The Blog Studio Band is playing a haunting version of the Star Wars theme as the curtains part and Carol Ann walks out. She's holding a handkerchief and wiping her eyes. The audience quiets as she loudly blows her nose. "Hey, how are you all doing? I'm having a bad morning. First, these allergies of mine have flared up and I'm feeling kind of low because I received a rejection from Steeple Hill on Josua's Hope."
The audience "oooohs" in sympathy. "Thanks. But," she throws her hands up in the air, "I'm not going to stress over it. It's just one rejection, and I'm sure I'll find the right publisher."
The audience claps. "Thank you!" Carol Ann smiles. "I have a very interesting author who will take center stage with me in just a few minutes. She's a fantasy writer, and I've had so much fun talking to her backstage and getting acquainted." Carol Ann holds up a book. Here is her book, and it sounds so intriguing."
The camera pans in.
"Please give a rousing Blog Studio welcome to my guest, author Karen Anne Webb!"
Karen comes onstage amidst audience applause and whistles. She sits in the chair opposite Carol Ann.
CAROL ANN: Karen, thank you for dropping by today. The audience is anxious to know more about THE CHALLICE OF LIFE. Tell us a little about the book, the characters, and the plotline."
KAREN: Boy, that’s a book in itself! My book is called The Chalice of Life, and it’s the first in an eight-book series entitled Adventurers of the Carotian Union. It was my attempt to write an engaging, lengthy quest fantasy. My aim was to make it distinctive in several ways. The people singled out to go on this massive quest are from a bunch of different walks of life, and I tried very hard to develop both their personal backstories and the cultural underpinnings of the worlds they come from. This meant delving deeply into the characters’ personal spirituality and into the theology and cosmology of the different cultures. I went for gender balance—half of the questing party are strong females. And I deliberately went for an upbeat tone and humor as well as (dare I say it?) pathos. You can’t avoid some darkness and conflict with fantasy or you don’t have a story, but I wanted people to get to the end of the book and feel hopeful about the future instead of suicidal! Also, I wanted to show people from all these different cultures working together to surmount their differences and achieve their common goal. It has Arthurian overtones in that the figure the quest is meant to rescue is a king-that-was-and-will-be. It’s not allegorical, but I’m hoping people may draw from it some lessons about today’s world and how we need to understand one another and cooperate. I think what I’m doing here is trying to create a new genre—Fantasy for the New Millennium.
CAROL ANN: Is this your first book? Are you working on anything new right now?
KAREN: I started writing about the Carotian Union way back in graduate school in the 80's as a result of four very vivid dreams I had about the worlds and the people who populate them. That’s my “interesting background story”—I’m not a teen like Christopher Paolini and not a mother of two on the dole like JK Rowling, I just have very vivid dreams. When I had four almost in a row about this place, I figured the Universe was trying to tell me something. So I finished the original novel and then found the characters just wouldn’t let me alone! I grabbed a minor character from the original novel and developed a bunch of time-travel oriented short stories with her, then ended those by having her recalled to the Union to be the central figure in this lengthy quest, which is the Adventurers series. They still wouldn’t leave me alone, so I was writing the sequel even as I was getting Chalice and the other novels typed, edited, and prepped for submission. I do have a true young adult fantasy series that grew out of a bunch of bedtime stories my son and I developed together when he was younger. My publisher has just asked for the next book in the Adventurers series (hooray!), so that and doing the publicity for Chalice (I publish with a small Canadian house called Dragon Moon Press, and you do a decent amount of marketing leg work with a small press) have taken precedence. But some day, I hope The Zayn Chronicles will see the light of day.
CAROL ANN: Staying positive will see you through to that goal. Tell me, what do you find is the hardest thing about being an author?
KAREN: Making a living! Seriously, when I’m not being a fantasy author, I’m a book editor for a small house and a freelance journalist, so I kind of have to hustle to generate income. On the other hand, it’s such a wonderfully flexible schedule that I’m able to stay home with my son, whom we adopted as an infant. I was our breadwinner for quite a while, but now that job has (fortunately!) shifted to my husband!
CAROL ANN: If we were to tour your house, where would we find your "office." What does it look like?
