Monday, February 24, 2014

Mythical Monday (38)

It seems there are many books based on or influenced by Myths and Mythological Beings.

There are so many different Mythology and Mythological Beings recorded. Some are very popular and well known, others not so much. There are many similar beings, yet different depending on the culture it’s based in.  The definition of Myth covers about anything in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy realm to me.

I’ve invited authors to share briefly the Mythological being or Myth that influenced their character(s) or story, or what their character(s) are based on influencing their books.  Hosting here, one author and being or myth per week.

This week we have:
Adult & Young Adult Fantasy author Alma Alexander
Talking of the Coyote.

Let me tell you about my encounter with Coyote.

When I set out to write the Worldweavers books, I wanted to write a story which was an American YA fantasy, something of an across-the-pond answer to the Harry Potter phenomenon which ruled the YA universe with an iron fist at that time. I wanted to get away from the usual Eurocentric fantasy and mythology, I wanted to ground the stories that I would write firmly in the New World… and the way that opened up for me to do this was by exploring themes in the Native American mythos. Avatars of the gods and spirits from that mythological sphere became characters in my stories. Grandmother Spider (who plays an imortant role in the creation of the world in several versions of the accounts dealing with this, particularly in the rich mythology of the American South West) became something of a mentor for my young protagonist – and since every light has to have a shadow associated with it, because otherwise the light has no form or feature, the Trickster God, Coyote, ambled onto the stage with a hat-tilt and a wicked grin aimed in my direction.

Initially, he was something of a simple stereotype – a literary equivalent of a simple pencil sketch, if you will, who was there to fill the hole in the narrative which required a touch of malice, a touch of trickery, a touch of the dark side. But then, partly because I have an aversion to writing two-dimensional characters even if they ARE just an incarnation of a Greater God and therefore iconic as an of themselves, and partly because there is so much more to Coyote than just this veneer in any case, the Trickster in my novels slowly Tricked me into becoming… well… something of a “real boy”. He developed tics and mannerisms and habits (he always wore cowboy boots which were always dusty no matter where he happened to be or how he had got there; he was given to flippancy – his response to one of my other characters taking issue with Coyote’s sweeping in to take advantage of her finding something that a lot of people had been searching for is a flippant, “Finders keepers. As in, you find it, and I keep it.”) For reasons initially known only to himself he appears to be working in cahoots with the enemy (not FOR the enemy, in the sense that Coyote is not altogether on anyone’s side, exactly, and just acts as a catalyst and a facilitator..) – and yet Grandmother Spider herself, the mentor, the wise one, the one who dispenses life-affirming advice, tells my protagonist: “Coyote will always be on your side”. And it is the joy and richness of this character that both of those are true, and true at once, and they don’t necessarily cancel one another out. Coyote is something of a Schrodinger’s cat of a character, both good and evil inside that box and you don’t know which until you actually open it up and look. (And often even then you are not sure. He is Coyote, after all.)

He still does the things that he does because he cannot help himself – this is who and what he is, and he is helpless to change that and become something different, something that he is not, and can never be. But underneath all this my version of Coyote became something larger and deeper, something that forced me to colour outside the lines and to ask harder questions and to glimpse all sorts of shadows into which my insights threw only the dimmest of lights, just enough light to know that there was more shadow beyond its reach than I would ever be able to understand or really do justice to within the scope of my story.

