Monday, January 30, 2012

Guest - Resa Nelson

Good morning all! Today's guest is author Resa Nelson. Resa is a longtime member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and a graduate of the Clarion SF Workshop.  Her first novel, The Dragonslayer’s Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award, the highest honor in science fiction and fantasy. It was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award.  Book 2, The Iron Maiden, was recently published. Book 3 is scheduled for publication in Summer 2012.  


Resa's standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it "a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended."  In real life, Resa is a fan of chocolate, travel, summer, museums, ballet, movies, and Broadway musicals (her favorites are Les Miserables and Wicked).  She lives in Massachusetts.


Resa is offering giveaways which she tells us about in her post. Check them out.


Enjoy!


-- Lynda
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Characters, Transformation, and the Dark Side of Romance
By Resa Nelson

What I love most about writing is creating characters and taking them on a journey that changes them in some way.  I’m a big fan of transformation.  In fact, one of my favorite reality TV shows is The Biggest Loser because it’s all about transformation – not just physical transformation but emotional and psychological transformation that results in people shedding their facades and letting the world see who they really are instead of who they think they should be.  I love that.

A few years ago I saw a news report about a famous singer who was beaten and battered by her equally famous boyfriend.  My heart sank, because when all was said and done, she made excuses for him instead of kicking him out the door.  At the same time, I understand this behavior because I’ve paid a lot of attention to the reasons why battered women stay with their husbands or boyfriends, so I feel a lot of compassion for them.

However, I’m also very concerned because in recent years some popular books have featured characters that strike me as having the same kind of mindset as abused women – and some readers say these books are romantic.  I feel very strongly that love isn’t about feelings.  It isn’t about words.  Love is about action.  For example, if a man tells you he loves you more than anything else in the world but then smacks you across the face, he’s lying.  His words say he loves you, but his action proves that he doesn’t.  And if someone tells you you’re “less than” because you’re a woman, that isn’t love – and I don’t understand what’s romantic about it.

So I began thinking how I wish I could write novels to help women see their own value.  It dawned on me that the novels I’d written so far each have a strong woman as the main character.  Hey! I thought.  What if all of my novels have a strong woman as the main character?

Then I thought, What if I write about a woman trapped in a marriage with an abusive man, and I focus on how she transforms into someone who is no longer willing to stay with him?

This decision excited me.  I was in the middle stages of writing my 4-book Dragonslayer series (set in a world of ghosts, shapeshifters, and dragons) that’s modeled on the Middle Ages.  Women were treated pretty horribly in a lot of cultures during that time, so it felt like a logical fit.
 
But I had to figure out how I was going to take this character through her transformation.  I had to figure out who she was at the beginning of the relationship and who she would grow into.  I also wanted to portray abusive relationships as realistically as possible and show her struggle in going back and forth between wanting to leave and wanting to stay and remembering the happy times she’d had with her husband because it’s common for abused women to think the abuse will stop and the relationship will go back to being a happy one.

First, it helps that I have a degree in sociology, because that means I’m always paying attention to social trends and what causes them.  I’m especially interested in women’s issues, so I’ve been paying attention to abusive relationships for decades.  It seems to me that being in an abusive relationship is a bit like being brainwashed.  An abuser succeeds because he tells a woman she’s stupid or weak or worthless, and if he does this long enough she’s likely to start believing him.  Some women who end up in situations like that can be so starved for love that they reach a point of desperation.  Some don’t have the confidence to live on their own and support themselves and are afraid of becoming homeless.  Others have never had the opportunity to learn that love isn’t violent or hateful.  And then there’s the fact that abusive men are often charming and promise they’ll never do it again – and a lot of women don’t know that actions tell the truth, not words.

So in Book 2 (The Iron Maiden) in my Dragonslayer series, I had to figure out which category my character, Margreet, fits into.  I decided to make her a strong-willed woman.  She has opinions, and she doesn’t hesitate to express them.  She’s a firecracker.  And she’s not the kind of person I’d expect to end up in an abusive relationship, which made her come alive to me.  But I also had to figure out how someone like Margreet ended up in such an unlikely situation.  I asked myself questions like, what kind of loss has she experienced?  How did that loss change her?  Maybe she was at an especially low point in her life when she met her husband, and maybe they genuinely loved each other in the beginning.

What if something happened that acted as a catalyst for her husband to begin to abuse her?  What if he misinterpreted something Margreet did or said?  What if it began a cycle of misunderstanding?  What if he genuinely believed he loved her, all the while not knowing what love is?

