All That is Romantic
Posted by Literary Titan
LoveQuest is a dramatic retelling of an ancient Greek myth about Psyche, a mortal woman, and Eros, the god of love. Why did you want to retell this story and what were some new ideas you wanted to introduce?
I’ve always loved mythology, from the time I was first exposed to it as a child. As a student of literature, I was aware of how the ancient myths continued to influence art and culture to the present day.
There were myths in particular that caught my attention, and, in my early 30s, I was particularly drawn to that of Eros and Psyche. I never imagined a Roman setting, but the romantic, wonderful, and bucolic setting of ancient Greece.
To me, the myth of Eros and Psyche comprises all that is romantic. Each of us yearns for a partner who is the ideal of everything we’ve ever dreamed of, but somehow we don’t believe we are worthy of such love.
We deceive ourselves by letting others define us. We vacillate and let fear conquer us. The world leads us astray and we fail ourselves and those who love us.
To be human is to be like Psyche. I identified with her and all her failings, as well as with her attempts to make reparations and redeem herself.
Psyche held her gifts in low esteem, and that was her first mistake. Beauty is a gift, and those who are blessed with it are meant to shine, just as a writer must write and a dancer must dance.
Being morbidly influenced by her malignant sisters was another of Psyche’s mistakes. It should be easy to tell a friend from an enemy; people should not let their enemies define them or direct their behavior.
Eros has a coming-of-age experience; he takes a path distinct from his mother’s and follows his own destiny. As for Aphrodite, she has to decide whether she should set her child free or protect him from making a grown-up’s mistake.
At one point, Psyche has an opportunity to escape her trials and slink back home. Instead of choosing the mediocrity of a safe and easy path, she decides to follow her heart and endure and suffer for a higher objective. The difficult path is the one that gives us a chance to stretch ourselves, excel ourselves, and be better than we would otherwise be.
On an elevated level, the myth is the story of the redeeming power of love, and of the soul in search of redemption and perfection.
I felt that your characters were well developed and their personalities were distinct. What are some important traits you like your characters to have?
I want people to identify with my characters, or at least see in them what they see in others. A character cannot succeed unless he or she connects with the reader. The reader doesn’t have to like the character; it’s only important that the reader perceives the character as alive and real.
I don’t want my characters to be too good or too bad. There is risk of falling into parody if they are. My villains, if they can be called villains, are not all bad; they just behave badly.
What kind of research did you undertake to ensure you got the mythology right in LoveQuest?
The main source for my story is The Age of Fable (1855) by the American writer Thomas Bulfinch (1796 – 1867). This has been a classic and standard text for the Greek myths ever since.
Bulfinch appeals because he attempts to write the myths with all “the charm of a story book,” while adhering “to the text of the ancient authorities.” He writes “for the reader of English literature” and “to popularize mythology and extend the enjoyment of elegant literature.”
I have allowed Bulfinch to provide the framework of my story, but I have attempted to expand upon it, infuse it with other elements of magic and wonder, and, I hope, provide readers with a greater depth of understanding for the lessons the story imparts.
I have taken some liberty with Bulfinch’s story of Eros and Psyche. Gaia, the Earth Mother, is an immortal apart from the gods of Olympus. The talking animals are a tribute to C. S. Lewis and Disney, and the intervention of the South and North Winds is my own device, providing a natural way to give Eros allies outside his mother’s influence.
The mysterious Dream Lover is a mystical being born of imagination.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have been spending much of my time since the publication of LoveQuest in promoting my books (my historical novel Brief Candles was published in 1983) and sharing my short stories on my website. However, I do have many projects planned and already in development.
I am building a narrative around the diary I kept when I was fourteen, filled with the anxieties, vanities, and pain of adolescence.
Another project is a dystopia of a class-based society where the tidal wave for change is already churning under the surface of a closed and exclusive world.
An overreaching work is a history of late 15th century England during the period popularly known as the Wars of the Roses. I have been studying that period on and off for over 50 years, and friends have encouraged me to collect my research in a nonfiction book.
None of these projects is close to completion, and I know by experience that a sudden inspiration could cause me to push something totally unexpected forward.
One way or another, I will never stop writing.
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LoveQuest, a romantic fantasy, is a light-hearted retelling of one of the most enduring love stories from ancient Greek mythology: the forbidden passion of Eros, the god of Love, for the mortal woman Psyche.
A god’s love for a mortal woman…
It is ancient Greece, a world of gods, superstition, and magic. The villagers dwelling under the eyes of the jealous and capricious gods on Mount Olympus seek to gain their favor and to uncover the mysteries that only the immortals can know by turning to priests, soothsayers, seers, and fortune-tellers.
The oracle of the divine Apollo is one of the most famous of these seers. Although physically nothing more than a pool of water in a cavern, its wisdom is so renown across Greece that many journey far and wide to seek its counsel.
Among the pilgrims are the wealthy cloth merchant Pericles, his wife Leena, and their daughters Medea, Tanna, and Psyche. Although Psyche is blessed by Aphrodite, the goddess of Beauty, and is cherished by the people of her village for her loveliness, she cares little for their attention, seeking only the approval of her envious and malicious sisters.
Medea and Tanna ridicule the oracle’s prophecy that Psyche will make a “marvelous” marriage to someone “not human,” and use it as another means to torment their sister, driving her to tears.
Offended by Psyche’s behavior and not accustomed to being taken for granted, Aphrodite retaliates by asking her son Eros, the god of Love, to punish Psyche with a life of lovelessness.
Coming to Psyche and her sisters under a cloak of invisibility, Eros is filled with pity for Psyche but determined to carry out his mother’s wishes. Aphrodite’s plan goes amok when Eros wounds himself with his own arrow carrying out the punishment. He falls in love with the woman his mother hates.
Eros must make a decision: Will he do his mother’s bidding and resist the power of love, or will he defy her by setting his own course in pursuit of Psyche’s heart?
And, if he develops an elaborate plan to win Psyche, whose help can he enlist? Is love with Psyche possible, and how long can he keep up his deception before his mother discovers him?
Compared with Eros, Psyche is a novice at love. Eros can’t approach her as a human suitor would approach a human woman. She too has a decision to make: Should she believe the loving words of a mysterious stranger, or should she believe her sisters?
The consequences for Eros and Psyche are dear. Aphrodite’s temper is not something to toy with. She is angry enough with Psyche, but if Psyche should do wrong to her son Eros, there might be no end to the punishment Psyche faces at the hands of the jealous goddess.
Psyche must choose between betrayal and fidelity, just as Eros must connive to win her love and the approval of his mother. Both of them must be put to the test in order to find their heart’s desire.
Posted in Interviews
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