In one sense the story arc of the original trilogy kind of ran out before I had the chance to fully do justice to Coyote – and I was sorry for it, because in one sense that story was his own as much as it belonged to my protagonist. They both had a hand in shaping it. And because Coyote was an Avatar, it was at once more freeing and more complicated to allow him to mess with my narrative – the former because he already existed as an underlying figure and therefore did not need to be created from scratch with freshly minted urges and motivations (Coyote’s were already well known, pretty well established) and the latter because there was so much there that was given, that was considered to be understood, that fiddling with any of it carried its own set of problems. There was a danger of gilding the lily, if you like, that I would touch him up too much, that he would become the lesser for it. But then I realised that there was one more story to be told in this arc – and tell it I did, the fourth book in the Worldweavers trilogy,as it were, the book called “Dawn of Magic” – and Coyote CAME ALIVE. This is Thea Wintrhop’s apotheosis, where she faces her greatest fears and has to stand firm in the face of them; this is the story of the redemption of Nikola Tesla, and his transformation into something… that even I had not seen truly coming; and above all this is the story of Coyote, the Trickster, the creature who cares deeply about everything even while he pretends not to give a fig for anything at all, who trusts instinct and not reason and gives his whole existence up to the power of that truth, whose role in creation is to test the mettle of men and to bring out the best and the brighest in them when times to try their souls are thrust upon them but who does this work with equal measure of playful malice and unplumbed depths of empathy and love.

This is the Coyote I came to know.

And my own life is the richer for it.

Dawn of Magic” due out from Sky Warrior Books in 2014

Author Bio:
I was born in a town on the banks of the Danube in a country which no longer exists. When I was ten, I left the country of my birth, never to live there again. I have lived in five countries on four continents and now spend a good deal of my time in the realm of Cyberspace.

More than a score of my books are in print, including my YA series, Worldweavers, which Voya has recommended for those suffering from Harry Potter withdrawal. One of my novels, The Secrets of Jin-shei, is set in the country of Syai, a place which invokes imperial China but one I created from love and imagination. Published in 14 languages, it has touched readers around the world. Just recently, for example, a young woman talked excitedly about it in a video on her blog. I think she liked it, but since it was in Portuguese….

When I am not building my own new worlds, I read other authors’ books and embroider. I like music ranging from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to Dvorak’s New World Symphony, animals, coffee, chocolate, snow, velvet. I dislike snakes, things with crunchy exoskeletons or more than four legs, high humidity, asparagus, and waiting.

I am a punaholic, a chronic worrier, sometimes honest to the point of being tactless. I’m sentimental and remember detailed trivia like dates, old song lyrics, and the occasional complete movie.

I was born on the fifth day of July (the day after America), six years before man walked on the moon, and I am married to a man who wooed me over the Internet and lured me to America. I am owned by a cat.

Find Alma:
Twitter:   @AlmaAlexander
Facebook Page:  Alma Alexander
Goodreads:  Alma Alexander

Purchase the books:
  Gift of the Unmage

Barnes & Nobles:
  Gift of the Unmage


zEmfIrKa said...

This is quite fascinating! Thanks for sharing. :)

Blodeuedd said...

Great and interesting one this week :)

Silvia said...

Fascinating! Thanks for another great Mythical Monday post, this one got me particularly intrigued!

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I love a good coyote character. Yep, neither good nor evil but always on your side even when it doesn't feel like it. :)

Melliane said...

Native American mythos are always so interesting mainly as I'm not from the US so I agree it's a great idea.

Deyse said...

I always thought that american mythos from the colonial times are amazing, there is a novel of SH based on this and there is so much magical elements... Always fascinating.
Deyse @

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Victoria S. I really found these YA stories so interesting and looking forward to this one too. :) Thank you!

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Blodeuedd, I really love hearing about the Coyote. :) Thank you!

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Silvia, thank you! I find this so neat in Alma's stories. :)

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Melissa (B&T) I love a good coyote as well. I can't wait to read more in this book to come. :) Thank you!

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Melliane, Oh yes. I don't get many Native American myth books and loved it in these YA reads. :) Thank you!

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Deyse F. Oh yes. So interesting and American Myths have so much to work with. :) THank you!

Alexia561 said...

Another great post! I've only read a little about Coyote, but he sounds like a fascinating character!

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Thank you Alexia. The Coyote is a great character to play with. I'm looking forward to her next book with more of him in it. :)