Release Date: November 17, 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.
On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.
The Women of the Song.
But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.
- Throughout the story, Ramiro talks about the need to prove himself and earn his beard. What does earning his beard signify to Ramiro and to the Colina Hermosa?
Great question! Earning your beard means you’re a man and all the things that go along with that, like courting a woman and speaking in council. It’s rather a male-dominated society in some ways, such as government and the military excluding women. I purposely made it rather old-fashioned and against my own ideals so it would contrast with the much more feminist witches. (A great source of conflict.) But being able to wear a beard is a badge of honor in Colina Hermosa. To be without a beard, is to be a priest or not a full member of society. It’s what every boy aspires to, though most methods aren’t as difficult to achieve as surviving your first hand-to-hand battle as Ramiro strives to do.
Plus, as a bonus, I can use the beards’ description to reflect the characters within to some extent. There’s just all sorts of potential with beards.
- In the story, the characters have habit of addressing prayers to specific organs and parts of their body, can you explain the significance?
I love this question.
I wanted something along the lines of Catholics crossing themselves. It’s a great way for a character to express emotion without the author having to tell how they are feeling.
In Medieval times, medicine was rudimentary. People believed different humors in the body led to different emotions. It wasn’t hard to run with that and put it into this world: The ancient saint, Santiago, taught his people to clear their bodies of unwanted emotion by touching mind, heart, liver and spleen. The mind for clear thinking, the heart to encourage love, honor, courage and positive emotions, the liver represents where anger breeds, and the spleen covers worry and anxiety. Touching different parts of the body shows what emotion a character wants to encourage or dispel.
- Are the Knights based on others in history?
My first instinct is to say they are not. But as I pondered this question deeper, I must confess that they are probably a lot like one of my favorite books by Alexander Dumas, The Three Musketeers. I was most likely unconsciously influenced by that book. My pelotón works exclusively for the Alcalde. The musketeers worked for their king. There are other pelotónes for each council member and for the church, who could be rivals. There is a core group of four individuals within the pelotón that is featuring in the opening chapters, much like in The Three Musketeers.
You caught me on this question and made me notice what I hadn’t before.
- There are several detailed battle scenes and descriptions of weapons/armor. Which century and how much research went into these scenes?
The nice thing about fantasy compared to historical fiction is that you can mesh an amalgam of time periods and details and call it yours. Give just a little bit of description, then the reader can picture it any way they want. World building is just so much fun. So I’d say I took a mixed grouping of military items and folded it into my creation.
I did do some research on armor to find the proper names for every piece. And I’ve seen some armor up close when I went to England. I also visited a Spanish Mission style church in Arizona for help with the architectural details. And very usefully, I found a list of Spanish given names from the 1000-1200s. Besides that I studied plants found in the desert and in swamps. I also studied up on horses and parts of a saddle.
There is just various research that comes into play at different times. Including a swamp stomp field trip where we waded through a bog so that I know how it feels to walk in an actual swamp.
- There’s a distinct break between the Northerners and the people of Colina Hermosa. Not only physically but in terms of legends. Could you explain some of the key differences that pit them against each other?
The main difference would be in their religions and tolerance. The people of Colina Hermosa were desert nomads until their saints convinced them to build cities. Because of that, each of their cities is a separate government, just as they had been separate tribes. They trade and work together to some extent, but prefer to remain uninvolved in each other’s affairs. They had religious martyrs in the past and have grown out of it. They’ve evolved and have a live and let live philosophy.
While the Northerners, on the other hand, believe in live and let kill. Their religion and god is based on conquest and bloodlust, and they don’t plan on standing still. Like the Borg, they stand for the collective. Unfortunately for Colina Hermosa, they have a new leader with a special interest in the desert people, and the army to back that up.
- The swamp witches are feared and known as anything from cannibals to violent seductresses. What makes the witches so pervasive and are they anything like the rumors?
There’s often a grain of truth in rumors. But how large that is remains to be seen. I’d say Ramiro and his party are somewhat skeptical, but also wary. They are prepared for anything, including for truth to be worse than rumor.
- What does it mean to be a “Woman of Song”?
To be a Woman of the Song is to be alone. (I stole that from Galadriel and Lord of the Rings.) A Woman of the Song keeps herself and her magic away from others. They are independent, even from their own kind. They want nothing to do with the male dominated societies around them. The one thing they have in common is the desire to continue to pass along their magic to fresh generations by having daughters. And if they have to live in a swamp to keep isolated, that’s what they do.
- What are some main themes of The Grudging and what do you want to reader to take away from it?
I think the title expresses the theme that people can change. That your first impression of someone isn’t always correct. And how you judge another person in relation to yourself can be more controlled by your expectations than from truth.
Like in all my books, there are themes of honor and where it should lead you. How much reliance on it is too much? Whether family should come before duty. This, of course, are things every person must decide for themselves.
But what I hope most is that a reader relates to the characters and just plain finds pleasure from the story. If I can add some unexpected elements, that’s always an added bonus!
Thanks for hosting me on YA Book Madness. Those were a really great set of questions!
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.
She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.
Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The Elephant’s Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer’s Double Edge. She’s repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.
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