Monday, 29 March 2010

Werewolves and feminism

The Dark Goddess has taken about 17 years to write. I began it way, way back when I first read 'Women who run with the Wolves' and came across the nightmare character from my childhood, Baba Yaga. She who flies around in the pestle and mortar, lives in a hut that walks on giant chicken legs and eats naughty children. Back then, she was just an evil old witch. In 1993 I realised she was a goddess, if not THE Goddess.
No matter what the archeologists, historians and Darwinists say, and would like us to believe, I believe that myths are greater than any dust covered artefact. They may be the realities of our hands and skills, but myths are the realities of our souls.
Years pass, I have children, two daughters in fact. I look at the old myths and fairy tales with more critical eyes.
And I am disappointed.
The old, old stories are dripping with female power. The old wise witches are fierce, proud, respected. The village girls was clever, cunning and full of mischief, not afraid of bloody work and killing if the situation requires it. They will marry princes and kings because only princes and kings are their equal. They are subservient to no man.
Consider Maria Morevna.
Prince Ivan travels the world, looking for a mate, a partner. He comes across the slaughtered remains of an army. Who wiped out these thousands? The princess, Maria Morevna. When war comes, she goes off to battle, leaving Ivan to tend home and hearth. She's a sister who's doing for herself.
Vasilisa the Wise. The typical tale, evil stepmother and sisters. They send her out to get fire from Baba Yaga. The ancient witch teaches her, tests her, then gives her a glowing skull that lights the way home. Whcih she then uses to burn her stepmother and sisters to cinders. Like you do.
Baba Yaga herself. Cannibal. Thousands of years old. Night, dawn and day are her servants. To be a hero, you have to face her. You wouldn't get her being pushed into the oven and going out like a punk.
Kali. The black goddess. The last one standing when all the other gods have fled.
Athene. The goddess of war and wisdom. When it comes down to it, she's the one who kicks Ares's arse.
From that we ended up with Snow White. A house frau who's so stupid she takes the poisoned apple despite REPEATED warnings from, like everyone. Then lies dead until some wondering ner-do-well snogs her while asleep. Is that even legal?
Ditto Sleeping Beauty. Passive heroine par excellence.
Repunzel. Likewise. Just sitting ther, moping around, brushing her hair until some prince has to come and rescue her. Why the hell didn't she just climb down herself? You just want to slap her.
Little Red Riding Hood. They wanted to do the same. She gets gobbled up and has to be saved by the woodsman. Well, she's a different type of heroine. She takes a carving knife when she goes into the woods.
I suppose what I'm saying her is the ancient heroines knew what mattered, and that was POWER. Not girl power. Just power. Simply put the didn't rely on men saving the day, or having to go and curtesy and smile and whinge about why they couldn't do this or that. They didn't sit by the phone waiting for him to call.
Dark Goddess is set in Russia because it had to be. The old warrior women, the Amazons, came from there. They didn't settle for anything but the greatest of heroes, Hercules and Theseus. Their queen fought Achilles under the shadow of Troy.
If Devil's Kiss was about defeating the Angel of Death, Dark Goddess had to raise the stakes. For that I needed Baba Yaga, a goddess, and her Amazons.
Billi's grown up in the company of men. A total bad-ass company. Now she meets a female group, as dangerous and as proud and as independent as the Knight Templar. And if we're embracing the female myth, we'll go the whole hog. Women and the worship of the Great Goddess was always lunar based (see Robert Graves's writings on Greek Myths for more) and so that naturally led to the werewolf. Women are the shapechangers. The ancient double-axe of the Amazons was based on the crescent moon. All this moon/female symbology was too much to ignore.
Dark Goddess is on its way. The final edits are so nearly completed. I've had insane fun writing it and delving inot a very different lore compared to the Judaic-Christian-Islamic one I used as the basis of Devil's Kiss. I'm proud of it for many reasons, it's my second book but it's the one where Billi begins to grow up. Devil's Kiss was about her deciding what sort of Templar she wanted to be. Dark Goddess is about her deciding what sort of woman.
With Billi growing to grasp her full power, we need someone who can be her equal. I'll soon be introducing you to Tsarevich Ivan Alexeivich Romanov. While writing female heroes will always be a blast, he's not been so easy to get close to, but that's the nature of heroes. If anything, he's the anti-bad boy. It's ice-cold duty, rigid honour and unflinching loyalty that drive him. He's old style royalty and its not about having tea on the lawn. And old style royalty know thrones are bought with blood.


kathryn evans said...

OMG - can not wait to read Dark Goddess - such a great post - really enjoyed reading this. How much to i have to bribe you for an advance copy?

Arya said...

I agree with Kathryn! A great post. =) And, I was wondering if/when the ARC of Dark Goddess would be available in the US? Will they be out later than the UK ones?

SarwatC said...

Glad you liked it! To be honest I delayed writing this for quite a while but yesterady things forced my hand.
Passive heroines. They wind me up.
US ARCs will be coming out in November, I think. The book proper will be Jan 2011.
There's no UK ARCs/bound proofs because of the multitude of rewrites. THanks for help on the Russian translations, Kathryn (which was one of the issues, drafts were not Russian enough, too Russian, Polish, Egyptian, etc.)

Liz said...

Absolutely brilliant article. I definitely want you on MFB talking about Dark Goddess nearer release time!

SarwatC said...

That goes without saying! I'll be in touch soon (there will be prizes, apparently).