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. In Part 2, she answered questions on magic, mythology and society in her stories. The third and final part of the interview can be found below, where we turn our attention to language, characters and favourite things…
Part 3: Languages and Characters
The terminology you’ve created in the book is interesting. Farfoot, Wolfman, Zeflas… How did you devise the words? And what is the difference between Wise-One and a Breathman?
Some terms are logical – at least, I think so. To farfoot is to walk a great distance, to explore the far-lands, to form alliances with distant tribes and open trade routes. And because of his greater experience and knowledge, and his contacts who can be called upon in times of need, a farfoot will make a good chief. In Gushan, the term farfoot has replaced the term chief.
But why is a farfoot also called a wolfman? That’s logical too – at least to me. Beyond and between the encampments, a lone farfooter would make excellent prey for the grey-furred hunters. Yet in the ritual killing of a wolf and the donning of its skin, the wolfman acquires the wolf-spirit’s protection. In like manner, a chief will wear the skin of a big cat, whose spirit then protects the clan against other cats.
The case for the zeflas is different. Zeflas are small disease, polluting, or stinging demons. I changed demon to zefla at the suggestion of one of my early readers for, as she said, in today’s fantasies, demons are something else entirely. But why zefla? It’s a corruption of seraphim. It seemed to fit.
And you’re not the first to ask what’s the difference between Wise-One and a Breathman.
Bargli is a breathman while Serande is a wise-man. Both know how to oblige the divines and to protect against the lesser zeflas. We see the difference when there’s a problem with no stock solution. Then they must consult the divines.
Kitted out in various skins to ensure their spirit’s protection, Bargli spins to entrance – downward, to the Horned One’s Dark Domain, to the begetter of the Six Clans of Gushan.
Meanwhile, Serande squeezes himself into a womblike cave where he downs a disgusting concoction of hallucinogens and drums himself into the all-encompassing Oracular Web. All truths, he says, are found in that Web.
So, I guess we might say, the breathman consults the Father, the wise-man the Mother.
So we’ve spoken of how you invented words, how did you create the names for your characters?
I’ve already said about Kerrid, that her name, inspired by the Welsh goddess Cerridwen, pre-existed The Spinner’s Game.
The others? For many I took inspiration from Sumerian names. Just to end a name in -il, or -li gives it an alien and ancient feel. And likewise, having found Kerrid’s name, I repeated that -id ending: Suenid, the Uissids (pronounced Wizids). But I controlled my passion for ending names in -en, -in, and -an, which I think is possibly a Germanic thing. There are some; Gimmerin for example. Another trick I used was to change a letter or two in an English name. Elizabeth became Erazibat.
But no matter the names used in the beginning, many evolved into something else during the writing process. A matter of rhythm, the flow of the sentence, and has it the right sound for the character? During those early days my brain made adjustments without consultation.
Who was the hardest character to write, and why?
My answer to that is a character from the second book, Lake of Dreams. Urinod.
He’s not the worst of the Uissids, but still he’s not a nice character. One of my beta-readers was offended by him and called him a toxic male. Certainly, he’s a misogynist who can’t abide Kerrid, in his opinion the root of all evil. He’s very much a physical person too; prefers to use his fists not his head – unless it’s to head-butt. And he’s possessive of his position within the Uissid’s hierarchy. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as head-on as that. It would have been easy to paint him all the way bad, but everyone has a backstory that explains how they are. I’d say his comes in one word: Olun, his older brother.
Now a question of favourites: who was your favourite character to write, where was your favourite location and what is your favourite quote from the first book in the series, The Spinner’s Child?
My favourite character to write, both in The Spinner’s Child and The Spinner’s Game is the one character everyone hates. The loathsome, psychopathic Paddlo. I had great fun with him, though several times I had to pull back. Gimmerin holds a close second place. For me, he’s an amalgam of every woman’s despised husband. He does try… truly. But he’s such an egotist.
My favourite location? In The Spinner’s Child, I’d say that’s the Spinner’s Otherworld Web, based on a vision experienced many years ago during meditation.
And my favourite quote? I have several, depending upon my mood. I’ve taken this from Kerrid’s first meeting with Gimmerin.
‘My brothers would fume if they knew I helped you,’ he said.
‘You’d best return to them then. I’m surprised any of Chief Uissinir’s sons care to help. I’m surprised they dare interfere.’
Her shimmer twitched. His flames remained steady. She pursed her lips. And again, her hands wouldn’t be still but rubbed her thighs.
‘Itch, do they?’
She picked at a bead instead.
One final question to bring this three-part interview to a close. If readers take away one thing from The Spinner’s Child, what do you hope that is?
First – and for this, it’s easiest to quote the poet Omar Khayyam: The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on. Nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.
In other words, what’s done is done and can’t now be undone; a sentiment expressed several times in the course of the five books. However, while it can’t be undone, one can make amends and put things right. It’s this which drives Kerrid to complete her journey.
Second: What at first might seem a disability, with acceptance can become a gift. I’ve seen this in my own life, where a speech defect in childhood served as the impetus to develop my writing skills so I could communicate. Yet look where it’s taken me.
If you would like to read my thoughts on the first book in the series, The Spinner’s Child, you can find the review here.
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.
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.
I can be found on crispinakemp.com and my author’s page on Amazon
Next week: An interview with writer and book cover designer Lauren Willmore