KAREN: Er– don’t want to get in trouble with the IRS here! We have one bedroom dedicated as an office (and it really looks like one, since three of us share it). We were able to jury rig a very nice room-length desk with a kitchen countertop and three kitchen cabinets from a home improvement place (plus keyboard trays). But I also have a kitchen nook with a second phone, and I do a lot of long-hand writing and hard-copy editing just sitting on my couch.
CAROL ANN: While we're talking about your house, do you collect anything?
KAREN: It’s informal, but I have an interesting collection of dance books and programs (largely ballet but a little of everything—my entree into the world of journalism was being a dance critic, which I do very, very well, since I have a strong dance background). My other big outside interest is comparative religion and mythology, and I have a big bookshelf that’s just overflowing with multiple translations of the Bible and Qur’an, texts on Native American legends and practices, theTao Te Jing, texts from the Buddhist, Hindu and Baha’i faiths and a whole bunch of stuff on mythology (you can definitely see the influence when you read the book!) I despised history in school, but when I got older, studying religious history became extremely interesting to me, probably as an outgrowth of my interest in the oneness of humanity and wanting to understand people—we have so much to learn from one another and our different cultures!
CAROL ANN: If you were speaking to the world on live television...wait, you are speaking on live television. Tell us one thing about you that isn't related to your writing.
KAREN: I believe that we must surmount our differences globally to find peaceful solutions to our problems, and I believe that a world commonwealth is not only in humanity’s best interests but is inevitable. And I feel the basis of that global commonwealth will not begin with the efforts of man but will be based on spiritual principles, or those of renewed religion (see where studying comparative religion and Arnold Toynbee got me?)
CAROL ANN: Heavy, stuff! I came on here today being a little depressed, but the audience helped me to put a smile on my face. Who is the one person you can always depend on to make you smile?
KAREN: My husband Paul, although if I got to name more I would include our dear son and our kitties (and, let’s face it, Terry Pratchett, whom I idolize).
CAROL ANN: I'm a cat person, too. What are your kitties' names?
KAREN: We have two cats called Bastet (after the Egyptian cat-headed goddess because she looks like a temple statue) and Princess (you can make the inference about her behavior). We lost one to old age this past summer—his name was Pepper, and he would have been 19 in August. I tell people I feel a little like George Bailey in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life when it comes to my kitties—he had great plans but kept getting pulled in by the daily realities. In my case, I’ve always wanted a purebred animal (Persian, Birman, Himalayan — something pretty and fluffy) but keep getting pulled in by the reality that there are so many homeless animals out there. We found Bastet and her nursing kitten in our garage, and I wasn’t about to turn out a nursing mother! And all the others (Princess is #5) have been shelter animals.
CAROL ANN: We'll have to talk about rescues back stage. I'm currently caring for fourteen outdoor cats that are considered "feral," although over the past two years some of them have tamed. I guess I'm a romantic at heart. What does the word romance mean to you?
KAREN: Hmm... Stuck between saying roses and chocolates and being realistic! I think true love (which, I guess, is or should be at the heart of romance) ends up being the result of a deep spiritual connection with another person that finally finds expression in the physical realm. But the roses and chocolates are nice—in a long-term relationship, no one should be taking anyone for granted.
**The band strikes up the Star Wars theme again.**
CAROL ANN: Oh, no! I can't believe our time is up already! **Carol Ann waves her hand at the band leader.** Stop, for just a minute. We have time for one more question. Do you believe the pen is mightier than the sword? Why?
KAREN: Absolutely! The pen is capable of spiritualizing the entire planet, of bringing hope to people and enriching their lifes with humor and visions of a better world. That’s why I’m fond of the fantasy and science fiction genres (and why I’m not fond of the darker or post-apocalptic veins of either). Where else can you let your imagination roam free and actually build the world of tomorrow? Where else can you create a vision of a world where diversity is embraced and there is social justice for everyone? All the sword (or the light saber?) can do is keep people in line for a little while!
CAROL ANN: Thank you! I've enjoyed having you as my guest today.
KAREN: Thank you for having me!
Both ladies stand and bow, then walk off stage while the band plays the Blog Studio theme song.
The camera pans in on the credits:
Author's website: www.chaliceoflife.com
Author's blog on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Chalice-Life-Karen-Anne-Webb/dp/1896944337/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-3438352-0433254?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1173153197&sr=8-1
Virtual Tales Editor's Page: http://www.virtualtales.com/editors.html