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D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

Pushing Madness brings your Lisen of Solsta series to a close. The series took many years to write. Was this an emotional book for you to write?

I was so focused on finishing the damn thing that I didn’t have a chance to get emotional. Writing it in concert with the previous book (Breaking Worlds) meant I wrote 200K words before I could call it done in first draft. So when I came back to Pushing Madness after publishing Breaking Worlds, it felt both new and old to me. On the other hand, there’s this which I wrote in the “About the Author” section for Blooded, book 3 in the series. “The other thing I’d accomplished [on completing the first trilogy], though I hadn’t set it as a goal, was to show a hero saying ‘let’s not fight; let’s find another way to work it out,’ thus ending a war before it got beyond its first day.” This time out with book 6, Lisen couldn’t end the war the easy way. The easy way had led to dire consequences, and those consequences played out to their ultimate degree in Pushing Madness. I saw only one way to end it–a sad and unfortunate way to end it–so I did it. But unlike the feelings ending Blooded brought out, I felt relief, relief that I could get up and walk away. It was long past time, and I was grateful.

Who were some important people in your life that helped you write this book and series?

Well, there was my canary in the mine, Daniella, who never failed to ask the precisely right, simple question when I would orally outline what was coming next to her. She was the only person I shared the raw thought process with, and she, in turn, gave me valuable feedback–questions like “how does Nalin feel about that?” when I was contemplating a story I never ended up telling. Simple question, story-devastating answer. I also turned to friends for encouragement when I fell into the abyss of I’ll-never-get-this-right. One friend constantly points out, “You’ll figure out,” and that has become a bit of a joke between us. Because it’s true; I always do figure it out. Also the writers in the workshop I attend weekly have done nothing but support me and question every possible misstep. I highly recommend a critique group to anyone who wants to write. You can never fool your peers, and if they’re gentle the way the writers in my group are, they are a true blessing. A friend I met on line and who lives on another continent offers her best to any of my endeavors. And finally my sister, who writes better than I do and offers critique and love for free.

We finally get to see what happens to Rinli and Lisen. Was this planned all along or did things change as you were writing the series?

Lisen’s journey always stretched out to at least the moment Rinli comes of age, but it was a very different story with a very different ending. As I’ve said before, Breaking Worlds and Pushing Madness were written together in response to the question “what does a world broken by Mantar’s Child look like?” 200K words later, I had the answer. But that answer did not come easily. There were many starts and stops along the way. In particular, Rinli’s motivation of the people of Thristas was tricky and required several retakes before it flew properly. I usually write with a beginning and an end in mind, and I thought I knew the ending when I started writing the first draft of the two books, but it changed several times. Lin-Manual Miranda’s words from Hamilton come to mind: “Who lives, Who dies, Who tells your story?” I may have been telling the story, but for a long time I didn’t know who lived and who died.

Will this be the end of the Lisen of Solsta world? Are you moving on to other works or do you think you will revisit this world again?

It’s the end. For now. I may go back to it one day if I live long enough. In the meantime, I’ve published a paranormal romance called Soul Doubt: A Rock-and-Roll Faust, set in the 60s, which pits a young musician and his lady against evil incarnate. And I’m working on a new YA fantasy series, working title Into the Forsaken Forest, with a young female hero who has issues with her mother. I’m enjoying building a brand new world although I’d forgotten how hard it is. Like childbirth, you forget the pain once the child is born, but the labor pains of totally new characters, totally new world and totally new plot and subplots can be excruciating. (I’m kidding/not kidding.)

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Pushing Madness (Lisen of Solsta Book 6) by [St. Martin, D. Hart]Return for one last visit to Garla and Thristas where the Thristans follow an untried leader of sixteen into war. Where a spouse and a daughter must each withhold their plans from the man whose thoughts could betray them. Where a girl of twelve may rise up to meet the challenge of trying to save her mother. Where magic sometimes exacts a price that could prove to be deadly.

Pushing Madness brings Lisen of Solsta’s saga to a close with battles waged in both Garla and Thristas using weapons of war and the defenses of the mind. Lisen’s daughter Rinli has vowed to “break the world,” and the havoc that ensues as she endeavors to fulfill that promise could obliterate the peace Lisen instituted sixteen years earlier with the Treaty of the One-Day War. Only one opportunity remains to avoid destruction, and it all rests in the hands of a twelve-year-out girl.

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The Destiny She Cannot Escape

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

D. Hart St. Martin Author Interview

Protector of Thristas takes place fifteen years after the tumultuous One Day War and Lisen is faced with something far more challenging than ever before. What were some important themes for you to capture in this novel?

I’ve taken on several archetypes in these books with an eye towards shifting what originated as masculine-oriented myths into their feminine equivalent. Lisen is the hero of a story in which she must overcome many obstacles, including her own self-doubt, to rise at the end of the original trilogy to the destiny she cannot escape. I looked at heroes, such as Luke Skywalker and King Arthur, and asked myself how this would look not simply with a “girl” as the hero but with a gentler and more sympathetic way of presenting the momentous events that occur in the story. The battle at the end of Blooded is a case in point. Lisen found a way to break through the fighting and turn the combatants towards a negotiated resolution rather than one in which many people died or were left physically or emotionally injured.

So, when I decided to explore Lisen and the others as adults, to look at the relationships and their children fifteen years on, I made another decision–to raise the bar and tackle an archetype I refer to as “the king must die and live again.” This myth can be found in many nature-focused cultures. The leader of the people sacrifices his life (or acts the sacrifice out in ritual) and goes to the underworld, then rises again, all of which is symbolic of the “burying” of seeds in the fall and their rising as plants in the spring. It is a form of fertility ritual. It is also, in some ways, the Christ story, but this time it’s a young woman.

