Thursday, 1 March 2012
Author Spotlight: Carolyn Kephart
I'm delighted to present fantasy author Carolyn Kephart, best known for her epic Ryel Saga, which has received some astonishing reviews. Here, Carolyn writes about her past, her influences (nice to see Edgar Rice Burroughs and Fritz Leiber in there), and her later novel, Queen of Time.
Carolyn Kephart - Biography
My childhood shaped me as a writer in countless ways. Life as a military brat moving from one base to a new one every other year and growing up around soldiers taught me how to adapt to the unexpected and influenced my viewpoint of men, whom I've always appreciated, admired, and envied. I've never lost my attachment to nomadic lifestyles, nor my fascination with the warrior mentality and its manifestations; they influence my work to a very discernible degree.
Surrounded by so much impermanence, I grounded myself in books. Myth and legend fascinated me, as did poetry. Shakespeare and the King James Bible thrilled me with their grandeur. I loved fantasy for its rich escape, and reveled in the works of J. R. R.Tolkien, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Fritz Leiber and E. R. Eddison.
Marrying young, I became a scholar-gypsy along with my husband. My B.A. came from the University of North Texas, where I majored in English Literature and minored in art history and French. My Master's was from Northeastern University in Boston, where I did my thesis on literary Impressionism in the works of Kate Chopin and Stephen Crane. My Ph.D. work took place at Penn State, where I was awarded an interdisciplinary fellowship for a dissertation in Baroque studies involving pre-Handelian musical theatre in London. I published scholarly articles in learned journals and reference books, but my greatest happiness came from writing a fantasy about a young mage’s search for a lost spell to save a cherished life. I loved the thrill of creating a world all my own, with characters that borrowed from no one else. Only after I’d written the story did I read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces and learn that my protagonist had traced the Hero’s Journey in every detail. It made me realize just how much humanity is united across cultures and centuries by visceral needs fulfilled only by narrative.
The tale became a novel that was first published in paperback a decade ago as the duology Wysard and Lord Brother. Established critics gave both parts high marks, and the noted author Robin Hobb wrote the cover blurb for Lord Brother. Still, I’d always wanted the story to be published in a single volume, restoring the many passages that had been excised because of page constraints. Then e-publishing came into being, and I got my wish. First my publisher reissued Wysard and Lord Brother as Kindle books, giving them a new lease on life and attracting a new and much larger readership. Then the rights reverted to me, and I was at last able to combine the duology into The Ryel Saga: A Tale of Love and Magic. It’s now available not only as an e-book, but a hefty paper tome at Amazon.
Queen of Time, my latest novel, is contemporary magic realism that brings together the Faust legend, Roman paganism and the upcoming Mayan apocalypse. It was inspired by Hadrian’s Wall and the cult of Mithras that flourished among the soldiers stationed there. For many reasons it’s at once the hardest thing I’ve ever written so far, and the most fun. Having initially issued it as an e-book, I recently created a paper version available at Amazon.
Deep and abiding loves: literature of all types and times (my reading French is fluent, my Italian adequate, my German in serious need of work); all aspects of the 17th and 18th centuries; biography of significant/unusual historical figures; early and world music; any kind of dance; psychology; art and architecture; Native American cultures; archaeology; the Far East; ethnic food, good wine, and clever people, preferably in combination. One of my favorite quotes is Tennyson's "I am a part of all that I have met," and everything that I am finds its way into my writing.
Visit my website at http://carolynkephart.com for first chapters, free short fiction, and more.
Queen of Time Synopsis
What if myth and legend became reality, and gave you everything you’d never dared to dream of? Lucasta Hilary has spent her life in the past, and sees her future shrinking. An untenured Classics professor at a Midwest state school, she’s no longer young, has missed out on happiness, and by now despairs of ever receiving the professional recognition she deserves. Forced by circumstance to oversee a student archaeology dig at Hadrian’s Wall, she soon finds the Roman ruins a symbol of her inner alienation despite the moral support of her friend and colleague Dunstan Lightner.
Just as matters are at their worst, a Roman legionary shows up—or rather Rory Thorne, a young English academic with a fondness for re-enacting. Thanks to his cryptic hints, Lucasta literally falls into an amazing discovery: an underground temple dedicated to the ancient god Mithras, patron of soldiers. The impact of the fall nearly proves fatal, and Dunstan’s sudden life-saving appearance seems uncannily well-timed.
