Monday, April 28, 2014

On War and Women

Louise, thank you so much for inviting me to fill a guest spot for Heroines of Fantasy on your watch. I'm a big fan of historical fiction, even though I don't write it (yet), so in return for this little moment in the spot light, I promise to bring in some historical fiction authors on my watch next autumn.  

This month we're celebrating the release of my second novel, High Maga. The writing of this novel was such a rich experience, and today I'd like to share some thoughts on the events that inspired the story. So, without further ado, here's my guest post for HoF:

On War and Women

I’ve learned from our discussions on Heroines of Fantasy that one author’s “tired old trope” can be another’s world of opportunity. This message came home to me again just a few weeks back, when one of our guests listed war as a worn-out topic of fantasy.

That got me thinking.

High Maga, which debuts on the market this month, is essentially a story of war and violence.

Had I just spent the last three years crafting a tale that has been told too many times?

Or worse, was I telling a story that should not be told at all?

About a year ago, after reading a draft of High Maga, one of my critique partners questioned the content of the novel.  “Why so much violence?” she asked. "And why, in particular, the violence against women?"

The short answer is that war is a violent event. If an author chooses to tell war from the women’s perspective, sooner or later she will have to address the violence witnessed or encountered by those women.

The long answer has to do with my personal history and the history of my family.

I grew up with people who knew war on an intimate level. Not the battles of soldiers and veterans, but the struggles of the women left behind and the children they tried to protect as the world fell apart around them.

I heard about women who gave birth while bombs rained down on the city, of endless periods of fear and starvation and begging, of homes transformed to rubble, of daring escapes from occupied territories through dangerous midnight landscapes.

I came to understand war not as a heroic sequence of decisive battles, but as a desperate struggle for survival by civilians caught in the brutal crossfire.  

I learned that that a woman’s journey through war carries its own style of heroism. This is not always the charge-into-battle style that inspires our songs and movies. Rather, it is a heroism born of incredible endurance under some of the most brutal circumstances ever visited upon the human spirit. A heroism reflected in an awe-inspiring capacity to rebuild one’s life in the wake of utter destruction.

This is the vision that fed the writing of High Maga.

Deep inside, I wanted to pay tribute to the kinds of stories I heard as a little girl and to bear witness to the terrible loss that war causes, no matter how or why it is waged.  I sought to give a voice to those swept away by convulsions of violence, suffering through no fault of their own, their history silenced by death.

Above all, I wanted to paint my characters with dignity, even as they wandered -- or were thrust -- into the heart of darkness.

Did I succeed?

I will have to let my readers decide.  

But I am glad to have attempted the journey, and I am very grateful to all the characters of High Maga for entrusting me with the gift of their story. I hope I have done them justice.


About High Maga

Lands ravaged. Dreams destroyed. Demons let loose upon the earth.

War strikes at the heart of women’s magic in MoisehĂ©n. Eolyn’s fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured or scattered.

Devastated yet undaunted, Eolyn seeks to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. But even a High Maga cannot survive this enemy alone. Aided by the enigmatic Mage Corey, Eolyn battles the darkest forces of the Underworld, only to discover she is a mere path to the magic that most ignites their hunger.

What can stop this tide of terror and vengeance?

The answer lies in Eolyn’s forgotten love, and in its power to engender seeds of renewed hope.

“War propels the book forward, and the characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst. . . . Fans of Gastreich’s previous work will want to catch this continuation of her story.” –Publishers Weekly

Purchase links:

About the Author

Karin Rita Gastreich lives in Kansas City and Costa Rica. An ecologist by vocation, her past times include camping, hiking, music, and flamenco dance.  Her first novel, Eolyn, was nominated for the 2012 Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award.  Her third novel, Daughter of Aithne, is scheduled for release in 2015. Karin’s short stories have appeared in World Jumping, also from Hadley Rille Books, as well as in Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, and 69 Flavors of Paranoia.  She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency.

Follow Karin’s adventures into fantastic worlds, both real and imagined, at
Eolyn Chronicles
Heroines of Fantasy
Eolyn on Facebook
Eolyn on Twitter


Terri-Lynne said...

I get chills remembering some of those stories you told to me, Karin, about your grandmother during the war. You do her, and all of those women, such honor. Such incredible honor. Yes, you succeed. Absolutely.

Unknown said...

Enjoyed this perspective, Karin. This kind of thinking often gets lost when we speak of war.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Thank you, Terri and Sharon, for stopping by! And for your votes of confidence. :)

Unknown said...

I only just caught up, after having been away... It's hard to confront such issues, I know, and it's much easier not to look them in the eye, but speaking from a historical perspective, I think we have a duty to consider these unpalatable aspect of the world and Humanity. Whether it's through the medium of historical fiction or fantasy, it's a challenging task, but one which should be attempted much more often! I'm looking forward to reading both books, and curious to hear about a future venture into historical fiction!!

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Welcome back, Louise! Always great to have your perspective; I couldn't agree more.

As for those projects in historical fiction...It's gonna be a while before that gets started. But it's on my wish list. :)