. I have a special interview for you today and a wonderful giveaway. I would like to thank Vera for taking the time to answer all of my questions in such a thoughtful manner!
Many are called… She alone can save the world and become Death's bride.
COBWEB BRIDE (Cobweb Bride Trilogy, Book One) is a history-flavored fantasy novel with romantic elements of the Persephone myth, about Death's ultimatum to the world.
What if you killed someone and then fell in love with them?
In an alternate Renaissance world, somewhere in an imaginary "pocket" of Europe called the Kingdom of Lethe, Death comes, in the form of a grim Spaniard, to claim his Bride. Until she is found, in a single time-stopping moment all dying stops. There is no relief for the mortally wounded and the terminally ill....
Covered in white cobwebs of a thousand snow spiders she lies in the darkness... Her skin is cold as snow... Her eyes frozen... Her gaze, fiercely alive...
While kings and emperors send expeditions to search for a suitable Bride for Death, armies of the undead wage an endless war... A black knight roams the forest at the command of his undead father… Spies and political treacheries abound at the imperial Silver Court.... Murdered lovers find themselves locked in the realm of the living...
Look closer — through the cobweb filaments of her hair and along each strand shine stars...
And one small village girl, Percy—an unwanted, ungainly middle daughter—is faced with the responsibility of granting her dying grandmother the desperate release she needs.
As a result, Percy joins the crowds of other young women of the land in a desperate quest to Death's own mysterious holding in the deepest forests of the North…
And everyone is trying to stop her.
Where did you get the inspiration for Cobweb Bride?
First, thank you so much for having me here!
The idea for Cobweb Bride came to me at a time when I was going through a rough period of losing beloved companion animals, dogs and cats, one after another, in a span of a few months in some cases. We lost two dogs and five cats to illness and old age. The last one to go at that point, a black cat named Tasia (or Tanya, officially), really haunted me, and I kept thinking I was seeing her dear shadow everywhere.
Her death shadow…
And then came thoughts of lingering bittersweet sorrow clad in fairytale imagery of winter and snow. Central to it was a Death figure, in the shape of a Renaissance gentleman, a Spaniard in a black doublet and hose.
Other elements started coalescing, and I began to write the story of Persephone, a classic myth retold my own way. What started as a simple linear story became a complex, multi-threaded epic of many lives, wrapped around a mystery of life and death and soaked in history.
You might say, at first it was my way of coping with death. And it progressed into an exploration of life.
If you could describe it with just three words, which would you choose?
Intensity, longing, duty.
Would you tell me a little more about The Kingdom of Lethe?
An interesting question, since the Kingdom of Lethe is only a tiny tip of the iceberg in this epic story arc. While most of the action of book one takes place there, we learn that Lethe (on the north) is one of the three vassal Kingdoms that comprise the greater Realm which is ruled by the Liguon dynasty of emperors. The Realm has a southern neighbor, called the Domain, comprised in turn of four Kingdoms, and ruled by a mysterious Sovereign.
The Realm and the Domain together are located in an imaginary pocket of Renaissance southwestern Europe, a wedge of imaginary land inserted in the middle of the continent. I took liberties with the landmass and moved countries around a bit to accommodate my two fictional countries.
Visualize a cross, with Germany on the top, France on the left, Italy on the right, and Spain on the bottom. In the heart of this cross lie the Realm and the Domain, two very uneasy and hostile neighbors, with only a small part of the southern border of the Domain touching the shores of the Mediterranean.
The action in books two (Cobweb Empire)
and three (Cobweb Forest)
will be all over the map, and you will get to see much more of the Domain.
Cobweb Bride is a mixture of historical fiction, fantasy, romance, and mythology. Will you tell us which is the most overpowering element to be found in the pages? How do these blend together to get your story across?
This is an excellent but difficult question, because I don’t think in all fairness I can separate the elements. Probably the historical flavor is the most prevalent one. However, I would say it is a framework of history to which have been added elements of fantasy and myth, like exotic flowers to an arrangement of ordinary living greenery. As for romance—this is romance in the old-fashioned sense of medieval chivalry. Yes, there are very important love stories at the center, but they do not make the story what it is—the Persephone myth does, as you will see by the end of the trilogy. Really, there is no way to separate the elements at all. They are all plaits in the braid of story. And the story itself is fantasy.
As an immigrant to the U.S. from the former USSR, do you feel that's had an impact on your writing, or even how you've gone about your career as an author?
Oh, sure! First of all, English is my second language, and as such I have a different sound to my prose. I learned much of my linguistic skills from reading English period classics, so I tend to naturally sound old fashioned, even stodgy. Over the years, I also studied a number of languages (Russian, English, Armenian, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, German), and am profoundly aware of the roots of all words, so that while my spelling can be naturally clean (again, due to the knowledge of linguistic roots), my sentence structure is a little odd, a little different, a little hard to place, and a little more layered and stylistically intense. As a writer, I ride the knife-edge of the Uncanny Valley of English.
