I'm a novelist, poet, critic and sometimes writer for and about the theatre. Each of these things keeps interrupting the others. My poetry and criticism have won prizes. I'm the author of the popular and critically acclaimed fantasy quartet The Books of Pellinor, the Gothic fantasy Black Spring and The River and the Book, a forthcoming speculative fiction novel. In English, my novels are published with Walker Books (UK and Australia), Candlewick (US) and Penguin Books Australia. I have self-published two novels as Kindle ebooks: the literary memoir Navigatio and Jimmy Wonderspoon, a story that I wrote for my 10-year-old daughter. Presently I'm writing The Bone Queen, a prequel to the Books of Pellinor. You can find out more at alisoncroggon.com. And you can follow me on twitter at @alisoncroggon.

Why "Reimkennar"? It's an old word for sorceress that stems from old Germanic: literally "rhyme knower". Seems like a good title for a fantasy novelist slash poet slash whatever.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

And so it begins!

This week Black Spring is officially out in the UK, and to celebrate I'm doing a virtual tour, guesting at some hospitable British bloggers. (Dates and topics are in the banner on the right). The first post, a brief meditation on sexism and patriarchy in fantasy writing, is now up at Serendipity Reviews. In part:

The presence of women (or of people of colour, or any other so-called minority) in fantasy narratives remains controversial, and the fantasy genre is still too prone to white them out as decorative, characterless, generic extras, if indeed they are held to exist at all. The excuses given for what is actually lack of imagination (this is fantasy, right?) or plain bad writing often come down to so-called “historical accuracy”: writing about sexist worlds means that it’s perfectly acceptable for writing to be sexist. In Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical, author Foz Meadows magisterially takes this idea down and shows it for the shabby, historically inaccurate laziness it is. 

You can read the rest here (and read Foz Meadows's zing of a post while you're at it). And there's also a nice review from Vivienne, in which she says: "Anyone who can turn my most hated read into an excellent enjoyable book is definitely an author to be explored further." There seem to be two schools of thought on Black Spring, among those readers who like it: those who love Wuthering Heights and therefore enjoy my spin on Bronte, and those who hate Wuthering Heights, and therefore enjoy my spin on Bronte. I never realised that it was such a polarising book!

From the "I love Wuthering Heights" school come two new UK reviews, which particularly pleased me because they are by people who are clearly very intimate with Bronte's original. Erin Johnson is in the second year of her DPhil in English at the University of Oxford, studying representations of masculinity in the Bronte's writing, and so may be said to know her onions. On her blog Oxford Erin, she has a look at Black Spring, and gives it a terrific thumbs up along the way.

It's a bit difficult for me to write about - because I love the source text so much, because I also have literary critical opinions about the novel and how its works, and because Croggon's take probably fits into the Neo-Victorian genre (think A.S. Byatt's Possession), a genre which often creates complex intertextual links with Victorian novels and which I have researched and written on in the past year.

That said, there are two important things you can take away from this review.

1)  This is a fantastic book.
2)  In my opinion, it is also a respectful, critical, fascinating reworking of Wuthering Heights.  If you like Bronte's novel, I suspect you will enjoy Croggon's too.
Of course, like all authors, I am delighted when someone enjoys my books; but what delights me most of all is when a reader picks what you did, and why you did it. This is one of those reviews that does exactly that. As does Beth Kemp's, on her blog Thoughts from the Hearthfire. Beth writes: "Wuthering Heights with Wizards! No, I couldn't believe it when I read that either, but I loved it. Much of the darkness and strangeness, the ethereality of Wuthering Heights is captured through the fantasy elements in this retelling, while the romance is brought more clearly into focus... this version is uncannily similar and yet still its own. All the way through, there are episodes and details which mirror the original and were an absolute delight to me."

Thanks for the lovely responses; and maybe I'll just swing a bottle of champers against a bookshelf or something and officially declare the UK Black Spring launched!


Carly said...

Dear Alison
I just finished Black Spring and it was hauntingly beautiful. I've followed your work ever since discovering The Naming when I was 11. Now, at age 19, I'm re-reading your beautiful series.
I love Tolkien's work, so your style makes me feel at home. Yet, the language is completely unique to your voice and that's refreshing.
As an author, I'm sure you rarely talk about the ending to your books. I do admit, though, that I'm curious because there is no official record of Maerad and Cadvan's marriage. Could you tell me if you meant to leave their future ambiguous?
From a devoted and curious reader,

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Carly, and thanks for your lovely post. Re Maerad and Cadvan - I'd have to look it up (puts on fantasy historian glasses) - but I'm pretty certain they did marry, and whether they did or not, marriage not necessarily being standard among Bards, they certainly had a daughter together. However, like most Bards marriage meant that they pursued their own lives and interests as well, and so there are records of their living and working apart for long periods.

CArLy said...

Thank you so much for responding! This means so much to me. Your series, and especially re-reading it, gives me so much joy.
It's a testament to you that even many years later, the series is just as good or better. I'm not just living through my memory of loving it, but loving it as I read it again.

Lu Johnson said...

I'd like to say I loved the series! I found the first book at a library a few years ago and I had to get the other books as soon as I was finished! I'm currently saving to buy a new copy of the books, since I unfortunately had to leave mine when I moved out. Your writing inspired me to start a story of my own, that I've wanted to write ever since I came out a few years ago and almost every book I found with lesbian characters was a coming out story. I'm trzing to write a fiction story where the fact that there's gay and transgender characters all over the book is just a small thing and there's no huge dramatic coming out.