SLP: “Borrowing” from Carolyn Kephart’s biographical sketch on her Amazon page, here’s a brief introduction to an intriguing writer who deserves our time and interest:
“I’m an eternal learner, and constant explorer. For me, existence is an endless search for all that is best in life. My early years were military-brat nomadic, I married young and became a scholar-gypsy along with my husband, and later on I earned a doctorate in English literature (interdisciplinary Baroque) at Penn State. Now that I seem to be settled in one place for awhile, I write, travel, make interesting acquaintances, and read as widely as I can. One of my favorite quotes is “I am a part of all that I have met” (Tennyson), and everything that I am finds its way into my writing.”
SLP: Following our usual format, let’s start with the basics. Where you were born?
CK: Washington, D. C. Although my birth certificate lists Walter Reed Hospital, according to family lore the actual location was a taxi heading swiftly in its direction, flanked by a police motorcycle escort with sirens wailing.
SLP: And where were you raised? Also, I’ve read that yours was a military family. What was that like and what impact did it have on your childhood?
CK: My family’s roots are in northern Virginia, but I grew up mostly on Air Force bases, changing locale every couple of years (mostly near the Pentagon, except for an assignment in Hawaii). It was a life of challenge and adventure counterbalanced by uncertainty, poignancy and angst—an ideal upbringing for a writer. Since my father was a master sergeant working in close association with officers, I saw first-hand the way hierarchies operate, and it left a lasting impression. Being around soldiers made me understand and appreciate discipline, dedication, inner strength and physical toughness.
SLP: Where were you educated?
CK: I married at 18, and my husband and I embarked together on a paper chase that lasted a decade and a half. He’s slightly older, so we were always a degree apart. My B.A. was from the University of North Texas, where I majored in English and minored in Art History. My M.A. at Northeastern University in Boston dealt with Impressionist art and its influence on the works of Kate Chopin and Stephen Crane. For my Ph.D. at Penn State I was awarded an interdisciplinary fellowship that allowed me to take courses in 18th-century theatre and musicology to write a dissertation on the pre-Handelian London stage. The greatest part of my education, however, has come from self-directed studies, and will always be ongoing.
SLP: Where do you currently reside?
CK: Slightly outside of Nashville, Tennessee.
SLP: Are you able to write full time, and if not, what is your principal occupation?
CK: My husband is my patron, and I elected long ago not to have children or pets, which allows me to write without any distractions save the most urgently domestic.
SLP: What literary genres other than fantasy appeal to you?
CK: This is going to sound odd, but I haven’t read any commercial fantasy since my teen years, and I don’t go in for standard category fiction. I prefer myth and legend, and classic works that deal with what it really means to be human.
SLP: What writers have most influenced your work?
CK: Poets most of all, and writers with poetic styles. Shakespeare, Malory, Spenser, Jonson, Pope, Dryden, Chaucer, Milton, Browning, Byron. After I learned French, authors like Balzac, Gautier, Dumas, Baudelaire, Zola, Hugo, de Musset, Verlaine and Rimbaud had a strong impact on my writing.
SLP: Have you considered working in other genres such as screenwriting, travel writing, etc.?
CK: I’ve tried my hand at a few. I’ve always kept detailed journals of my travels to Europe and the American national parks, and plan to publish some of them eventually. I once attempted a rhyming play inspired by my favorite Jacobeans, but never finished it. When younger I wrote verse, usually in fixed forms like the sonnet, terza rima, sestina, etc. Once in a while I’ve translated French poetry. Currently I’m exploring contemporary magic realism, historical fiction, and near-future distopian romance.
SLP: Judging from your reviews and my reading of your book, you have a bright future as a writer. Is your career progressing as you expected?
CK: I deeply appreciate the compliment, Spad, but experience has made me a realist, and I’m delighted to be read at all. The reviews on my website and elsewhere online, from print media sources that aren’t featured on my Amazon listings, always remind me that a succès d’estime can be as sweet as outright fame.
