Today our guest is Arie Farnam, author of yesterday’s book The Soul and The Seed. Here is a link to my review. http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-5Hy
Let’s find out more about Arie and her book.
1) Where is your home town?
As a matter of fact, my home town is pretty much the initial setting of the story. I grew up about twenty miles north of La Grande in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon on a hill called Pumpkin Ridge. La Grande was our hub. I put my initially unaware main character there. It could have been any small rural town but I happen to know La Grande. I love stories where you can go to real places and walk around and imagine the story is real, so I decided to do that for my readers. (Hint: Red Bridge Park and the 205 Bridge between Portland and Vancouver are also real places in The Soul and the Seed.)
2) How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I fell out of my cradle, more or less. I loved to make up stories as a kid and I started writing for newspapers as a teenager. When I graduated from college I took off for Eastern Europe, where the big international journalists were hanging out at the time, and started freelancing. Within two years I became a correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and Business Week in Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia, the Ukraine and other areas of Eastern Europe. For many years, I didn’t have much time to write fiction but I would argue that gritty reality is the best education a fiction writer can get. Journalism also ruthlessly teaches the technical craft of writing and the realistic dialogue in my stories comes partly form the countless hours I spent transcribing interview tapes back before speech recognition software was a thing.
3) I described your book as a fantasy thriller, some of it is quite horrific, would you be aiming it at Young adult or New adult and upwards?
I don’t generally recommend this book for readers younger than sixteen and I think the core age of readers is between eighteen and thirty. Both men and women tell me they accidentally stay up all night reading it but the main character is a young woman and the story is told from an emotional perspective, so I think women will be particularly engaged.
It’s interesting that you call The Soul and the Seed a fantasy thriller. I hesitated to describe it as a “thriller” because it isn’t a book of unrelenting violence, which is my experience of modern thrillers. But if it’s a thriller in another sense, then I’ll embrace the term. Readers have said The Soul and the Seed maintains “terrifyingly taut tension” throughout, but the actual violence is only in a few incidents. I abhor violence. I have seen real violence as a conflict correspondent and I won’t engage in gratuitous or cartoon violence for the sake of fiction. There is a place for that but it isn’t something I can do. If there is going to be violence in a story of mine, it will not be glorified. The emotional intensity and realism of this book is one reason I recommend it mainly for adult readers and even some adults may find it difficult to bear at times. The others in the series will be similarly intense. I like to read emotionally real and intense books myself.
4) Tell us about the Addin.
The Addin is part of the premise of The Soul and the Seed. The book is set in modern America, or so it seems. The girl Aranka attends a school much like those that kids today attend and she has concerns like today’s kids, particularly about the cliques at school. The problems of the modern world are all there too – wars, greed, corruption, disease and so on. But where we often shrug and shake our heads at these terrible realities and wonder how such things can happen in the twenty-first century, the book gives an explanation.
There is a force or perhaps a kind of cult – no one is entirely sure which – that usurps the wills and emotions of individuals. It’s as if the human desire for power evolved into a conscious entity and it uses people to satisfy its thirst power. A certain portion of the population is under the influence of the “Addin Association,” meaning that they desire what the Addin desires and will act accordingly, as if of their own will, to secure more power for the Addin. Anyone under the spell of the Addin is capable of “taking” others and usurping their will. It might take only a word and a moment of eye-contact. Those who know of the danger live in terror of it, but most people don’t know and they live with the rules that the Addin sets without realizing that everything from politics to the latest clothing fashions are dictated by Addin tastes.
5) Who are the Meikans and where can they be found?
The Meikans are not really a race or a nationality anymore than the Addin is. The Addin can take anyone of any background. The Meikans are a diverse group of people who have resisted Addin control for generations and passed down the secret knowledge of what true inner freedom means for more than a thousand years. Essentially Meikans are simply the descendants of those who allied with the non-human Kyrennei against the Addin in ancient times. Meikans are found pretty much all over the world, although they are more numerous in some areas than in others due to historical circumstances. The Meikans in the story come from Russia and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Japan, Vietnam, Kenya and Ireland as well as Canada and the United States. One interesting part of the premise is that the Meikans have a mysterious “sign” that helps them identify who has been taken by the Addin and who is free.
6) How old a race are the Kyrennei?
