Sherwood Smith October 28th, 2009
Question: First, how does it feel to be done?
Kit: Very very odd, and at root, anti-climactic, which is partly why I am so deeply pleased that you and my other friends are putting together this Deverry “party”. I finished the last of the page proofs and thought to myself, “Well, that’s over. No more Deverry.” And I had the neurotic feeling that no one would particularly care, either. But it was definitely time for the series to end. Because it -was- over. Even though on some theoretical level I could have
followed the stories of various characters and of the countries involved for hundreds of years, I knew that I’d reached The End.
Question: when you’ve told the story of Deverry’s evolution, you indicated that you wrote scads back in the early eighties, when you first conceived and sold the series. You said that the last scene in the last book would tie back into the first scene of DAGGERSPELL, like Celtic knotwork. Has it been difficult to make that happen?
Kit: No, oddly enough it was very much easier than I thought, though perhaps the connections aren’t obvious ones. DAGGERSPELL began with the Jill-soul being born from the Halls of Light. MAGE ends with Aderyn being reborn from that same place. The “past life section” in MAGE shows the Deverrians arriving in the world of Annwn some thousand years before DAGGERSPELL opened. The latest incarnation of the Jill-soul is Branna. Jill’s last line in DAGGERSPELL is “It would have to do for now.” Branna thinks the same thing in her last appearance in MAGE.
There is a further twist on the knotted structure in SPIRT STONE, which is Book 2 in the final four. In DAGGERSPELL, Jill and Rhodry ride into the middle of a war sparked by Aderyn’s son Loddlaen, but they have no idea of what the real causes of that war are. The past life section of SPIRIT STONE finally reveal them. That section also shows what made Alastyr, the evil magician of DARKSPELL, turn to the dark path when he was a teenager. So Book 2 of the last four books echoes Book 2 of the first four.
Question: How has the series changed over the years–I don’t mean the vexations of marketing and publishers, but your internal perception of the world and your approach to the material.
Kit: It got longer and longer. (glyph of straight face) But seriously . . . you know this story, but I will tell it again for the discussion. When I started writing Deverry, I thought it was a short story — that material is now the end of Book 6. So I realized my mistake early and decided I was writing a trilogy, which then expanded into a tetraology, which expanded into two tetralogies, ending with the death of a central character. Except of course I’d never finished
the Civil Wars sections, so that became a trilogy that also carried the main story forward. I thought GOLD FALCON would then finish off the series by being the fourth to that last trilogy.
These data about the length are important because they do show my approach to the vast heap of material changing. At first I thought I was writing some episodic series books, that the three or four books would follow a pattern: present time adventure for Jill and Rhodry, coupled with a past life adventure for Whoever, each adventure complete in itself. Then I began to see the connections between everything, and the consequences of the actions in both past and present.
Once you start seeing the consequences of your characters’ actions, you can no longer write Standard Series Episodes, or at least, I couldn’t. It was Maddyn in BRISTLING WOOD who really changed my mind. I had thought that once he joined the Silver Daggers, that episode would be over, because it was “really” about how the Silver Daggers began. Then I realized that his deep connection to Nevyn had made that impossible. As soon as Nevyn decided “I’m doing something to stop the wars”, my fate was sealed. Besides, although I was sure that Maddyn was an earlier incarnation of Rhodry Maelwaedd, they were so different that I knew there were some stories about how living the lives in between had turned one into the other — that was the genesis of A TIME OF EXILE.
Overall, too, as my perception of the stories changed, my view of what Deverry was got deeper. It couldn’t stay as just a “Celtic fantasy background” because the places themselves became “characters” of a sort. The cities, particularly Dun Deverry and Aberwyn, grow and change and at times shrink during the series. So, starting with BRISTLING WOOD again, I began to give much more space to descriptions of the terrain and to the history of places — maybe just a few lines here and there, but each one of those capsules did add something to the sense of history and of place. I did more and more research into the so-called Dark Ages and their transitions into more stable forms of government as well as more research into Gaulish culture in order to add solid touches to the changes within Deverry.
My view of the Westfolk and elven culture also changed, from the Tolkienesque “noble and magical” to something a fair bit more realistic, as the readers will see in SILVER MAGE. Sam Gamgee’s style of wide-eyed sense of wonder at the elves has morphed into the far more realistic envy and bitterness that, I believe, real humans would feel faced with an impossibly beautiful and long-lived race.
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