SLP: What has been the hardest obstacle to overcome in establishing yourself as a writer?
CK: It’s difficult to be noticed amid the huge numbers of other writers, especially in a crowded genre like fantasy. Worse, too many reviewers believe that only traditionally published books have any value.
SLP: Assuming fantasy will remain your primary genre, why did you choose it?
CK: Tolkien’s books ruled the fantasy genre during my early years, and justly so; but while I admired their broad scope and solid world-building, I found the human characters wooden and limited. I loved E. R. Eddison, but thought him too often mannered and precious. I craved a tale of heroes enacted by three-dimensional humans with strong passions and conflicted pasts, but to get it I had to write it. It was a thrill to create a world entirely my own.
SLP: Do you write primarily at home?
CK: Yes. I’m fortunate enough to live in what most would consider the perfect writerly environment, on a tranquil hilltop surrounded by trees.
SLP: Do you like writing in public places such as coffee shops, cafes, etc.?
CK: Never. It’s uncomfortable, I end up listening to other peoples’ conversations, and the music is usually distracting when it’s not an outright irritant. Plus I have to dress.
SLP: Is there a particular time of day when you write best?
CK: I’m just not able to be a morning person, and I’m most productive in the afternoon and late at night, when all the tasks of the day are done.
SLP: Do you set aside specific times to write? If so, when?
CK: Perhaps because I lived a very demanding life in the past, I’m disinclined to be on any set schedule now. I prefer to write only when I feel as if I absolutely have to; that way the words hit the page with force and accuracy, and I don’t waste time just randomly scribbling.
SLP: Do you feel you have sufficient time to write?
CK: Not really. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and I wish I didn’t have to sleep.
SLP: How many hours per day do you devote to writing?
CK: Since I consider research and other reading a part of writing, I’d say four hours a day.
SLP: Do you tend to shut yourself off from the world when your creative juices are flowing?
CK: Absolutely. I’m a recluse at heart, and love solitude to a monastic degree.
SLP: Do you feel a compelling urge to write, or is it more of a pastime?
CK: I’m definitely driven. I want my writing to add something meaningful to the world, and I feel a sense of urgency to complete the many projects I’ve begun.
SLP: When and how did your interest in writing first manifest itself?
CK: Well before I could write I was constructing narratives in my imagination. At the age of two or thereabouts I became aware that one of the reasons adults ruled the world was their ability to read and write. Since they refused to comprehend my squiggles, I learned theirs as soon as I could. Knowledge, I came to realize, was definitely power.
SLP: Do you have any other creative outlets or interests such as music, dance, or graphic arts?
CK: I try to pack as much beauty into my life as I can. Art is a passion, and when I travel abroad I visit as many castles, cathedrals and museums as possible. At home I regularly check Sotheby’s and Christie’s online, and countless other art sites. I’ve visited many of the world’s noteworthy places, including most of America’s national parks, and hope to get around to many more. Music is a constant pleasure, especially Baroque, early, and ethnic. I taught myself to play guitar during my teen years, and alto recorder later on; I wish I’d had piano lessons as a child, because I’d love to be able to play the harpsichord (since I can’t, I gave that ability to one of the characters in The Ryel Saga). History fascinates me, and I always try to get as holistic a view as possible of the period in question. I’m enthralled by any kind of dance, and dance is my primary form of exercise, since I don’t enjoy structured workouts. I enjoy classic and foreign film and well-made contemporary movies, and although I don’t get a chance to indulge it much, I’m a huge fan of any type of live theater.
SLP: Had you failed as a writer, what do you suppose you’d be doing today?
CK: I’d always write no matter what, because the heart has its reasons. Marrying young more or less determined my life choices, but had matters been otherwise I’d have gone into connoisseurship and been a buyer for or curator of a museum. Other possibilities: jewelry or theatre costume designer, painter or sculptor, songwriter/composer, architect, gallery owner, archaeologist.
SLP: What do you find to be the most rewarding aspects of being a writer, and what are some of the worst?
