Today’s guest is fantasy author Freda Warrington! She’s written several books, but I discovered her work with the first of her stand alone Aetherial Tales novels and the first of her novels to be published here in the United States, Elfland. Character driven and beautifully written, it made me want to read everything she’d ever penned, a wish that has only grown stronger the more I read of her work. Her writing is elegant and effortless; her stories, myths, and characters are compelling. In particular, I find the inclusion of art in each of the three Aetherial Tales books an intriguing element, and I’m glad she is discussing the role it plays today—plus I am giving away two copies of the new novel, Grail of the Summer Stars (which I am currently reading and enjoying very much)!
Painting with Words
Hello, I’m Freda Warrington, author of numerous fantasy novels. I loved giving an interview to Fantasy Café a couple of years ago and I’m very delighted to be invited back for a guest blog spot. As my third Aetherial Tales novel GRAIL OF THE SUMMER STARS is published, I’ve been asked for my thoughts on the role of art in my novels. That’s a good question – why does art keep cropping up as a theme in my stories?
Or if not as a theme, at least as a plot mover. It isn’t always there: the primary concern of all my books is character and relationship. And conflict and struggle – without conflict, there isn’t much of a plot in which to test the characters! – and of course, landscape and atmosphere. That said, art plays a key part in my Aetherial Tales series. I didn’t plan it that way, it just sort of happened while I was writing.
The second book, Midsummer Night, centres around Juliana Flagg, a powerful grande dame of the art world who is a renowned sculptor, running an art course in her remote mansion. However, she has a secret – her own sculptures, which spring from her disturbing visions, have begun to frighten her to the extent that she dare not sell them, She faces bankruptcy as a result. So she’s caught between the real-world concerns of trying to make a living, and the intrusions of the Otherworld into her life and her subconscious.
Now, I had thought there was no art theme in the first book, Elfland. But now I come to think of it, oh yes there is. Rosie becomes a landscape gardener – another form of art. She is a sculptor of a different kind. While trying out ideas for gardens – with a long-term ambition of entering the Chelsea Flower Show! – she creates a mystical ‘spiral garden’ with a stone egg – an age-old symbol of rebirth – at the centre. And this garden comes to play a central role in the story. In my Aetherial world, where the Otherworld intersects with ours, to tread a spiral is to tread a magical pathway.
Then we come to the third and new book, Grail of the Summer Stars. Yes, here comes another visionary artist! Again, I didn’t plan this – I started writing, and then thought, “Ohh…” Stevie – herself an artist, in that she’s a talented jewel-smith and clockmaker – receives a strange painting from her old art college friend, Daniel. His thing is to paint weird subjects in the style of Russian icons. But this particular image shows something he could not possibly ever have seen – a scene from ancient Aetherial history. Apparently Daniel has picked up arcane knowledge from an unknown source, which makes him too dangerous to be let loose. When Stevie tries to find out why he’s sent her the painting, and what it means, Daniel has already gone missing. And other, sinister Aetherial folk are closing in on her, also eager to understand the message hidden in the image of a flamed-haired goddess – and to hide it from human eyes.
Thus the mystery of a single work of art takes Stevie on a convoluted, epic quest.
Why does art wind through my writing like this? Mainly because I am a frustrated artist, I believe! If I had the talent of, say, Anne Sudworth or Edmund Dulac or John William Waterhouse, I’d be creating my visions with pigment instead of words. Although I trained as a graphic designer, I was disappointed with my illustration skills. And yet, images have always inspired me as much as books. I only have to look at certain Pre-Raphaelite paintings and I’m carried into an enchanted world that makes me long to write stories. The work of Arthur Rackham, Dulac, Beardsley, the stunning visionary landscapes of John Martin, the surreal visions of Roger Dean on those evocative album covers – all made my creative fingers itch, so to speak. As a teenager, I had a couple of posters on my wall – one of a knight riding across an eerie landscape, the other a stunningly beautiful woman (meant to be Titania, queen of the fairies) – and although the posters are long-lost and I have no recollection of the artists, such images inspired scenes and characters in my early novels.
Recently the British fine artist Anne Sudworth and I were both guests-of-honour at the 2013 Eastercon. Although I’ve known Anne’s gorgeous work for years, it was only when we were on a panel together that I realized how similar some of our innermost ideas must be. She constantly paints magical paths that dwindle towards mysterious, just-beyond-the-horizon otherworlds. I constantly write about them! Here’s a difference, though – I feel the need to explore and explain those faerie realms. Anne doesn’t. To her, it’s enough that the magic simply is. And I love that.
I love landscapes and colours and atmospheres. Since I can’t draw them on paper, I paint them with words instead. Art and imagination and poetry and sculpture and nature and prose are not, to me, separate entities. They are all part of a single creative continuum.
FREDA WARRINGTON, who was born in and lives in Leicestershire, England, is the author of twenty novels. This is her third Aetherial Tales novel, her first series to be published in the United States. The first, Elfland, was named Best Fantasy of the Year by RT Book Reviews. For more information, please visit www.fredawarrington.com.
Courtesy of Tor, I have two copies of Grail of the Summer Stars to give away! (The giveaway is open to those with US and Canadian mailing addresses.)
About Grail of the Summer Stars:
The climactic concluding novel in the spellbinding magical contemporary fantasy Aetherial Tales trilogy
A painting, depicting haunting scenes of a ruined palace and a scarlet-haired goddess in front of a fiery city, arrives unheralded in an art gallery with a cryptic note saying, “The world needs to see this.” The painting begins to change the lives of the woman who is the gallery’s curator and that of an ancient man of the fey Aetherial folk who has mysteriously risen from the depths of the ocean. Neither human nor fairy knows how they are connected, but when the painting is stolen, both are compelled to discover the meaning behind the painting and the key it holds to their future.
In Grail of the Summer Stars, a haunting, powerful tale of two worlds and those caught between, Freda Warrington weaves an exciting story of suspense, adventure and danger that fulfills the promise of the Aetherial Tales as only she can.
Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below OR send an email to kristen AT fantasybookcafe DOT com with the subject “Grail Giveaway.” One entry per person and two winners will be randomly selected. Only those with a mailing address in the US or Canada are eligible to win this giveaway. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Wednesday, May 1. Each winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).
Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winners. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.
(Now that the giveaway is over, the form has been removed.)