anyway, has expressed interest in her. Ultimately, it's not about Ariana, but about the challenge between them. Perhaps the first leader wants to fight now, while his rival is still smaller. I think in such a climate of people that it would be very easy to 'read' people. It would be in their eyes, in their body language. Ariana notices the way Damen moves, the look in his eyes. She senses his innate humanity and kindness. His 'energy.' That is what I first feel when I meet someone, anyway. Actually, I think it's this way when you enter a group. You sense who you're interested in, who you feel safe with, who threatens you. Ariana is certainly the personality type to have this ability, anyway.
PNR: Damen is a natural leader, and a kind man. In spite of their limitations with regard to language and experience, Ariana is drawn to him. How does he win her heart?
senses his power, who he is, his energy. She senses the connection between
them, and she feels safe with him. She's just finding the primal core
in herself. He has a firm grasp of this in himself, though he doesn't
have aspirations or goals at this point in the book. She's safe with
him because he has control over this dark, horrible place, and he's
remained a positive force despite the darkness. I personally believe
strongly in love at first sight - but not really in the typical sense.
I think it's a recognition and a connection that isn't something
It is clear to Ariana that these young men, who have been bred for the
sole purpose of mining fuel for some unknown evil purpose, are living
Stobie P.: Through Ariana, Damen has begun to develop aspirations, a sense of the broader world, and he's a strong enough person to want to have an impact. At first, Ariana personifies that broader world, but after he sees her 'in her element' on her homeworld, he matures enough to firm up his aspirations for his own people, creating his own world, and his own freedom. Love stretches you beyond what you thought you were - and in that, many other great things evolve.
PNR: Believing her lover dead, Arianna finds a reason to go on living, and after a time a purpose as well. In her heart she has not given up on him? How do thetwo meet again? How has Damen changed? What is Ariana’s response to the changes?
Stobie P.: Arnoth discovers that Ariana is pregnant - the baby also symbolizes to Ariana that something has been and can be built out of her love - not only the child, but Ariana's own ability to impact her world. Kind of like the Titanic theme! The heart goes on, and colors everything you do after that. Ariana believes Damen is dead, absolutely. She is returning to find the colony as homage to his memory - to free his people. She does not expect to find him alive. Her daughter believes this was perhaps a subconscious knowledge, and maybe that is true. But her goal is to free the miners, from his colony and others. Of course, she later learns that Damen has been doing this himself. They meet again when Ariana returns on a mission to find that colony - she has been on several others, and been unsuccessful in locating it. She has been on many missions that don't involve this goal, too, and is very strong at this point in her life. Damen is also strong - he has the power of aspirations, a purpose, a mission, too. He is a man. But both have their flaws, and they both feel tarnished, bruised by life. Neither is very trusting. Damen believes she's been long-married to her best friend, and Ariana views him as a pirate, not without reason. I love their first meeting, actually. A little Star Wars, very sexy. I like the chemistry between them, playful, intense, but also somehow tragic, filled with what he views might have been. As much as she trusted him when they were young, she distrusts him now.
come a long way from the barbarian prince, why are their differences,
in the larger world Ariana had opened up for Damen, more profound for
him than they’d been on his small colony. How does this affect
their relationship from his point of view?
We won't spoil the story but suffice it to say the two have a common
goal (to seek out and destroy those responsible for the slave colonies)
and lots of
What is next for Stobie Piel?
LORD OF THE DARK SUN
HER DARKEST HOUR
Ariana awoke in chains, a captive. Her ship had been disabled and her friends hurt, and she was to blame. She had cajoled them into braving the outskirts of space, the uncontrolled areas beyond her father's rule. And now they were to be transported to a non-intersystem planet where they would be slaves.
A MOMENT OF LIGHT
The world was bleak and shadowy, as were its inhabitants. And though these men were slaves as well, that hardly made them less dangerous. Each was tall, muscular and virile. And ruled by animal instinct. Yet one rose above the others, and Ariana saw in him nobility. This was a prince in a barbarian's body, one who could teach her how to be wild. One this planet with its dark sun, Ariana knew he would help her survive. And she would show him a love that would last through whatever followed.
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