CK: It’s the greatest feeling on earth to hear, from complete strangers, that my work has touched them. It’s a terrific rush to get a good review. It’s wonderful to go to conferences and be a member of panel discussions and critique groups, and meet other writers. It’s depressing to see junk books exalted as bestsellers, but even worse to see unique talent ignored because it doesn’t fit the status quo. It’s irksome to be read sloppily, and judged superficially.
SLP: Would you say writing is the main thrust in your life, or do you have other overriding interests?
CK: Writing is the way I connect with the world. It’s the one thing that always matters.
SLP: Do you primarily write on a computer? If so, do you prefer a laptop or desktop?
CK: Unless I’m stuck in a place without electricity, I always write on the computer. Although I have a home office with a desktop, I prefer my laptop in either the living room or the bedroom these days.
SLP: What writing software do you use?
CK: MS Word and Open Office Writer.
SLP: How do you handle a sudden idea or insight?
CK: I try to write it down at once, but otherwise I just keep it in mind until I can. I’ve trained my memory over the years, and it’s very precise now; I just hope it stays that way.
SLP: Are you a copious note-taker?
CK: No, but I’m a prolific bookmarker of websites.
SLP: Do you have a daily goal as to how much you write?
CK: I don’t think it’s fair to myself to impose quotas; it’d feel too much like forced labor, and I’d become rebellious.
SLP: Do you have a specific technique for beginning the next day’s writing?
CK: Nothing ironclad. Coffee and quiet are the only musts.
SLP: Are you ever troubled by writer’s block and, if so, how do you deal with it?
CK: It used to be torture. Now I just tell myself that it’s happening for a reason, try to determine what the reasons are, and devote myself to other interests until it passes.
SLP: Do you usually work from an outline?
CK: Since I always begin a novel with a clear idea of the plot arc, I don’t use an outline. I like to discover the story.
SLP: In first drafts, do you write in chapter sequence, or do you like to bounce around?
CK: I’m definitely bouncy, and prefer to do the delicious things first. I write the key scenes and then knit them together.
SLP: Do you generally focus on a single project until finished?
CK: Once it’s in a stage of near-completion, yes. Right now I have a lot of projects going, but I’m hardest at work on the one with the highest word count (a magic-realism novel entitled Faustine).
SLP: How intense is the writing process for you? [Do you ever dream of your characters, storylines, etc.]
CK: When I wrote The Ryel Saga, I felt as if I was channeling every single one of the characters. I suppose that could be considered a type of ‘lucid dreaming.’ My actual dreams are almost preternaturally jejune.
SLP: Do you visualize your scenes, or are they primarily driven by language?
CK: Everything that happens in the story feels absolutely real at the time of writing, or sharper and deeper than real, and I leave the earth during especially intense scenes. I don’t even notice the physical act of creation; the words just happen. It’s ecstasy.
SLP: Do you remain aloof from the trials and tribulations of your characters, or are your moods affected by the storyline?
CK: All my characters are parts of me, so their joys and sorrows become my own as well. I’ve thrilled for them, and wept for them, and sometimes been embarrassed by them.
SLP: How much do you read?
CK: Five or so books a week.
SLP: Can you recall the first “serious” book you read?
CK: The biography Elizabeth the Great by Elizabeth Jenkins, when I was eleven. It began a lifelong fascination with the life and times of the Virgin Queen, with whom I identify in many respects.
SLP: Who are a few of your favorite authors?
CK: Besides the ones that influenced my writing, I’d add Henry James, W. M. Thackeray, Jane Austen, George Eliot, George Sand, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Hardy, and Edith Wharton.
SLP: What are you currently reading?
CK: I’m rummaging through Project Gutenberg and enjoying a lot of British writers who were famous in their day but not much read now, like George Gissing, John Galsworthy, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and H. Rider Haggard. I’m also getting into Kipling’s novels, having known him previously only from his poetry, and enjoying the collected correspondence of some French ladies of Louis XIV’s court, and various accounts of exotic travels.
