So, Belinda, it's finally here: Silvana: The Greening, in print. How do you feel?
Belinda: Shocked! Seriously. Silvana came to me as an idea years and years ago. I wrote it over three months as a 120 page novella and slowly, very slowly, over the years it has grown. Sometimes it hasn't come out for years. Twice before I thought it was finished. But it wasn't. And now it is! It's also wonderful; there's no feeling quite like it. And grateful; I feel incredibly grateful. Can I say a big thank you to you at this point – I've not had beta readers before and I'd no idea how helpful it would be to have fresh eyes on the story, and the characters especially.
CJ: Thank you, Belinda. It was a pleasure to be a part of the process. And thank you for all your help with my novel. You’re right, it is great to have a pair of fresh eyes on the story, especially from someone who writes as well as you.
Back to Silvana. The first thing anyone seeing this book is going to notice is the cover, and I have to congratulate you on your choice of cover art. It truly is lovely. Where did you find it?
Belinda: The image is called 'Wildwood' and it's by a very talented neighbour and dear friend of mine, Emma Panting. Emma read an earlier draft of Silvana and this is her interpretation of chapter one, when Fabiom, the main character, is just a little boy and falls asleep beneath a Silvanan tree. The actual painting is quite large and, naturally, has pride of place on my living room wall. What makes it particularly special is that it was a surprise present.
On to the novel. I know this isn't going to be much of a spoiler, given that it's the title of the novel, but tell me a little about the Silvanii and why you chose them as the fantastic element of your story.
Belinda: The Silvanii are dryad-like spirits of large trees, ash, elm, oak, beech, etc. who are attended by wood-maids, the spirits of smaller trees, such as hazel, whitethorn, holly and so on. Amber is formed from their tears and blood.
All Silvanii are female and very beautiful – and desirable. Occasionally they are drawn to a human male and choose to leave the wildwood to live in human form.
Unmarried Silvanii regenerate when their tree dies but if they choose to marry they lose that ability, instead a new Silvana is formed from the union. So there is a high price to pay for making that choice, and very few do.
They are physically very strong and their singing has powerful effects: they can kill or heal, sooth or madden. Depending on species, most Silvanii are benign, but some are very dangerous.
One of their particular skills is silk making and, generations before, they shared that knowledge with the human inhabitants, in return for a promise of protection and respect.
Why I chose to write about them is an interesting question. I have always loved trees, and the Silvanii are the personification of trees, I suppose. They are wise and strong, yet innocent and vulnerable. From my point of view when I'm writing, there is something genuinely 'magical' about them as characters.
CJ: Fascinating. And having read the earlier drafts of the novel, I know that you weave the lore of the Silvanii and the world you have created through the story very well. You really do bring your world to life. If there was anything in particular you wanted a reader to take away from this novel, apart from the story itself, what would that be?
Belinda: Care and respect for nature are big elements in the book. There are two Silvanan lands. One is prosperous and healthy; the neighbouring island is economically and culturally poor because the people there failed to keep their bargain with their Silvanii, instead they exploited the trees without thought of the consequences or the future. So, hopefully that message is clear, without me hitting anyone over the head with it!
There is also a positive thread running through the story. While love doesn't quite conquer all, it does provide the characters with the strength they need when faced with adversity. The very last word of Book 2 is 'hope' and, in many ways, that's what Silvana is, it's a story about hope.
CJ: One of the things I love about Silvana: The Greening is your characterization, and I can see how love helps make them so well-rounded, in different ways. I understand that this novel is the first of a series. How many do you have planned, and when can we expect to see the next one in print?
Belinda: Originally there was just one book, but over the years it grew so big I divided it into two. I was convinced that was it until about two months ago when inspiration hit me and a third part popped, almost fully-formed, into my head!
Part two is called The Turning and will be available next year. Part three – Restoration (which might, or might not, be the actual title), will hopefully be out in 2015. There's just the small matter of writing it…
CJ: Well, you’d better get cracking, then. I can’t wait to see what happens to the characters next. I do love the rich world you have created in Silvana: The Greening. What was your inspiration. It’s not exactly the usual medieval fare (not that I have anything against medieval worlds, mine borrows heavily from medieval Europe).
Belinda: My inspiration for setting and culture was the ancient classical world – Greek and Minoan especially. I've always been fascinated by not just the myths but everyday life of those times and places too. I love the clothes, the Mediterranean climate and foods, the colours, poetry, philosophy, music. It seemed a perfect well to draw from, and not over-used. For instance, in Greek mythology, the first amber was said to be the tears of poplar trees who had once been women and were mourning for their slain brother.
CJ: Wonderful. And you’re right, it’s definitely not over-used. I love the mythology you’ve created. The amber tears, for instance, captured my interest and imagination so well.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Belinda. And best of luck with the launch. Let me know when it launches as an E-book and I will pass the information along. Meanwhile, here’s the link again to buy the physical copy: Silvana The Greening.