Come and share some fantasy and a touch of romance from a great new voice in fiction.
Interview with Janie Franz , author of The Bowdancer Saga:
1. Let’s start with a brief description of The Bowdancer.
My book blurb describes the book this way: Jan-nell, a young healer and keeper of village lore, despairs of ever finding the child who will be the next bowdancer or a man worthy enough to love. It is set in another world that could be mistaken for a very primitive Europe. It deals with roles and choices—and, of course, love.
2. Where did the idea/inspiration for the story originate?
That is really interesting because Jan-nell came to me in a meditation, fully formed, shooting a flaming arrow across the night sky. While in meditation, I asked her questions about who she was and why she seemed sad. That became the background and motivations for her character. The story of her village and her place in it unfolded as I wrote the novella. And, Bastin, the bandit who rides into her life, became part of her conflict.
3. Do you have a favourite character, and if you do, why?
Jan-ell, of course, is my favorite, but she, like many other authors’ main characters, is part of the author. We sort of live through our characters. I have really enjoyed some of the people that Jan-nell has come to know and love. I was especially fond of the women in Warrior Women and actually cried when I finished that book.
4. Did you find it challenging to create the world of The Bowdancer?
Creating Jan-nell’s world was actually easier than I had imagined it might be. I think that is because her world is partly one I would have liked to live in, a world that is far more simple than our own, where people lived off the land. I did have to work out some different landscapes and climates and try to make them consistent. My biggest challenge in The Lost Song has been broadening Jan-nell’s world and finding other landscapes and cultures.
5. What kind of research did you do for the story? Is the world based on any particular culture?
The cultures in The Bowdancer Saga are not based on any one particular culture. I’ve tried to be very careful and not co-opt anyone’s lifeways or religion. There are some similarities with ancient Europeans, some Norse cultures, some American Indian groups, and even North African peoples. But most readers won’t recognize them directly—or at least I hope they don’t. But I do think they might find some of the lifeways to be familiar at least.
I did do some considerable herb research for the last three books. Though my foremothers wildcrafted plants from the Appalachians for medicinal uses, I just grow and use a lot of culinary herbs myself. I have also consulted with my son, who is the executive chef and part owner of a high-end martini bistro here.
I would like to make note that the books in The Bowdancer Saga are heavily influenced by songs. The Bowdancer hints at them, while some of the other books in the series have them figured more prominently. My husband, who is a singer/songwriter, checks some of the doggerel I’ve written to see if it hold together enough for a song. So, far they have. And, he’s also working with me to create a companion group of songs from The Bowdancer Saga. Some he’ll just put to music, and some he will create outright because they are talked about often. We haven’t decided whether that will be a CD or mp3s we can offer for download for a bonus.
6. Did you feel having a female protagonist was essential for your fantasy romance? Do you feel more comfortable writing the female point-of-view?
Jan-nell, the bowdancer, is the cornerstone of The Bowdancer Saga. It is important that readers see the world through her eyes. She allows us to process the new people she meets and the experiences she has through the filter of her culture, which is very different from nearly everyone else’s she meets.
I am more comfortable writing from a woman’s point of view. But I think for The Bowdancer Saga it is critical that everything is filtered through this particular woman because the series plays with concepts of gender, roles, family, and lifeways.
7. Did you encounter problems when writing The Bowdancer, or was it an effortless writing experience?
The Bowdancer nearly wrote itself. But I had done that several years ago. I had written the first chapter of The Wayfarer’s Road and jotted down some notes shortly after The Bowdancer was written. When I picked up my notes and began The Wayfarer’s Road, I sort of knew how it would end, but I had no idea what would happen in the middle. That emerged as I wrote and began to fill out a skeletal outline as the first two or three chapters were fleshed out. From that story, I got the idea for Warrior Women and from that book came the idea for The Lost Song.
It had been sometime since I’d plunged into fiction writing, except for a short story here and there that never was circulated to publishers. I had quite forgotten how much the writing experience was a spiritual one. What I mean by that is that sometimes I’d look down at my hands on the keyboard and see the words pouring forth and I’d wonder where they came from. But more than that it was diving deep into the world I had created, eager to find out what would happen next. Since I was working with basically chapter titles as an outline (Those titles were never used, by the way.), I just knew the direction I was going, but I didn’t know the details.
There is a real stepping into the creative flow that I experienced. It reminded me of a painter I know who turned away from his work when it was done and looked back in wonder to see what had been created while he had been in the flow. That was sort of how I felt about writing this series.
