Suzanne Church’s Elements
Posted by Nancy Northcott May 3 2014, 12:27 am
Today, I’m delighted to bring my Dragon*Con buddy and friend, award-winning author Suzanne Church, to the Lair. This will be a slight change of pace because Suzanne’s focus is speculative fiction ranging from horror to science fiction to fantasy. She has just released her first short story collection, Elements.
Welcome, Suzanne! I hear you’re a Game of Thrones fan. Since many of our regulars also love it, how about telling us why you like?
The HBO series is such a pleasure to watch. The sets, costumes, locations, actors, and scripts are all of the highest quality. Every episode feels like a feature length movie.
I’ve read almost all of the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels and I’m pleased that George R.R. Martin waited to select the perfect home for his saga before agreeing to the project.
I think the strongest acting performance is Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, but so many other actors dominate their scenes. My favorites from among the list of exceptional actors include Lena Headey (Cersei), Charles Dance (Tywin), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), Rose Leslie (Ygritte), and Gwendoline Christie (Brienne).
Part of what makes the show so appealing to me are all of the strong female characters. Traditionally, epic fantasy stories tend to focus on the male heroes who save the female damsels, but Game of Thrones has plenty of strong women–some you love, and some you love to hate!
Did you read science fiction and fantasy growing up?
I remember reading “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis at a very young age. Once I had my own children, I re-read the books to them and was able to appreciate more layers of the series that I’d been too young to grasp the first time around.
In my teens I remember reading books like “Carrie” and “Salem’s Lot” on the sly because I didn’t want my mother or my friends to chastise me for reading horror. Stephen King is such a master of story and with every one of his novels he captured my attention right from the get go.
What role, if any, did these influences play in your decision to write fiction?
I’ve always wanted to write like Stephen King. His talent for pacing and plot development is spectacular. The hardest part is studying his prose. Even though I begin with a pencil behind my ear, ready to make notes about how he introduced this character or developed that subplot, before I can stop myself I’m so absorbed by the book that I race euphorically through the pages.
Another reason that I write is to attempt to harness my imagination. My brain seems to never turn off, even when I sleep. I dream so often (usually nightmares) that I sometimes wake exhausted. One of my long-term writing goals is to try and bring even a fraction of those late-night strange worlds and their haunting characters to life.
Tell us a bit about Elements, please.
Elements contains 21 short stories — 14 are stories originally published in other anthologies or magazines and 7 are new to the collection. The subtitle for ELEMENTS is “A Collection of Speculative Fiction” and that sums up the project. You’ll find some Science Fiction, some Fantasy, and a little Horror (although it reads more like Dark Fantasy). Overall, the tales are connected to the Elements in one way or another.
As a sampling, “Storm Child” is a Rwandan myth retelling, “The Wind and the Sky” explores how futuristic androids might react to primitive humans, and “Soul Hungry” is the paranormal story I wrote inspired by Neil Jackson’s fantastic cover art.
Also included in ELEMENTS are three stories from my Couch Teleportation Universe where humans interact with a number of whacky aliens.
Would you like to share an excerpt?
I’d love to. Here’s the first scene in the Fantasy story, “Courting Ice”
COURTING ICE – From ELEMENTS
To an ice courter like Faya, all frozen water was uniquely magnificent, from the great bergs that floated past the cape to the thin skins on late autumn puddles. She adored her gift, for it allowed her a connection as splendid as the love she had once shared with her long dead mother. All her life the ice had proven pure and true, until the spring when she fell in love.
The morning after the spring equinox she stood in water up to her knees, daggers of cold slicing through her calves, her heavy furs piled on the shore several arm’s reaches away. With water all around, she linked with the ice. A large mass had formed in the shallows at the other side of Ranglien Cove. Tendrils of comfort drifted to her from the mass as it felt its way through her. It longed to join with her, to be loved as only ice can be adored by its courter. With arms outstretched, she urged a small piece of it closer, coaxing it to break free from the massive formation. Crevices ruptured, screaming with the effort of separation. Heartbeats later, the separated chunk sailed over to her waiting embrace.
Releasing her hold on the ice, she turned to see a man, naked from the waist down. He wore a loose cotton shirt, too thin to provide much warmth, and he had tied the bottom edge in a knot to keep it out of the water. Settling into the shallows behind her, he washed himself at the edge of the clear, frigid waters.
With a quick return to her task, she rotated, twisting the waist-high chunk onto shore and turning her back on this stranger. He should have been shivering from the cold, yet he cleansed himself with a strange mixture of calm and grace. The water misted above him like a perilous fog.
