Hello! My good friend Lorna George has a wonderful book out on the 9th of this month. It’s a fun, feminist fantasy romance called The Redwood Rebel, and I can recommend it to you with confidence, as I read it!
Here’s my interview with Lorna herself. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did chatting with her, and I hope you give The Redwood Rebel a look too.
What were you reading at the time you started thinking about Naomi? What need did you see that you wanted to fill?
She sort of popped into being while I was daydreaming after reading “Not My Best Side” which is a poem by U.A. Fanthorpe. It’s a re-telling of St George and The Dragon, but with a slightly skewed perspective. Reading it made me laugh, because it was one of my favourite stories growing up, and reading it from such a warped angle was really wonderful. Before I knew what had happened, Naomi was wandering about my mind and looking for something to do.
Once the idea to take a classic story and play about with expected roles had struck me, I knew she had to be both the knight and the virgin sacrifice. From there she grew into less of the expected white knight in shining armour, and more into the morally grey character she is now. I wanted to write a woman who didn’t fit neatly into any little box, because so few of us actually do. Personally I love when I read about flawed characters, because it makes them feel more realistic, and women in particular seem to almost always be categorised as perfect or evil. It was fun to challenge that.
So did that thinking, your desire to challenge tropes, lead to your choice of such a classic romance-novel device? By which I mean, the forced contact sorry of thing you set up between Naomi and Arun.
Very much so. I love a good romance, the trashier the better, but the older and more experienced I’ve become, the more I noticed how men tend to grab at women and it’s idealised as something romantic. I happen to think it’s a pretty toxic thought-process to encourage, especially in young women, who most romance is geared towards. The idea that a man should grab or touch a woman to get her attention is pretty creepy when you really stop and think about it. I just felt it was high time someone who doesn’t look down on the genre pointed it out at being problematic, I suppose.
You seem to have set up Arun’s dragon as a symbol of his very traditional masculinity. Is that a good reading? Is there something else you’d like readers to know about that choice?
Originally, Naomi was going to be the dragon. I really like the idea of dragons being symbolic of femininity, and for a long time she was going to be the one who had the ability to shift forms. In the end though I realised Arun was basically useless without that power, and the story worked much better with her as the knight and him as the dragon, playing traditionally opposing roles.
Of course it would have been a lot of fun to have Naomi as the dragon and Arun as the “princess” but I may yet tinker with the idea again in the future.
What kind of research went into The Redwood Rebel?
Mostly weapons, combat styles, and injuries. I spent hours on youtube watching tutorials on swordplay and hand to hand combat, and even braved the great outdoors to take archery lessons so that I could write with confidence. I had to read a lot about festering wounds, too. Oh, the things I’ve seen…
Cultural cues were important, as well. Obviously it’s a fantasy book, so to a degree I get to make things up for world-building purposes, but since I took a lot of inspiration from real cultures, people, and history, I did my fair share of swatting. I’d like to think I did a good job with that, as media representation is important, but I’m always learning. Most importantly, I’m always willing to learn, too.
What’s the one thing you’d like readers to take away from your book?
If I can make someone re-think their perspective, even just a tiny bit, then I’ll be happy. I always think the most important and memorable books I’ve read have been those that altered my perception in some way or another. I don’t want to force my opinions on anyone, of course, and in many ways that’s why I gave Arun and Naomi such differing world views; they can argue out the two sides and in a lot of areas there won’t ever be any clear right or wrong answer. There never is in real life, after all. The best we can do is look at a thing from all angles, and keep an open mind. I’d like for readers to take that from the book.
Can you recommend five books you read while you were writing The Redwood Rebel?
Equal Rites, by Terry Pratchett
Sins of the Past, by JD Franx
The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood
Hard Luck, by M.A. Ray
Taming Shadows, by Fiona Skye
Thanks so much for letting me pepper you. I can’t wait for The Royal Sentinel.
Thank you for peppering me. It was fun!
Get the book here:
Or visit her lovely blog by clicking on her lovely face!
Until next time!