Now that my release interviews and blog tour are over and I’ve gotten my first emails from readers, I’m getting a pretty good idea of what the most common questions are about Daughter of Destiny. Like so many authors before me, I decided to address them in an FAQ page, but since that can be hard to find, I’m also posting them here.
I’ll update the FAQ page as more roll in, so if you have any that you don’t see addressed, please email me at nicole [dot] evelina [at] att [dot] net.
Answers may contain spoilers – be forewarned
1. How old is Aggrivane? You never state his age in the book.
I never realized I don’t state his age specifically. He’s two years older than Guinevere. So for most of the book, while she’s 15, he’s 17.
I’ve been told that some readers believe him to be much older than Guinevere. I’m not sure where they get this from because it’s simply not true. You can tell he’s young even without his age being mentioned in a few ways:
- He’s a student of the Druids. Students are taken on young and can remain with the Druids until they reach the age of maturity, which is 17 for boys in this time period (14 for girls), unless they intend to become Druids, in which case they would study longer. If Aggrivane was older, he would be portrayed as a full Druid or be released back to his secular life.
- He is sent to Lord Evrain’s household to study governance. Only younger lords are sent into “fosterage” in other households.
- He mentions being unlanded. As a son who is not the heir, if he was older he would have won his land already.
- He listens to and obeys his father’s will/commands. While a respectful child would do this at any age, he’d have more of an ability to assert is own will if he was older.
2. Why did you put Aggrivane and Guinevere together? That’s not something I’ve ever heard of before.
I can’t answer this without giving a tiny spoiler to book 2, so be aware. I knew I wanted her to have a first love before Arthur. Most authors have chosen to make it Lancelot, but I wanted to go in a different direction. The more I explored the legend, I realized in some versions, Mordred isn’t alone in confronting and exposing Lancelot and Guinevere. Sometimes Aggrivane is with him. I started wondering why. What was Aggrivane’s motivation for such a betrayal? Then it hit me. If he and Guinevere were together first, he would naturally want revenge. He would be wondering why, if she was going to have an affair, it wasn’t with him. So I kind of wrote the relationship backwards, from the endgame. Also, because Lot is Aggrivane’s father and Lot’s kingdom of Lothian is in the Votadini lands (where Guinevere’s mom is from), it was helpful for Guinevere to already have a connection to their family. None of it was an accident.
3. Why did you spend so long on the Avalon part of the story? I thought it was boring./Why didn’t you spend longer on Avalon? That was the best part!
It amazes me that people either love or hate that section of the book. The short answer as to why it isn’t longer is that Guinevere isn’t meant to stay in Avalon. She has other things to do.
The answer as to why it is as long as it is isn’t easy to answer in short order. I wanted, first and foremost, to show an approximation of what Druidic training may have been like. Due to the nature of a novel and the rest of the story I had to tell in the first book, I had to speed up the historical 20-year process. I condensed it down to four years. I have my students study subjects that Druids likely did, including law, Ogham (a written and possibly oral language), herb craft, and manipulation of the elements. You may notice that my magic isn’t anything Hollywood outrageous. That is because I tried to keep within the spirit of actual Celtic/Druidic belief; based on what little we know of their beliefs, if they had magic, it was likely more subtle than our modern minds tend to imagine. That is also why you see a few lunar and agricultural rituals (which are somewhat based in neo-paganism because we have no period sources to draw from) and throughout the series you’ll see many different gods and goddesses invoked. For the Celts, magic and religion/ritual were part of daily life, so I wanted that to be the case for my characters as well.
Guinevere lives in Avalon for a formative period of her life, from the age of 11 through 15 (14 was legal marrying age for a girl). Having her experience that time in an isolated location with a bunch of other women meant she wasn’t subject to the prevailing thoughts and influences of the time that said men were dominant, Christianity was the only way, etc. (Guinevere’s mother raised her with beliefs rare to post-Roman Britain but more common to her native Votandini tribe in what is now southern Scotland.) In this little cocoon, Guinevere was free to nurture the outspokenness and intelligence that her mother instilled in her and it made her a much stronger woman that she might have been had she stayed in Northgallis. I thought of it kind of like going off to an all-girls boarding school, one where she would make lifelong friends and rivals *cough* Morgan *cough,* just as girls do today. (I went to an all-girls high school – not a boarding school – and can attest to how quickly bonds and enmities form. Both are still in full effect among my classmates 19 years later.)
One of the things I wanted to explore in my series was the tension between the old religion of Britain (which I’ve chosen to define as the Druid faith) and the ascending power of Christianity. We really don’t know for certain when Christianity came to Britain or when it became dominant. Some scholars say it was already the main religion of the people by the time my book opens in 491 AD, especially given that Constantine legalized it in the early 300s. However, as the Celtic Church’s later squabbles with Rome show, change took a long time to travel from Rome to Britain, and when it did, it was often slow to be adopted. Therefore, it’s my personal belief that the period of my novel was still a time of transition when the old ways were dying out and slowly being replaced by Christianity. Establishing Guinevere as an Avalonian priestess and showing the old beliefs during her time on Avalon gives the reader a baseline to contrast with the predominance of Christianity that she experiences once she leaves Avalon, and later on into later books.
