Guest Post by Michelle Boule
When you start delving into almost any mythology, you will find that a large portion of the gods and creatures populating myths are not the most virtuous and noble of characters.
As a writer, I have three choices when facing a myth with an unscrupulous past. I can ignore the darker side of the myth and only focus on their lighter side. That seems disingenuous to me. I can use the myth as the base for a villain, but that seems like too easy an answer. The third choice, and the one I prefer, is to use the good and bad aspects of a mythological character and seek to redeem them.
The real challenge in redeeming a myth with a checkered past is that some of their mistakes are big,ugly ones: treachery, adultery, murder, greed, lust, and general destruction and mayhem. Even myths that we think of as generally good, like Zeus and Aphrodite, have their black moments. To redeem a myth, you need to find their redeeming quality or an act of kindness in their tales, then exploit it.
The main characters in my Turning Creek series are harpies. In Greek myth, harpies are greedy, cruel, and violent thieves. I read all the accounts of the harpies I could find and discovered three things. First, in the later myths, they are always together which shows they had some kind of loyalty to each other. Second, they were very territorial with the land they had been given. Lastly, they had a sister, the messenger goddess Iris, who spoke on their behalf to Zeus when he threatened to punish them for tormenting blind Phineas. This shows that the harpies also had the ability to inspire loyalty in others.
With these gems in hand, I created characters who want to do good, but often, like most of us, find themselves making wrong choices based on their nature. The harpies of Turning Creek are violent and each one of them seeks to confront or ignore their tendencies in different ways. They are territorial – once they claim an area, they defend it and the people who live there with all they have. They are also fiercely loyal to anyone they consider theirs, including each other.
Setting and era are not essential to redemption though some myths do seem more suited to different time periods than others. I wanted my harpies to have some space to stretch their wings and still have people to interact with. Western romance was one of the first romance genres I read as a young woman. I chose the Rocky Mountains of Colorado for my series because I spent many summers camping through the small towns and forests there. I chose the 1850s because it was a great time in Colorado’s history – when the mineral strikes happen and right before Colorado becomes a territory.
Redemption is a journey. Each character travels a different path as they seek to accept their nature while also striving to rise above the hand they have been dealt. The road to redemption is one strewn with rocks and potholes of all sizes, but the prize at the end is worth it. If I can throw love in the path of my characters, all the better. As a writer, it is my job to present my characters with scenarios that both challenge their nature and entertain the reader. It is a fabulous job.
What is your favorite myth that you would like to see redeemed or retold?
Michelle Boule has been, at various times, a librarian, a bookstore clerk, an administrative assistant, a wife, a mother, a writer, and a dreamer trying to change the world. She brews her own beer, will read almost anything in book form, loves to cook, bake, go camping, and believes Joss Whedon is a genius. She dislikes steamed zucchini, snow skiing, and running. Unless there are zombies. She would run if there were zombies.
Descended from the mythical harpies, Petra Celaeno is content living a solitary life in the Colorado Territory until she meets dairy farmer, James Lloyd. As her relationship with James grows, Petra fights against her harpy instincts and questions the traditions of her ancestors.
James Lloyd came to Colorado looking for a fresh start, but he can not shake his obsession with a favorite myth from childhood. Something sinister is lurking beneath the earth of the Rockies and it is calling to James.
Life in the small town of Turning Creek is about to change. A terrible prophecy will be fulfilled and Petra will have to choose between protecting her home and saving the man she has come to love.
Blog: A Wandering Eyre