SLP: Do you prefer fiction to nonfiction?
CK: I need both in equal measure. History and biography are always in the pile, along with whatever’s infatuating me at the moment (at present it’s the art and belief systems of the East).
SLP: Does your reading center on the genre in which you write?
CK: Not if I can help it! I like to read entirely different things from what I’m writing.
SLP: Do you feel compelled to finish reading a book once started?
CK: Never, thank heaven. I give up on many more books than I finish; the ratio is probably ten to one.
SLP: Which would you prefer to read, an ebook or a paper book?
CK: Ebooks, absolutely. Paper was a good idea once.
SLP: Do you mostly read current books?
CK: No, because there’s so much that is great from the past that I haven’t gotten around to yet, and I feel that I’d be wasting my time following the latest trends. Since I operate from the principle that this is the only life I’m likely to have, I try to be careful about what goes into my head.
SLP: Tell us a bit about The Ryel Saga. Can you summarize the plot?
CK: From the Amazon product description: “Lord Adept Ryel Mirai leaves the great Art-citadel Markul to rediscover the long-lost spell that will release his mentor from the wraithworld of the Void, but a malignant sorcerer likewise imprisoned has enlisted the aid of Ryel’s strongest rival to find the spell first. Amid dangers, joys and temptations, Ryel discovers unlikely allies to help him in his quest, and learns that he may well gain all that he wishes…although perhaps not as he wished it.”
SLP: Which of the characters was the most difficult to create?
CK: The religious fanatic Derain Meschante, because I actually and deeply hated him. Most of the others had qualities I could love or admire, and it was a joy to portray them. Dagar Rall was beyond redemption, but his sheer unbridled evil made him fun to write.
SLP: Which was the most troublesome to manage?
CK: The arrogant and unruly Lord Michael Essern, by far, but he was so downright Byronic that I didn’t mind.
SLP: Were the characters fairly fixed before introducing them, or did they evolve?
CK: Before writing about them, I worked on their origins and determined the qualities and events that drove them to be the way they were. This procedure fixed them in my mind. Much of that background detail doesn’t appear in the book, but is hinted at.
SLP: Given the scope of the book, did you work from a plot outline?
CK: The story seemed to just pour out, to the extent that an outline would have cramped me. Only after The Ryel Saga was written did I finally get around to reading Joseph Campbell, and realized that Ryel had followed the Hero’s Journey every step of the way; it was a startling, moving discovery.
SLP: Did the combining of Wysard and Lord Brother require substantial rewriting to smooth the transition from one to the other?
CK: The two books had always meant to be one volume, so the second one picks up exactly where the first left off.
SLP: Was the book originally conceived as a single volume?
CK: Always! Unfortunately, circumstances contrary to my wishes and beyond my control forced the split, back in the Age of Paper. I feel very lucky that getting back the full rights to my books coincided with the advent of e-publishing.
SLP: How did the books benefit by being combined into a single volume?
CK: I was able to restore sheafs of material that had fallen to the cutting-room floor because of page constraints in the paper versions, adding character depth and description. Many of my readers had noted that the duology seemed clipped or rushed in places, and I hope they’ll read the present one-volume edition to see how much better it is.
SLP: Some of the book’s descriptive passages, such as when the gods intervene as the Zegry forces begin their final assault at Almancar, are particularly well rendered. Have you considered moving to literary fiction, or do you intend to continue in the fantasy genre?
CK: You’re very kind. I think The Ryel Saga will be my only foray into fantasy, but the affect it had on developing my writing style will stay with me.
SLP: Were some of the gods intentionally based on their Egyptian, Roman or Greek equivalents—Demetropa for Isis, for example?
CK: When I created the pantheon of Destimar I was inspired by the Greco-Buddhist grace and beauty of Gandhara sculpture, with a touch of Egypt and India blended in.
SLP: Were there any dead-end characters that you ultimately eliminated?