When I was writing Warrior Women, I purposely delayed writing a juicy scene that was going to be the climax of the story. I wanted to get into that scene so badly, but I kept myself from writing it. Because I delayed that writing, when it came time for that scene, it became a totally different experience and made for a better ending that the one I had in mind.
8. Which aspect of the book did you enjoy writing the most, the fantasy or the romance?
I must confess I’m not a romance reader. I have reviewed maybe a handful of romance novels out of over 300 books I’ve reviewed in the past five years. I don’t like boy-meets-girl stories when that’s all there is there. I’m not crazy about reading love scenes either. In fact, most of the time when I read a good mystery or thriller, I’ll skim those parts. I just don’t find them interesting.
But I do like stories about relationships and that have some kind of romantic tension between the characters. It’s like with X-Files. There was all this romantic tension between Muldar and Scully. When they finally kissed, the shows ratings plummeted. There is something to be said about anticipation.
That said, I did find myself getting into the romance parts of these stories. And, frankly, all of them deal with relationships in some way. However, I am finding out that what I think is graphic is really a mainstream love scene. When my book was picked up by Breathless Press, they added a new heat category: Sweet Confections. That category describes traditional romance and some mainstream love scenes.
I do enjoy building Jan-nell’s world and creating the cultures there. But it is the interplay of the people she cares about that I find interesting and allows me to explore those questions of roles and family and gender.
9. Are there any more Bowdancer stories forthcoming?
Yes, there are at least three more. The second book, The Wayfarer’s Road, and the third, Warrior Women, are finished and will be released soon. I’m writing the fourth, The Lost Song, which I hope will become one of my favorite types of books—the map quest.
I’ve always been fascinated by adventure stories that deal with clues, maps, and codes. I remember reading The Diamond Cave Mystery by Troy Nesbit when I was a little girl. It was one of the few books I ever saw my dad read, and he shared it with me. It was a boy’s book about finding a treasure in a cave using clues from the Bible. That got me hooked, not only on books like that but on adventure movies. So, naturally I am a fan of the Indiana Jones films, the Mummy series, the Librarian TV movies, National Treasure, and Sahara. I just hope I do proper homage to them in The Lost Song.
She has been a radio announcer, a booking agent for a groove/funk band, and a yoga/relaxation instructor. She has been happily married to a singer/songwriter for almost four decades. They have a daughter who is a fiber artist and is married to an animator, and a son who is the executive chef of The Toasted Frog, a high-end martini bistro, and who plays drums and blues harmonica with local bands.
The Bowdancer is her first published work of fiction.
The Bowdancer Saga
Janie Franz, author of “The Bowdancer” (2009) published by Breathless Press:
Jan-nell, a young healer and keeper of village lore, despairs of ever finding the child who will be the next bowdancer or a man worthy enough to love.
If the interview whetted your appetite for more, check out Janie's other tour stops. And be sure to join me back here on March 4 for my book review of The Bowdancer.
Janie Franz is currently on a two-week virtual book tour with Novel Works. February 22 – March 6, 2010.
Janie Franz’s Tour Stops
2/22/10 Interview with author Janie Franz on Novel Works - http://novelworks2.blogspot.com
2/23/10 The Changing Market of E-books on Book Madness - http://bookmadness.wordpress.com
2/24/10 My Writing Journey on Novel Works - http://novelworks2.blogspot.com
2/25/10 Interview with author Janie Franz on A. F. Stewart's Blog- http://afstewartblog.blogspot.com
2/26/10 "The Bowdancer" Midwest Book Review on Novel Works- http://novelworks2.blogspot.com
2/27 Falling In Love With Your Characters on Janie Franz’s blog- http://thebowdancersaga.wordpress.com/
3/1/10 Interview with Jan-nel from the Bowdancer Saga series on Novel Works- http://novelworks2.blogspot.com
3/2/10 Janie Franz's Live interview with Kim Smith on Introducing Writers - Blogtalk Radio- http://www.blogtalkradio.com/kims
3/3/10 The Virtual Tour Experience on Janie Franz’s blog- http://thebowdancersaga.wordpress.com/
3/4/10 A. F. Stewart book review of "The Bowdancer" http://afstewartblog.blogspot.com
3/5/10 Interview with author Janie Franz: Penny Ehrenkranz's One Writer's Journey- http://pennylockwoodehrenkranz.blogspot.com
3/6/10 Jan-nell the Bowdancer’s Conflicts Color Her Goals and Motivations on Susan Whitfield’s Blog- http://susanwhitfield.blogspot.com