You may have seen the interview with Crispina Kemp I shared a few weeks ago from my book review blog, Sammi Loves Books. Now I get to share with you an epic three-part interview with Crispina, as we talk about her soon-to-be released five book historical fantasy series, The Spinner’s Game.
In Part 1, Crispina answered questions on writing the series, the main character, Kerrid, and where the story is set. The second part of the interview can be found below, where Crispina answers some questions on magic, mythology and society in her stories. Tune in next week for Part 3, when we turn our attention to language, characters and favourite things…
Part 2: Magic, Myth and Society
The story has a rich mythological framework woven through it. How does Kerrid and her people view and interact with the divine? How easy was it to create the mythology and fables?
Before there was a belief in the gods, there was a belief in an all-pervading ‘Spirit’, a belief still prevalent throughout our world, and not only in non-technological societies. In fact, it is regaining ground in the West.
But for Kerrid’s people that belief included the notion of agency, known today as animism, in which Spirit, now coalesced into discrete entities, is able to act of its own volition. With the relevant gifts, these discrete entities – divines – might be made to act on the donor’s behalf. But who knows which gifts might oblige them? While knowledge of the more common gifts – e.g. a slop of brew for the Lady of the Hills will keep her sweet and not convulsing – anything out of the ordinary requires a specialist.
And then there are the demons. The role of a demon is to destroy. As Kerrid says, it’s what they do. They cause disease and rot.
I enjoyed creating the myths and fables. Straight from my head? I think not. I have read so much mythology over the years, it’s more likely they’re an amalgamation of many myths, distilled to their essence and simplified.
The first public outing of The Spinner’s Game was in instalment form on my blog where I called it Feast Fables. I imagined the fables not as tales but as ‘things said’ at the time of the feast. At Christmas we talk of Santa, his flying reindeer, his helpful elves. At Easter, we say of the Easter Bunny hiding its eggs. At Halloween, we speak of witches and goblins and the awakening dead. While these have roots in ancient rituals and beliefs, they are not myths. They’re feast fables. And so too with Kerrid’s people. Everyone knew the Lady’s sons had cut up their mother to make the world, but few knew the underlying myth.
Magical rituals make a number of appearances throughout the book. Could you explain a little about how magic operates in this world?
First, with animism, magic is everywhere, and everyone a practitioner… all without them knowing it. For anyone who makes a gift and gets a result is working magic. To Kerrid’s people, this would be as commonplace as for us to switch on a light. But that’s for everyday-everywhere magic. As I’ve already said, sometimes a specialist is needed. A specialist serves as a repository of the tribe’s magic lore – imagine a living encyclopaedia. But more important, the specialist knows how to communicate with the divines (Spirit); thus the specialist can ask what the divine might like.
The other magic in this world belongs to Kerrid and her Asars. It doesn’t belong in this world, it’s intrusive. Moreover, unlike the popular magic where knowledge and use is handed down from practitioner to practitioner, this is an intrinsic force that can’t be acquired. In other words, the Asars are magical beings (but don’t let them hear you say that).
The Spinner’s Child is set in a patriarchal society, where the roles of women are limited. How do you think readers should approach this aspect of the story?
I’d say we should not project today’s conditions upon the past. They are not at all the same. We have medicines, social welfare, charities, schools, day care centres, food bought in shops, power delivered by pipes and cables. We have longevity and paid employment.
Imagine that your daily food depends upon a successful hunt, or a full fishing net, and what you can gather of fruits and nuts and roots in season (and eggs and insects and lizards). Imagine you’re the one who has to fetch it. And you have two children.
You can’t join the hunt with children in tow – though ‘tis true, you might leave them with the old folk. Except few people survive beyond their thirtieth birthday. Women die in childbirth. Men die in hunting accidents. So, who’s looking after your children while you join with the men in the hunt? Safer for the children if you restrict yourself to gathering. Besides, there’s always good gossip amongst the women. And you need their friendship so they’ll share their food with your children should you be ill.
The scenarios multiply. But always the concern for the children limits what a woman can do. Those children are the future of the family, the clan and the tribe. Yet without access to a healthy reproductive woman, there can be no children. Therefore, the women are valued even beyond the children. For a child might die (until recently, infant mortality was appallingly high) but a healthy woman can bear another.
Such was the origin of patriarchy, though intensified and corrupted into something oppressive with the rise of city-states and standing armies.
Part Three coming next week!
The Spinner’s Game
All five books of Crispina Kemp’s series, The Spinner’s Game, are available for pre-order now, with a release date of 21st March 2020. Follow the link below to her Amazon author page or website for more information.
As a bonus, she says:
“And I’m now able to offer a full-sized, full-colour map of Lake of Skulls – a high resolution (2048 x 1536 px) full-colour fantasy map on pdf – if the reader sends me proof of pre-order. They should contact me via my Contact Me page on crispinakemp.com”
Connect with Crispina Kemp
Failing to find a place on the space programme – to boldly go – I turned my vision inwards to a study of psychology and exploration of spirituality. This encouraged an outward journey to explore this wonderful world, its peoples, its beliefs, but mostly its pasts. From the exploration I returned with the core of my writing.
But, for the more mundane-minded: For a shy child with a speech problem, the written word came as a release, enabling me to express myself without being asked, ‘Eh? What did you say? Say again?’ I wrote my first ‘proper’ story when I was nine. A gothic offering to scare my friends. Since then, there’s been scarcely a day when I haven’t been busy writing. Novels. The short story form doesn’t appeal to me, although over recent months I have posted micro-fiction on my blog.
In my early teens, I visited Grimes Graves, the Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk. The following summer, I visited Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Thence began a lifelong interest in the archaeology of prehistory. The study of myths and legends seemed a natural progression, and from there to linguistics (despite my inability to pronounce the words).
Resident in Norfolk where my roots dig deep, my regular rambles into the surrounding countryside provide balance to the cerebral… and ample subjects for my camera.