CK: Two subplots, entertaining but not essential to the action, were dropped from the final cut, and at least five characters perished with them. They don’t lend themselves to resurrection, so I’m letting them rest in peace.
SLP: How long did the book take?
CK: I’d started thinking about it when I was sixteen, and here it is four decades later, which I know sounds unconscionable. In my defense I’ll say that I wrote a lot of other things during that time, some finally to appear soon.
SLP: How many drafts were involved?
CK: Three key ones. The initial version and the current one have very little in common. Over time, my formal education and life experiences changed the book in countless ways.
SLP: Once begun, did the story progress as you anticipated?
CK: It went far beyond what I’d hoped. Some of the things I wrote I never knew I had in me.
SLP: Did the book end as you originally envisioned?
CK: Yes, only better. I thank Lord Michael Essern for his cooperation, however unwilling.
SLP: Did you consider multiple endings?
CK: I originally envisioned a conventional happy-ever-after, but as I got into the denouement I realized that such an outcome wasn’t possible given the character interactions. Ryel gets what he wishes, but in ways he certainly never expected.
SLP: Was Lord Brother written with a sequel in mind?
CK: The story’s complete as it is, but so many things are left up in the air at the end that a sequel’s entirely possible. Perhaps when I get all my other ongoing projects done I’ll consider it, if only to revisit characters I’ve come to love.
SLP: Were you blocked at any point?
CK: Not once. Writing the book was a delight, and I enjoyed every instant.
SLP: Did you ever find yourself in a corner surrounded by fresh paint?
CK: Now and then, but every time it happened, a door opened up behind me.
SLP: Do any of the characters have real-life counterparts? Are any modeled on people you know?
CK: This may disappoint or relieve some of my readers, but no. I write about people I wished existed, and I don’t use real persons or characters from television, movies, etc. as templates. Art provided the most inspiration: the squalid appearance of Michael Essern in his street-preacher guise was directly inspired by Donatello’s riveting statue of Habbakuk, known as Lo Zuccone, while Riana of Zinaph has all the voluptuous indolence of a Hindu apsara. Priamnor Dranthene was an amalgam of a Clouet courtier and a Persian prince from a Safavid illumination. A few characters have trace elements of actual people.
SLP: Do any of your relatives or associates believe they’re in the book?
CK: If they do, they haven’t dared—or perhaps I should say bothered—to ask me.
SLP: Did you ever feel that the characters were taking over and driving the story in unforeseen directions?
CK: My characters are as real to me as actual flesh and blood humans, and I expect them to take the initiative in their destinies. The twists and turns of the plot owe a great deal to character autonomy. Still, ultimately I run the universe, and oversee the endgame.
SLP: Were there any large surprises? If so, what were they?
CK: I thought Ryel and Diara would enjoy a conventional happy ending together, but I didn’t reckon with the One Immortal, Riana. Edris and Michael weren’t originally intended to be quite so involved with one another at the end, but c’est la guerre (quite literally).
SLP: What other writing have you done?
CK: At present a couple of my short stories are submitted at ezines. In the past I’ve published a dozen or so articles in learned journals. A few years ago I participated in a freewheeling multi-author fantasy tale on a now-defunct Amazon forum. The Price of Everything, a dark contemporary comedy of manners, made the quarter-finals in my only foray into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition (2008). I have four other novels in the works, with more planned.
SLP: Do you have a website where readers can see other examples of your work?
CK: My website is http://carolynkephart.com, which features links to a couple of short pieces: ‘Last Laughter,’ a story about a wicked court jester and his comeuppance, recently published in Silver Blade Fantasy Quarterly, and ‘Regenerated,’ a tenderly bitter tale of love and giant lizards, free to read on Smashwords.
SLP: What’s your next writing project?
CK: Faustine, a contemporary novel in the magic-realism vein.
SLP: Is it underway?
CK: It’s completed, but needs revisions.
SLP: Will we see a reprise of the cast of The Ryel Saga?
