Many of you probably remember the Artemis myth. She’s one of the most widely known of the Greek goddesses. Her Roman counterpart is Diana. Artemis is a departure from the maiden/mother/crone depiction of women in that she was a virgin goddess. Women who attended her also had to be chaste. What she’s probably best known for, other than tending to the moon with her brother, Apollo, is righting wrongs.
Years ago when I was in Soundpeace, a metaphysical bookstore in Ashland, Oregon, I plucked a silver pendant off its black velvet backing. It was about an inch-and-a-half in diameter and had a woman with a dog by her side and a bow behind her, carrying a light. This was long before I’d studied much in the way of mythology. All I knew was that I was drawn to that pendant and had to have it. It’s been around my neck for most of the thirty years or so since then. In the intervening years, I’ve come to recognize my pendant goddess for who she is: Artemis.
So what does that have to do with my life? Or with writing? To answer the first question, I’ve always had a finely etched sense of what’s right and have fought many a losing battle because I didn’t want to see the other side, mostly comprised of big businesses like pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies win. While my ideals may have been admirable, retrospectively, I never had a chance. The magic of writing is you can make everyone an Erin Brokovich. Remember? She took on a big corporation that was polluting water and won the largest class action suit ever.
It probably won’t surprise you to know that in real life things like that don’t happen very often, which leads us to the answer to the second question. In fiction, they happen all the time. I think that’s why people read. At least it’s why I do. To transport myself to the world of the possible. To have heroes I can root for. A skilled author can scare me half to death that things won’t go well, even when I know in my heart of hearts they won’t kill off the protagonist. Or, maybe they will. George R.R. Martin is quite good at that. Though, I must admit I didn’t like the series nearly so well after Eddard lost his head. It started feeling like a Greek tragedy after that.
There is a fine line to who to kill off in a story so you don’t alienate your readers. That’s something I struggle with. I might add maim and traumatize to kill. There are lots of ways an author can stress his/her characters. Each stressor adds depth to a character, but only if you can tie the wounding back in with how the character acts after it happens. The character shouldn’t overreact, but they can’t underreact either.
To put a finer point on things, it’s easy to kill off a character no one liked in the first place. Face it, even the author didn’t particularly like them which is why you, the reader, saw them as vapid and shallow, too. This is why drawing three-dimensional antagonists is just as important as creating fully developed protagonists. The reader has to feel something when a character dies or gets hurt—other than relief because the character seemed superfluous and annoying anyway.
To the extent fiction mirrors real life as much as possible, we can relate to it. That’s one of the reasons I set my novels in “real world” settings rather than a more typical, high fantasy world. I want that dystopian, near-future to feel real enough to make readers think. I suppose that’s my Artemis complex creeping in, but there’s not much I can do about that. One of the reasons many of Stephen King’s books work so well is they start out feeling fairly normal. The creepy, crawly elements often don’t intrude till near the end, like in Bag of Bones, for example. I don’t think the ghouls came out until the last fifty pages. By then I was so caught up in the reality of the world King had drawn—because it was my world—the addition of fantastical elements felt perfectly logical.
What have some of your favorite books been? Why?
What drew you in and made the world feel real?
Who are some of your favorite fictional characters?
Book One of the Transformation Series
By Ann Gimpel
What if your psychotherapist could really see into your soul? Picture all those secrets lying hidden, perhaps squirming a bit, just out of view. Would you invite your analyst to take a peek behind that gossamer curtain? Read your aura? Scry your future…?
Classically trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Doctor Lara McInnis has a special gift that helps her with her patients. Born with “the sight” she can read auras, while flirting with a somewhat elusive ability to foretell the future. Lara becomes alarmed when several of her patients—and a student or two—tell her about the same cataclysmic dream.
Reaching out to the Institute for answers, Lara’s paranormal ability sounds a sharp warning and she runs up hard against a dead end. Her search for assistance leads her to a Sidhe and ancient Celtic rituals blaze their way into her life. Complicating the picture is a deranged patient who’s been hell bent on destroying Lara ever since she tried to help his abused wife, a boyfriend with a long-buried secret and a society that’s crumbling to dust as shortages of everything from electricity to food escalate.
Book Two of the Transformation Series
Born with the sight, Laura McInnis is ambivalent about her paranormal ability. Oh it’s useful enough some of the time with her psychotherapy patients. But mostly it’s an embarrassment and an inconvenience—especially when her visions drag her to other worlds. Or into Goblin dens. In spite of escalating violence, incipient food shortages and frequent power blackouts, Lara is still far too attached to the comfortable life she shares with her boyfriend, Trevor, a flight attendant who lost his job when aviation fuel got so expensive—and so scarce—his airline went out of business. Forced to seek assistance to hone her unusual abilities in Psyche’s Prophecy, Book I of this series, Lara is still quite the neophyte in terms of either summoning or bending her magic to do much of anything.
Reluctantly roped into channeling her unpredictable psychic talents to help a detective who saved her from a psychopathic killer, Lara soon finds herself stranded in the murky underbelly of a world inhabited by demons. The Sidhe offer hope, but they are so high-handed Lara stubbornly resists their suggestions. Riots, death on all sides, a mysterious accident and one particular demon targeting her, push Lara to make some hard decisions. When all seems lost, the Dreaming, nestled in the heart of Celtic magic, calls out to her.
About the Author Ann Gimpel
Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent. Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Two novels, Psyche’s Prophecy, and its sequel, Psyche’s Search, have been published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing, a small press. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)