I think this book did a fantastic job displaying how emotional a mother-daughter relationship can be, and family relationships as well. How did you develop these complex relationships? Anything pulled from real life?

My mother was not the nurturing type which left my father with that role in my life. In fact, Korin’s nickname of “Fa” is the way my father, in his later years, signed birthday cards and such. But there was more to it than that. As I foraged deeper into the story and the wounded relationship between Lisen and Rinli, I realized one very important thing. I had to be very careful about how I framed the discord between the two of them. The critique group I belonged to at the time loved the portrayal of the mother-daughter conflict, but I began to recognize that I had created a very “earth-centric/potentially sexist” struggle. In my experience, women in our culture learn at a very early age that they must challenge one another over the attention of a man. Men are taught a similar lesson, but it manifests differently. Men thump their chests and growl at one another (figuratively) or go out and kick a football around, whereas women get mean. And it often begins in the relationship between a mother and daughter and their desire for the male in their lives–the husband/father. It’s fairly subtle in most cases, but it’s there, and once girls become teenagers with all those hormones raging, they may not “desire” their father, but they want what their mothers have and the fight is on.

I couldn’t let this be the basis for Lisen and Rinli’s conflict, so I struck out on my own to find something that didn’t smack of the sexism in the “typical” tension that can tear a mother and daughter apart. And although I may have no control over the enculturated eyes the reader brings to the story and her interpretation of what she sees in that relationship, I had to be true to my commitment to present Lisen and Rinli sparring not over the mean-girl stuff that can mess with a mother and a daughter but over the betrayal Rinli feels at her mother’s use of her as a bargaining tool to bring a war to an end. Add to that the fact that Lisen is not the nurturing parent in the family, and it becomes clear, in my eyes, at least, that their relationship was likely doomed no matter what Lisen did.

Rinli is resistant to the idea that she has her mother’s magic abilities. How did you handle magic in this novel that was similar and/or different from the previous novels?

In some way, I think the magic became more central to the story than it had been previously. I have always played the push as something unacceptable but sometimes necessary, even to Garlans who are pretty accepting of most hermit magic. As a Thristan, Korin distrusts hermits and what they can do, and Lisen has a powerful gift. This presented its own set of problems in the first trilogy and ultimately tore them apart. Now, with Rinli growing up and it becoming obvious to both of her parents that she has inherited her mother’s gift, Lisen and Korin have to make their peace over the magic thing and then band together to convince Rinli that the only way to stay safe amongst magic-fearing Thristans is to master her gift in order to control it. This is where that conflict I mentioned above manifests with Lisen trying her damnedest to reach out to Rinli and Rinli turning away. (I had one reviewer say, “So many times I just wanted to scream ‘Say I LOVE YOU!'” which would, of course, have simplified things a great deal. But it was about the magic in Lisen’s mind, and “I love you” wasn’t in her lexicon.)

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I began a followup to Protector of Thristas with the idea that it would be the final book in the series. I had to find a way to put down the characters and the world I’d created in order to move on to something new. Five books. The series would be five books. I was adamant with myself. Then as I wrote and wrote and wrote, I began to realize that this was going to be one hell of a long book. I set a word limit at which point I would break it up into two books. I’m still on first draft, and I am within 2500 words of that limit I set. It’s definitely going to be 2 books. Because I’ve been making changes that affect earlier scenes as I go along, I must finish the entire tome before officially splitting them up. (And even then, I’m probably going to produce draft 2 of both books together, incorporating all the necessary tweaking at one time, before I turn to book 5 of the series and complete it.) All of this is to say, that this has taken far longer than I wanted it to take, but I continue to move forward.

As regards where we go from here, having sent a young person as flawed as Rinli through the experience of dying and rising from the dead, I discovered (upon working on the final two books) a character who is not doing well emotionally at all. It’s been an interesting trip. Rinli was originally intended to be the character to whom Lisen would pass the baton, but she turned out to be a character very different from what I had expected when I began. Her last words at the end of the book blew me away, coming as they did as I was writing that last scene, and they set the tone for the remaining story. I had to ask myself “what does a world broken by Mantar’s Child look like?” It took a while to answer that question. Now first draft is finally winding down for books 5 and 6, and all I can say is “whew, what a ride!” “When will it be available?” I’m hoping for some time early in the new year for book 5 and spring for book 6.

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Protector of Thristas: A Lisen of Solsta NovelFifteen years after the One-Day War, Lisen, now Empir Ariannas, has developed into a just and capable leader. Together she and Korin have created a union of two souls based on respect, commitment and love, and their family has grown. In addition to Rinli, their daughter who made her first appearance in Blooded, two more children have joined the family, completing their complement of three complicated adolescents.

Now the sixteen-year-out Rinli prepares to take on the mantle of Protector of Thristas, a title destined for her in the treaty that ended the war. The Empirs of Garla have carried this title for hundreds of years, and Lisen anticipates changes once she hands this single title on to Rinli at the girl’s investiture. But the prophesy of Mantar’s Child, upon which Lisen and Korin depended in the treaty negotiations fifteen years earlier, refuses to remain but a convenient myth, and with the advent of the fulfillment of the prophecy, an epic begins.

Although Protector of Thristas includes the familiar faces and settings of the young adult Lisen of Solsta trilogy, it begins a new adventure for an older and often wiser Lisen and her allies. Looking at their world through their matured eyes, the book takes on the heroic tragedy that the trilogy could only hint at. Return to Garla. Enter its mystical environs for a new encounter with Lisen and her world’s gender-free culture. The adventure awaits.

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