CK: Not this time. The characters in Faustine are of this planet, contemporary, and very normal, or at least start out that way.
SLP: When do you anticipate finishing it?
CK: By the end of next month, I hope.
SLP: Can you give us a brief synopsis?
CK: In this female-viewpoint version of the Faust legend, an archaeologist at Hadrian’s Wall discovers that some things are better off left buried. The Roman warrior cult of Mithras, a diabolical bargain and immortal machinations draw Lucasta Hilary into a web where temptation, damnation and redemption are inextricably entwined.
SLP: What do you believe will be the impact of ebooks on the publishing industry?
CK: Ebooks are here to stay, and paper books will soon become boutique items, published in limited quantities for a coterie market—eventually to be collected by starship captains.
SLP: What do you think of the current publishers’ pricing structure for ebooks?
CK: Ebooks should be cheaper than paper versions, and the author should definitely be making more in royalties.
SLP: Do you support the “Agency” model currently being pressed by the publishers?
CK: Absolutely not. It’s been wrong from the start. New voices never get a chance because the dollar drives the market. The trend in self-publishing has caused a rise in sites like yours friendly to the cause, and hopefully readers looking for something new and different will turn more and more to such venues for suggestions, causing fresh talent to be discovered and appreciated.
SLP: Do you own an ereader?
CK: I plan to buy a Kindle soon, but for now my laptop and Project Gutenberg, Bartleby, Gallica, etc. bring me far more books than I’ll ever be able to read in my lifetime.
SLP: What do you believe will be the impact of Apple’s new iPad vis-à-vis the Kindle, Sony and Nook ereaders?
CK: The iPad isn’t really a dedicated ereader, but the competition should, I hope, inspire ever more improvements in ereaders—especially the Kindle, which has an enthusiastic fan base.
SLP: Now for an appetite-whetting trip to Carolyn’s world of The Ryel Saga:
The day had started fair, but by noon the sky began to darken with clouds, and now from afar off Ryel’s quick ears could hear the deep growl of a coming storm. The noise made him quiver with an emotion part expectation, part unease. Markul’s weather had been always the same—eternal fogs and mists and drizzles unrelentingly chill, the seasons distinguishable only by their extremes of rain or snow. But the Steppes were notorious for wild winter winds, and devastating spring storms. The storms were the worst: to be split in two by lightning was no unusual death among the Rismai.
Ryel sniffed the air. It was full of danger. How often as a small boy he had huddled in the yat when the great tempests shook the grasslands, feeling helplessly unsheltered in his frail tent. But as he grew, he learned to love the lightning-bolts in all their terrible forms. The shattering straight rods, the delicate branching fire-veins streaking out in all directions, the dragon-leaps of light high up, now hidden in the clouds, now flashing forth—these he had watched for, and thrilled at.
But now he had reached the fire-mountain he’d sought—a little grass-covered cinder cone that thousands of years past had been a volcano spurting liquid fire. It was named Banat Yal, after the Rismai god of the air. Reining in, Ryel dismounted, then began the brief ascent to the top. Every step became increasingly difficult, not so much from the climb’s steepness as from the weight of memories. The wind was rising, and the sky’s blue had been utterly effaced by clouds dark as night. Under that rumbling shadow Ryel stood on the rim of the fire-hill, looking out to the endless sweep of green.
The air became heavy with storm-threat. Harsh winds tore at Ryel’s clothes, and the wysard clutched Edris’ cloak tighter about him lest they strip him bare. And then a great brand of blinding light shot down from the darkness, hitting another fire-cone not at all far away. Ryel winced, waiting for the thunder-clap. At once it sounded, with deafening force.
Only a fool would stay out in such weather, but Ryel put his faith in the old saying about lightning. It couldn’t hit him again—not here. Accordingly, he stood his ground. But recollection, not the storm, made him tremble.