She said, “A courtship isn’t meant to be shared.”
“Ah, but a courtship is, by definition, sharing, is it not?”
She stepped ashore, courted the piece onto her sled, and wrapped oiled leather around it. “Witnessed, then.”
“Despite your objection, I rather enjoyed the moment. I’m Lebno.” He extended a hand towards her.
She paused, staring at his hand, then stepped back into the water to grasp it. His palm was warm. It felt comforting. “Faya,” she said.
“Pleased to share your courtship, Faya.”
“Aren’t you cold?” This man seemed too content in the water, but with her own abilities, she would have been able to sense if he, like her mother, had courted it.
He shrugged. “I needed solace, and I thought this cove deserted.”
“In my experience, those who seek isolation are avoiding an unsolved quandary.”
“You’re an observer, as well,” he said. “But incorrect. I’m here for a simple rinse. I’ve tasks, not quandaries, to evade.”
“The sooner you’re at the work, the quicker you’ll finish.”
“And now you’re a philosopher.” The water misted, almost boiled as a blush tore its way from his face down.
Despite her courtship with the ice, her legs had had enough of the cold and urged her to exit the water. A gust of wind tore through her. She shivered, not once, but twice. The elements demanded much of their courters.
She returned to shore, finished binding her ice to the sled, and donned her heavy furs. She could not help but look at him. The man’s muscles bulged through the thin shirt. A sprinkling of gray painted his dark beard. He caught her eye and smiled so brightly that if he’d been a fire, sparks would have popped in every direction.
Faya slumped to the ground in surprise, hitting her tailbone hard enough to send spikes of pain along her spine. It can’t be. They are so rare, so few.
“You’re a fire courter,” she said.
His face showed no emotion, no acknowledgment.
She hadn’t meant to say it aloud, to speak of his gift so openly. Many of his type had been corrupted by their power, using it to conquer, or worse, to kill. Fear had spread from one village to the next, until the great cleansings had taken many of the fire courters’ lives. The ones who remained were forced to serve multiple communities, while at the same time they lived under constant scrutiny of the ever-watching councils.
She swallowed, and stood, “I didn’t know that Daslak’s council had called you to serve.”
“I’m only here for a short while, to tutor your apothecary. I’ll soon return to Cape Trebnay.”
“Oh.” Pressing her lips shut, she thought, I hope that means I will see you again. Keeping her face as neutral as she could muster, she nodded respectfully, and then pulled the sled’s strap over her shoulders, settling into the yoke. “Well … Good travels to you, Lebno. If I were you, I would finish rinsing soon, or you might lose your feet.” With closed eyes, she sought an inner peace, forcing rogue thoughts back while she carried her load forward.
Very cool! What’s next for you (besides a trip to Dragon*Con 2014)?
I’m always writing and editing.
At the beginning of the year, I set a writing goal to pen at least four short stories. I’m a bit behind on that deadline, but I’ll catch up.
I’ve been focusing on novels lately. I have two completed novels, although that word “completed” always feels a bit overstated to the inner editor in me.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been planning and outlining a new novel based on the world and characters in “Destiny Lives in the Tattoo’s Needle” one of the short stories from Elements. If all goes well, I’ll complete the first draft by the end of the year.
Some of the reviews for Elements speak about the many unique and cool worlds you’ve created for the stories in the book. What are the origins of some of your stories?
Like most authors, much of my fiction comes from tiny fragments of my own life. Don’t get me wrong, these characters are make-believe, but some of the settings and influences trace back to places I’ve grown up or people from my past.
To connect the readers to the stories, I’ve posted origin details including many “Fun Facts” about the collection. Readers can find links to these stories-behind-the-stories from the Table of Contents for Elements post on my blog.
Romance Bandit readers love free stuff! Can you help us out?
Great, because my publisher, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, would love to offer one copy of Elements to a Romance Bandits commenter today.
Thanks so much to Nancy Northcott and all the Romance Bandits for inviting me into the lair.
Thanks for being here, Suzanne!
For more information on Suzanne and her work, check out her website: http://suzannechurch.com/wordpress/ or her Amazon author page. You can also connect with her on social media via Facebook, Twitter (where she’s @CanadianSuzanne), Goodreads, and Google Plus.
To enter the drawing, leave a comment on today’s blog. If you like Game of Thrones, tell us why (or, if you don’t like it, why not). Or you can tell us what stirs your imagination, whether it’s for writing, drawing, crafts, cooking–anything you love to do.
Posted in Elements, fantasy, science fiction, short fiction, Suzanne Church