And what if Margreet began to notice another man who has truly loved her since the day they met but kept his feelings to himself out of respect to her marriage? 

These are the questions that helped me figure out who Margreet is and how to take her on a journey that she would begin as a woman controlled by her husband to one who gains her freedom, sees herself in a new light, and is ready for true romance and love.

To those who are fans of dangerous romance in novels, I know that everyone is different and if that’s what floats your boat, more power to you.  You are the only person qualified to decide what works for you, and I support that wholeheartedly.  My concern is for those who think that dangerous romance is cool in real life, because it’s not.  It could cost you your safety or even your life, and I don’t wish that upon anyone.

If you’d like to sample my work for free, you can download a free “mini” ebook called “Dragonslayer Stories” from my website at http://www.resanelson.com/files.  No cost, no obligation, nothing to sign up for, no information gathering.  I like giving away samples of my work so you can decide for yourself whether you like it or not.  I’m also doing a book giveaway on GoodReads (Books 1 and 2 in my Dragonslayer series), and you can enter to win at http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/19270-the-dragonslayer-s-sword.

Resa Nelson’s links:
Resa’s website:  http://www.resanelson.com                                                                       
Free “mini” ebook of Dragonslayer short stories:  http://www.resanelson.com/files
Email:  ContactResa@aol.com
Ebooks ($4.99 each) are available directly from Mundania Press at:  http://mundania.com/author.php?author=Resa+Nelson (get a 10% discount at checkout with the coupon code MP10)
Paperbacks are available from Mundania Press, Amazon, and Barnes&Noble:
http://mundania.com/author.php?author=Resa+Nelson (get a 10% discount at checkout with the coupon code MP10)


The Dragonslayer’s Sword (Book 1)

For Astrid, a blacksmith who makes swords for dragonslayers, the emergence of a strange gemstone from her body sets in motion a chain of events that threaten to destroy her life. Her happiness is shattered when her lover--the dragonslayer--disappears without a trace, and the life that she knows and loves implodes without warning.

Astrid lives in a world of shapeshifters whose thoughts have the power to change not only themselves but others. Everything Astrid knows to be true is called into question when she learns the truth about her past and the mysterious family from which she was separated as a child.

Reality turns inside out as Astrid gradually learns the truth about the people she loves as well as those she disdains. With the fate of dragons, ghosts, and slaves in foreign lands resting on her shoulders, Astrid faces the challenge of deciding who she is and how she will stand up inside her own skin. Will she withdraw and hide from the world that has disappointed her so much...or will she rise to lead others to freedom and peace?


The Iron Maiden (Book 2)

Astrid is reluctant to travel the winter route beyond the Northlands, even though it’s her duty. She’d rather stay home in her village, surrounded by friends and neighbors. Ignoring the bonds of tradition, she decides to spend the cold winter months in the warmth of her blacksmithing shop. Why should she leave the comfort of her cottage to serve and protect foreigners who might raid and harm her native Northlands?

Everything changes when a traveling merchant steals Starlight, the first dragonslayer’s sword Astrid forged and her last link to her sweetheart DiStephan. Having no time to alert her friends, Astrid races in pursuit of the merchant, determined to reclaim Starlight as her own and return home in time for dinner. Instead, her quest leads her to new lands, unexpected friendships with foreigners, and a harrowing encounter with the damage done by the followers of a new god that considers women as nothing more than servants to men. All the while, she must be ready to face any dragon traveling the winter route.

In Book 2 of the Dragonslayer series, Astrid must learn that deciding who she is isn’t a decision she can make just once. It’s a decision she must make every day.

3 comments:

Pauline B Jones said...

a very thoughtful blog post about a serious subject. I have also noticed how often people take words for action, instead of the other way around. I grew up knowing that you are what you do, that words are cheap. Congrats for taking on such a tough topic and congrats on the books!

Resa Nelson said...

Thank you, Pauline! I really appreciate the good words and wishes!

Kyahgirl said...

That was a great post! I haven't read your books but I'm going to check them out, based on your philosophy. I can't enjoy a book that doesn't have well developed characters and I especially love it when a character grows and overcomes some challenge.

About the abusive marriages - another factor that comes in to play is not only if a partner convinces you you're worthless, but,as it was in my case, convinces you that you will destroy them or make their life unlivable if you don't take care of them or stick around. I took a fabulous journey of self discovery and growth that ultimately let me move on and get my life back but I understand how hard it can be. The human mind is capable of creating the strongest cage.
I love a book that demonstrates the equally amazing ability to get free of the cage!