Fourteen years ago a storm identical to this had shook the Risma plains, and Ryel had come to this same fire-cone drenched and breathless, hoping to shelter in its bowl. But the lightning had blasted down all around him, and the electricity in the air had lifted his hair from the back of his neck. He’d only managed to struggle to the hillock’s rim when something hit him from behind with a tremendous shove, sending him hurtling down the bowl’s shallow slope into the pit. Over and over he tumbled, never feeling the glass-edged cinder-rocks tearing his clothes and skin. His only sensations were the rending throb at his nape, and the agony rattling in his spine. But then he became aware of the wind, so strong now that he felt himself pulled into the air, caught up in its terrible whirl. His clothes whipped about him, flew off in rags, became part of the spinning debris. With blank horror Ryel realized that the next thing torn to pieces would be his body.
When he discovered he was still alive, he was lying naked, stretched prone in a pool of mud. The storm had subsided to cold needles of rain. He had never hurt worse. He put his hand to the back of his neck, and with sick dread felt throbbing warmth oozing under his fingers. When he touched the gaping lips of the lightning-wound, he fainted yet again.
Then he dreamed a very beautiful dream. In it a tall figure swathed in long robes came to where he lay, and lifted him up out of the mud, and carried him away from that place of pain, singing all the while some lovely quiet wordless song. Ryel had never felt more sheltered and safe, or more grateful for his deliverance. Tears of joy warmed his cheeks.
“Thank you,” he whispered. He never expected any reply, but one came.
“It was meant to happen, whelp. Now rest, for you need it.” The voice was vibrantly deep, like thunder, but Ryel wasn’t afraid any more. Not when the voice was so sorrowing, and so gentle. He only smiled, and felt darkness steal over him again like a soft enveloping blanket.
When he again awoke he was home in his yat, his mother and Yorganar bending over him in an anguish of worry. He couldn’t have been asleep long, because he was still covered with mud, still bleeding, still naked. But the terrible wound at the back of his neck had somehow closed up as if cauterized. All that remained was a knot the size of a sparrow-hawk’s egg that the tabib Grustar diagnosed as a bad bruise. Ryel had decided never to tell anyone the truth, which he himself was far from sure of. In time the knot’s swelling subsided to a mere lump not much bigger than a hazelnut, which Ryel’s long hair hid from view. It never went away, nor for a long time did the pain. Even now, fourteen years later, Ryel winced at the memory-prodded twinge deep in his nape.
“Were you here, ithradrakis?” he asked aloud. “Was it you that saved me?”
He had never asked Edris that question while his kinsman lived. It couldn’t have been possible, at any rate—not possible, that Edris should have materialized for his help. Still, when he had come to Markul and learned a little of the Art, Ryel often recalled his encounter with the lightning and the whirlwind at the age of twelve. Often he wished he might experience it again, and through his Art derive some use or knowledge from it. But Markul’s weather was unchangeably dull, year upon year of fog-bound damp, and none of Ryel’s Mastery might change it, for weather-witching was a lost Art. Only the Highest had ever possessed it. Folk of the World believed that power over the weather was the commonest wysardry of all, even as they deemed shape-changing and thought-reading and mind-moving to be likewise common attainments among lord adepts of the Four Cities. Nothing could have been less true.
But now Ryel stood again on the lip of that epiphanic fire-hill, under a dark sky close enough almost for touching, and never had he felt more strong, or more sure of his Art. He raised his face to the boiling black clouds, and felt first one huge cold drop hit his cheek, then another his eyelid, and then too many more to count, masking his face with dripping chill. He spread his arms to the storm, called it to him.
And it came.
Roaring and crashing it came, enveloping him in wind and lightning and torrent. He knew no spells to harness the wild power of that tempest, but made up a Mastery of his own, crying it into the downpour—mere meaningless syllables, mantras that pulled his Art’s strength into a blinding white ball and hurled it into the storm. And the storm wrapped around it, and became a whirlwind.
SLP: This ends what for me—and I trust for our readers—has been a delightful interview. Thanks again to Carolyn for her candid responses, and a final reminder that The Ryel Saga is available now from Amazon’s Kindle Store.