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Monday, February 08, 2016

Found While Googling Myself

I was Googling myself, as you do, when I found the above. Apparently it came out last year, written by a university academic from Deakin uni, and it spent a couple of pages on my novel Wolfborn. Like other academic tomes it would cost $$$ to buy and even the ebook cost about the price of four paperbacks. So I decided to see if the State Library had a copy and take a look before deciding to order a copy for myself.

I went today, after work, and sat down in the Redmond Barry Reading Room with my prize. If I'd been there on a weekend I might have curled up with it in a corner and read the lot, but I was tired and had to go before the library closed, so I settled for a browse through the pages about my favourite writers - and, of course, the pages about me. 

I hadn't heard of all the authors, though, as a passionate children's/YA reader and librarian, I had heard of a fair few. And I must say, first, that I'm flattered to be one of only two local writers among those I did know. The other was Catherine Jinks, for her novel Pagan's Crusade - I didn't get around to checking the section on Saving Thanehaven, but it's an unusual choice, as the novel is set inside a computer game, some bits of it based on the author's own space horror novel. I would have thought that Anna Ciddor's Viking Magic novels would get a mention, and the Quentaris series, but  one can't read everything.

In fact, there may have been a few too many books crammed into a rather small volume as it was. 

And my book got two pages, while Tolkien got about two paragraphs and it wasn't The Hobbit, it was Lord Of The Rings. Susan Cooper was there, of course, but not for The Dark Is Rising, but for The Boggart. Now, The Boggart is a beautiful book, but The Dark Is Rising is her masterpiece, which will become a classic. And it had Merlin in it and many references to history and folklore, whereas the mediaeval connections in The Boggart were slight. 

The section about my book was in a chapter on monsters. There was a section in the same chapter on Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely and other urban fantasy. I suppose it fitted into the theme because the fairies it involves are traditional, the stuff of folklore. Melissa Marr is also a university academic, I believe, and her research for that series was thorough. I was just finishing Wolfborn when I read WL and was fascinated by her bibliography, which was similar to mine. 

So, what did she have to say about Wolfborn? I couldn't help feeling, by the wording, that there was a somewhat disapproving  sneer under the academic speak. More than once she reminded her readers that my characters were aristocratic and the character who was executed in the first scene was a peasant(and, it was implied, it was unfair, dammit!). Well, yes. But the boy who is executed in my prologue isn't killed for being a werewolf, which isn't illegal in the Kingdom of Armorique, but because in his wolf shape he had killed a child. He would have been executed if he'd done that in human shape. And my hero Etienne's father says it would never have happened if the boy's werewolf father, a wandering mercenary, had been around long enough to teach him and take him off to learn the trade. He regrets having to give this order, but feels he has no choice. 

Etienne had to be an aristocrat because if he was, say, a pot boy in the castle kitchen, he would never have got as close to his master as he did in this book and would certainly never have married his daughter. 

But the point I make in the novel is that most werewolves are aristocrats because they're more likely to be able to hide it and less likely to be murdered by a mob. For example, the heroine of The Sword And The Wolf, my WIP, is a peasant (born) werewolf who has managed to survive her childhood, though everyone knew about her father, because her mother was the local wise woman, too useful to annoy; soon after her mother's death, the girl has her first skin change during an attempted rape by village louts and has to flee. She is no longer welcome in the village. However, after living alone for a while, she accidentally releases a Merlin-like wizard from a tree with the earth magic she is practising and then gets involved with aristocratic things as she accompanies her new teacher on a quest to find the prince who went missing when the wizard's previous apprentice locked him away. Sorry, but you just can't do an exciting adventure purely centred around mediaeval peasants and their surroundings! Well, maybe you can. I offer this as a challenge for anyone who would like to try. 

The author of the academic tome says that the werewolf knight's wife is "packed off to a women's community". Wrong. She goes at her own request - conveniently, I admit, but the author of this book never says that - because she really doesn't feel that she can handle any longer being married to a man who frightens her because he isn't quite human. The women's community(read "convent") is run by a relative and is rather like Hildegard of Bingen's community, where she will finally be able to get an education. 

Still, anything on which academics get their hands is running the risk of being misinterpreted and it's quite exciting to have been mentioned in a non fiction book. I am still in two minds as to whether I will buy a copy. But I will certainly go back, perhaps during the next term break, and read the book in full at the library. It's a slender volume that I could read in about two hours


Pamela said...

I just bought your book, Sue!
How odd, though, that they'd only give Tolkien two paragraphs ... perhaps the academic thought he's been discussed enough already? Who knows.
I am always shocked at how expensive academic books are. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, because generally the people reading them are poor as church mice. ;)

Sue Bursztynski said...

A friend of mine is a retired university academic who wrote a book which earned her enough money to buy a family sized pizza. They are expected to publish, so they do, no matter how little they earn. So where the money goes I don't know. But these books aren't meant for you and me to buy, they're meant to go in libraries. My friend felt her book could have sold decently in book shops and suggested a paperback edition. It didn't happen.

The thing is not only that she said very little about Tolkien but that she didn't mention his children's book. But two pages for an obscure Aussie novel and two paragraphs for the master of fantasy... Ah, well.

I hope you enjoy my novel, though how you got it I don't know - it has to be ordered now, because it's not in book shops any more. So you must have decided on this a while ago. :-)

Pamela said...

Alas, those books meant to go in libraries are the ones that American universities expect students to buy for a semester-long class. Yeesh.

Your book was on Amazon! So I bought it ... today!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Sigh! When I was studying librarianship, we had a book list a mile long, of VERY expensive books to buy. By the time I'd spent about five hundred dollars and still wasn't finished, I gave up and used the university library, as did most of my classmates, for the rest. We couldn't borrow the books, couldn't even have them for longer than about two hours, so we photocopied the relevant chapters and handed the books back.In the end, it was the best thing to do, because the ones I did buy still gather dust on my shelves and are totally out of date.

My sympathies are entirely with American uni students!

Hope you enjoy Wolfborn. It's my only novel so far, but only one of about ten books. The rest are children's non fiction books and one chapter book(fiction).

Unknown said...

Well, that's a mixed bag, isn't it? Great that you got a mention, not so great about the misinterpretation. But I think that happens with all books. There are the "I loved it" 5-star reviews along with the "I hated it" 1-star reviews. People just have visceral reactions to themes as they perceive them - and so many reactions are based on baggage the reader brings to the table rather than the book itself.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Very true, and my novel Wolfborn has had every score between 1 and 5 on Goodreads - literally! You can't please everyone. At least I'm allowed to respond to this one, eh? ;-)