On her return home, Lucasta copes with celebrity and makes the uneasy acquaintance of the impossibly-named military historian Byron Steele, who combines intellectual refinement with truculent machismo. In their intense encounter directly before his mysterious death, Steele mockingly offers Lucasta a Faustian bargain—ten years of pleasure in exchange for her soul--that she cynically and jokingly accepts. Steele dies immediately afterward of inexplicable causes, and Lucasta finds that the bargain was in earnest when she sees herself changing in ever more startling ways. Formerly plain and awkward, she becomes so beautiful that it eventually excites suspicion, and she decamps without a trace.
Ten years of flagrant self-indulgence later, Lucasta lounges at a plush Yucatan resort, rich, restless, and more enthralling than ever. Dunstan and Steele, both alive and as untouched by age as she is, re-enter her life to battle for her heart—and immeasurably more. Lucasta learns that not only has she lived many lives in the past, but the two men—or rather, entities—have played a key part in them as forces of light and darkness. This meeting will determine which of them wins her soul. As the Mayan calender counts down, temptation, damnation, and redemption are inextricably entwined. Will this be the end or a new beginning for Lucasta, Queen of Time?
The Ryel Saga: A Tale of Love and Magic - Synopsis
For a dozen years - almost half his existence - Ryel Mirai has dwelt in the fogbound citadel of Markul, learning the Art from his kinsman Edris. His life has been one of rigorous self-denial and discipline, and his studies have been hard, perilous, and seemingly to no purpose. But Edris' mysterious death forces Ryel to comprehend not only the real truth of his own origins, but the part he is Foretold to play in the World outside Markul's grim walls. Very soon he learns that a great and evil power in the Art, Dagar, dwells in the wraithworld of the Void, seeking to return and wreak unfathomable evil on the World that loathed and feared him when he lived centuries before. Dagar has enlisted the aid of Ryel's unruly rival in the Art, Lord Michael Essern, to find the long-lost spell that will free him from the Void. But to escape the Void's shadow-realm, Dagar requires a human form in which to embody his spiritual essence - his rai - and the form he lusts for is none other than Ryel's.
Lured by Dagar's wiles, Ryel leaves Markul and returns to the World, embroiling himself in all its dangers, joys, and temptations. Very soon he realizes that he has the chance to discover the Spell of Joining first, thereby forever thwarting Dagar's machinations. During his quest Ryel learns that the same spell will bring Edris, also imprisoned in the Void, back to life again. Great as the young wysard's hopes are, however, the dangers are greater still, for Dagar's minions are powerful and many. But Ryel discovers that he has strong allies to help him in his cause, and that he may well gain all that he wishes...although perhaps not as he wished it.
The Ryel Saga: A Tale of Love and Magic
by Carolyn Kephart
Some Review Snippets
"Intricately layered and exotic" ~Robin Hobb
"I fell in love with this book. The Ryel Saga is a poignant, touching, somber, and exhilarating read, all in one....To run your eyes over each word is a grand event by every definition of the word grand. Let it capture you, let it overwhelm you. Once you reach the end, you'll understand that you've undergone something rare, something beautiful, something you might only see two or three times in your life." ~Journal of Always Reviews
"The Ryel Saga is a well written book with an immense world filled with unique and satisfying characters and cultures...Along the way we are treated to numerous cities and cultures that are wonderfully described by this gifted author...This book will take you around the world, break your heart, grant you new and wonderful friends, and you may even fall in love. There is little else an author can do to improve on that." ~A Reader at Amazon.com
"One note about Kephart's fantasy is the absence of dragons, elves, fairies, talking swords, and so forth. Her plot and scenes are driven entirely by human and demonic forces, which some readers may prefer." ~The Bookshelf
"Kephart immerses the spellbound reader in her world with artistic flair." ~Dark Moon Rising Magazine
"All the elements of a superior fantasy novel, including the creation of a unique, full-blooded world... The book will make the reader think and wonder, not only about the storyline, but about the nature of life, death, and fate. As in real life, there are no easy or simple answers." ~Sirius Reviews
"A masterful fantasy by an extremely talented author...Ms.Kephart has created a beautiful world, complete with many different civilizations, peoples, laws, and creatures. She's given it life, imbuing it with feudal hostilities, caste grudges, religious debates and politics. Throughout the novel, we learn much about this world, but it never takes over the storyline or does more than register in the reader's mind. The focus remains on Ryel, on his quest and his destiny." ~In The Library Reviews
"The author's word choice is superb, allowing her phrasing to carry the quality of the prose to a level on par with classical literature." ~TopDragon Fantasy Reviews