The Kyrennei are the non-human “fantasy” characters in the story. I have had some reviewers accuse me of not writing fantasy at all but rather pure science fiction, because I have a pseudo-scientific explanation for the Kyrennei. My background is in linguistics and anthropology to some extent. I love the complex interplay of languages and cultures. I have also studied the theory of evolution and I am puzzled as to why only humans beings, among all the animals in the world, evolved in this particular way with a high level of language and manipulation of the environment. I have to wonder why no other animals developed in this way and why human races appear to have significant physical differences but insignificant to non-existent mental and psychological differences. There is also the interesting fact that many cultures around the world have legends about people who are slightly smaller than humans and often those legends include a detail about either slanted eyes or pointed ears or both. I put all of these real-world details in my cauldron, mixed them up and let them bubble with a dash of my childhood love of J.R.R. Tolkien and a pinch of Romani (Gypsy) lore and out came the Kyrennei.
They are essentially an non-human race, our closest biological cousins. They are at least as old as humanity, probably somewhat older. They didn’t arrive on a space ship, as some legends would have it. Instead they simply evolved along side humans. But they are not only physically different from human races. They are also mentally different. While the Addin can usurp the will and desires of humans fairly easily, the Kyrennei are essentially immune to Addin control. There are ancient myths about Kyrennei who “went over” to the Addin for one reason or another, but they were not forcibly taken by the Addin. the conflict between the Addin and the Kyrennei developed naturally. The Addin could easily control humans and the desire for power is the quintessential feature of the Addin. Anyone the Addin couldn’t control would be considered a threat. Throughout early history there was a struggle within the Kyrennei between those who believed they should remain aloof from human problems and interventionist Kyrennei who believed that the Addin wouldn’t be satisfied with controlling humans. Eventually, the interventionists won and the Kyrennei started collecting human allies and refugees who wanted to resist the Addin. These later were unified into the international Meikan sub-culture.
A relationship developed between the Kyrennei and their human allies which is summed up by the saying “my shield for your shield, your shield for mine.” Kyrennei evolved to be smaller than humans with a light, somewhat brittle bone structure, and while they have great endurance, they were not well suited to medieval warfare. Their human allies were essential to them once the Addin decided that the Kyrennei were a threat to their supremacy of power. On the other hand, the human allies were vulnerable to Addin mental control and the Kyrennei could offer some protection against that control. What kinds of protection Kyrennei could provide to others is unclear in historical documentation but one thing becomes obvious early on in the story. At least some of the Kyrennei could at least tell who was controlled by the Addin and who wasn’t, thus shielding their allies from Addin infiltrators, which were otherwise a serious problem.
7) Can you describe where and when your book is mainly set?
The book is set in the present in the American Northwest. Other books in the series branch out into Canada and Europe. There are some brief medieval era flashbacks and I hope to eventually write books within the world of the Kyrennei series that are set in medieval or ancient times but the current books are very solidly rooted in our time.
8) What was the one idea that sparked off this book?
I have had the premise for this story and the major characters for so long that I honestly don’t know what part came first. When I was a kid, my friends and I loved to act out fantasy stories. We were Tolkien fanatics and we belonged to the Society for Creative Anachronisms. Some of the initial ideas for The Soul and the Seed must have come out of all that, but it isn’t really traditional fantasy. I think a lot of the ideas came from real life. I was frustrated by the senseless cruelty of the high school popularity game and later by the inhumanity of modern political parties and militarism. I spent a lot of time lying under trees in the woods and turning over “what if” questions.
But all of that would have been for nothing without the characters. I barely feel like I can take credit for them, though my subconscious must have been hard at work. Several of them, particularly Kenyen, Rick and Thanh, came to me very close to fully formed when I was a teenager. Their backgrounds and names have not really changed in twenty years of musing, which is a bit odd because I was a kid living in an isolated rural area without much knowledge of the wide world at the time. I had never met an Israeli, an Arab or a Vietnamese person in those days. All I can say is that they are like real people. I can’t make them do or say things that they really wouldn’t do. When I found out more about their backgrounds and countries of origin, I discovered that they were more real than I had initially realized. I decided not to change their names to something realistic for their backgrounds because they had good reasons for having the names they did and they each had a clear voice that I didn’t want to silence.
9) Are you working on the second book now? When will it be available?
I am adding a chapter to the second book and polishing the rest of it. I hope to publish it on Kindle by early October.
10) Where can readers find out more about you and your writing?