4. Because Guinevere left Avalon, did she really become a priestess? Doesn’t that invalidate it?
Yes, she did become a priestess. Her consecration is shown in detail in chapter four. There are references to her being a priestess throughout the rest of the book and also in future books in the series. Her leaving Avalon in no way invalidated her priestesshood. It’s common for priestesses to take or be given secular jobs after their consecration.
5. Why did you choose to make Guinevere a priestess? You know that’s traditionally Morgan’s role, right?
I do, but I don’t believe it states anywhere in tradition that it can’t also be Guinevere’s role. I am delving into territory that isn’t covered in the traditional legends, so there is no rule book to follow for her early life. See my answer to question 3 above for more information on why I made her a priestess.
My choice actually has very little to do with Morgan. But it does have its advantages. It puts them on even footing and gives them a place to meet early on, sowing the seeds of dislike that will only get worse as time goes on. (It’s not all about Arthur, at least not in my world.)
5. Why are Guinevere and Morgan so mean to each other?
They both want to be number one in the eyes of the Lady of the Lake. Immature? Yes, but they are teenage girls and that level of competitiveness is common among girls their age. Plus, Morgan has the added incentive of needing to prove herself in Avalon because she doesn’t know who her parents are and has no where else to go. If Guinevere were to become the shining star, Morgan would be up a creek, so she has to do what she can to discredit Guinevere. As for Guinevere’s motives for being mean back, she’s an only child and used to being in the spotlight. She doesn’t want to give that up to anyone. She’s quite selfish, but I never promised she’d be a saint (and how boring would the story be if she was?). Out of this rivalry grows a hatred that will intensify as the books go on.
6. How is it possible that Isolde and Guinevere don’t get pregnant with the amount of sex they have since there was no birth control back then?
They didn’t have the artificial birth control we have now, but there were still ways to prevent pregnancy with herbs. The Romans and Greeks used many, which the Celts would have had knowledge of to thanks to the Roman invasion, if they weren’t already part of the knowledge passed down from mother to daughter. A few are Thistle, Rue, Angelica, Blue/Black Cohosh, Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot) and Pennyroyal, which are still used for those purposes today. (This is not medical advice, so please don’t take it that way. Use any herbs at your own risk.) The efficacy is questionable, but history bears out their usage. Plus this is fiction, and fantasy on top of that.
7. Will we see more of Morgan in the second book?
Yes, much more. Morgan has a very unusual role to play in Camelot’s Queen, one that I’m sure will upset traditionalists, but I don’t really care. 🙂 PS – She’s in book 3 as well. (And she may get her own novel.)
8. Will we see more of Isolde in the second book?
Yes, but probably not as much as you may think. Isolde was originally in the second book a lot more, but her role was cut on the advice of my agent (at the time) and editor. There are two reasons for this:
- This is Guinevere’s story, not Isolde’s, so there is a lot of time when Guinevere is either physically separated from Isolde or has other things to worry about (like staying alive or winning a war) where their correspondence wouldn’t make sense to include.
- Isolde is getting her own book, so you’ll get to see the rest of her relationship with Guinevere there. It makes more sense to present it from Isolde’s POV so you only see it when it affects Isolde’s story.
Though it’s not stated in the book, they do remain friends and correspond often. I’m hoping to get Isolde’s story out in 2017.
9. Why did you have Guinevere _____ if it didn’t have any bearing on the plot?
I’ve gotten this question about her sword fighting skills, her relationship with her mom, her ability to pick locks, just about anything you can think of. Chances are good if you don’t know why it’s in this book, it’s setting up something for book 2 or 3. You have to remember this is a series and I can’t cover everything in the first book.
10. Did you really spend 15 years studying Arthurian legend? You look like you’re barely 20!
Um, thanks? Yes, I did. I started studying in 1999 when I was 19. I was 36 when this book was published. If you’re interested in seeing what I studied, please visit my research page.
11. You show a profound ignorance/misunderstanding/disrespect for Arthurian legend by portraying the story the way you have. (Yes, I have been told this in email and in person.)
While I value your opinion, I have to disagree. I never set out to tell the original story just the same as it’s always been, which should be obvious by the back cover copy. My book (the whole series, in fact) is a re-telling, which means I put my own spin on the story. I do this to advance the legend for my generation, just as Tennyson did for his, and all the 20th and 21st century authors have done. If you are looking for something more traditional, I suggest reading some of the medieval sources like Malory or Geoffrey of Monmouth. Or better yet, write your own story.
12. What do you think about positive reviews?
They make me happy and I’m glad readers enjoy and understand what I wanted them to experience in the book.
13. What do you think about negative reviews?
I try not to think about them! Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. There are plenty of books that others like that I don’t. If someone doesn’t like my book, I figure they weren’t the right audience for it.
Reader responses are always so interesting. You might want to insert Aggrivaine’s age in a future edition of the book, but other than that, I wouldn’t change anything. I love the Avalon section and I think people who don’t probably aren’t familiar with the tradition you’re writing in. And phooey on anyone who thinks you can’t change the legend all you want. That’s part of what makes the legend so great and so timeless – it has continued to adapt itself century after century.
I can’t wait for book 2!
Thanks for your support, Tyler. You have a good idea about adding his age in. I think I’ll do that when I go in to change the links at the back to add in my second book. Only about 6 weeks until book 2 comes out! I’m nervous!