I also come “pre-programmed” with a different set of imagery, of definitions of what constitutes fantasy, as Gene Wolfe
had once said in his wonderful introduction to my short story collection Salt of the Air
. I grew up with Russian fairytales, with ancient Persian and Georgian and Armenian myths and legends, in addition to the Greek and Norse ones that are more common in the West. What naturally scares me is Koschei the Deathless and Baba Yaga and Vyu and Leshii, which might be different from someone who grew up in the USA and is scared by the legend of, say, the Headless Horseman.
The same goes for other elements. Different things stir my imagination than maybe would affect a writer from another background.
I also had the singular luck of starting my life in the artificial and repressive USSR, and then becoming a world refugee. My immigrant family had to be aliens for many years before we knew how things worked here in the West. As such, my perspective is focused and observant of minute descriptive details, and I revel in metaphoric imagery and what is called by some purple prose.
In general, purple prose is a worldview, not merely a stylistic affectation. I actually see the world though a prism of cathedral stained glass, in enhanced living color. And a 3D universe filtered through such heightened senses is what I portray in my writing, and my art.
Congratulations on being nominated twice for the Nebula Award! As a peer-to-peer award Finalist, it truly is something special. Do you have any advice or tidbits to offer writers that are just starting out?
Thank you! My advice to writers is to find your own voice as soon as possible.
What does that mean? It means you first learn the language in which you write—learn it so well that you can knowingly bend the rules. Next, you read endlessly and voraciously all the great works written in that language by the masters, and all the popular modern popcorn too, so that you learn to differentiate and to incorporate elements of both in your craft (because pulp fiction is the virile lifeblood of the day, and classics are the sacrament, and life demands both in equal measure).
And finally, you write not because you think you should or because there’s a hot new market waiting for your submission, or even because someone told you it’s a good idea to put out 1,000 words a day and you are still practicing your skills regardless of true desire to create. No, you write because you have something to say, and it’s screaming inside your head to get out and be shared with the world. I am not talking about ranting popular platitudes on your blog, but expressing your unique worldview. After all, the mixture of logorrhea and opinion is what makes you a natural-born writer.
Have nothing to say? Nonsense. Re-examine your own mindset. Come to have strong opinions worthy of being defended and illustrated through literary metaphor. That’s the secret of your Voice. But, never shout your opinions or pound the reader on the head with them. Instead, demonstrate them inexorably through proper subtle detail and understated elegance.
Last of all, write with the controlled dissonance of both creative freedom and editorial precision. Allow your inner creator and you inner editor to take turns to make your writing the best it can be. There is power in you and what you believe in, and your stories have the ability to change the world. Recognize it and use it, and skill and craft will follow eventually—but only if you never give up.
What current projects are you working on?
I am in the middle of Cobweb Bride Trilogy book two, Cobweb Empire
. It should be completed and available in September 2013. Next up, book three, Cobweb Forest
, which concludes the trilogy, is due in December 2013, just in time for the holidays. Yes, I am merciful to my readers and don’t want to leave them hanging too long between installments! After the trilogy is done, I switch gears wildly and return to the next book in my hilarious parody novels, the Supernatural Jane Austen Series
, which happens to be Pagan Persuasion: All Olympus Descends on Regency
. After that, in 2014, I work on Lady of Monochrome
, book two of my Rainbow Trilogy and a sequel to the epic fantasy about a world without color, the original “shades of grey,” Lords of Rainbow
Just for fun:
Coffee or Tea?
Tea, all the way! Tea is in my blood, since childhood. My earliest memories are of weak amber-golden tea being given to me in a baby bottle.
Skiing or Swimming?
Cookies or Brownies?
Brownies… or better yet, fancy cake.
Writing or Painting?
Oh dear… now you stumped me. I would say that in my earlier years it would have been Art and Painting, but now I’ve focused all my energies into Writing.
Author Vera Nazarian
Vera Nazarian is a two-time Nebula Award® Finalist and a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She immigrated to the USA from the former USSR as a kid, sold her first story at 17, and has been published in numerous anthologies and magazines, honorably mentioned in Year’s Best volumes, and translated into eight languages.
Vera made her novelist debut with the critically acclaimed Dreams of the Compass Rose, followed by Lords of Rainbow. Her novella The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass with an introduction by Charles de Lint made the 2005 Locus Recommended Reading List. Her debut collection Salt of the Air with an introduction by Gene Wolfe contains the 2007 Nebula Award-nominated “The Story of Love.”
Other work includes the 2008 Nebula Finalist novella The Duke in His Castle, science fiction collection After the Sundial (2010), The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration (2010), and four Jane Austen parodies, Mansfield Park and Mummies (2009), Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons (2010), Pride and Platypus: Mr. Darcy’s Dreadful Secret (2012), and Pagan Persuasion: All Olympus Descends on Regency (forthcoming), all part of her Supernatural Jane Austen Series.
After many years in Los Angeles, Vera now lives in a small town in Vermont. She uses her Armenian sense of humor and her Russian sense of suffering to bake conflicted pirozhki and make art. In addition to being a writer, philosopher, and award-winning artist, she is also the publisher of Norilana Books.
Find the Author: Goodreads