Announcing New Fiction from Kathleen McGowan, Summer 2012!
I have been bursting to tell you all about my new hybrid fiction project, a series I am calling LEGENDS OF THE DIVINE FEMININE with the first book in the series being based on the Scottish fable/fairy tale THE BALLAD OF TAM LIN. I have so much to reveal about it that I think the easiest way is to answer some of the basic questions right here:
WHAT is “Legends of the Divine Feminine”?
For the last two decades that I have been investigating the stories of women in history who have been maligned, misunderstood and in some cases forgotten almost entirely, I have been blessed to explore many countries around the world. Along this amazing journey I have uncovered more stories of exceptional women – and the rich cultures from whence they came – than I will ever be able to tell in full length novel form. But there are elements of these stories which inspire me regularly and continue to be a huge part of my own spiritual and cultural awakenings, and as such I am eager to share them. I have kept an ever-growing list for years of the women – some real, some mythical and archetypal – who have inspired me. Some of these women can only be the singular, starring subjects of their own lengthy books and require years of research for just one complex character. Anne Boleyn, for example, features in both my forthcoming full length novel, The Boleyn Heresy (eta December 2012) as well as a non-fiction project called Avenging Anne Boleyn (eta 2013). Similar projects for superstars Marie Antoinette and Joan of Arc await my attention in the future as they will also require years of time and devotion to do justice to the re-telling of their epic, if mostly misunderstood, lives.
But in the shadow of these Diana Ross characters from history are the ever-constant Supremes, the other women and stories who deserve to be celebrated for their own importance in the grand concert of the human experience. (Recently while visiting the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer with my brilliant writer friend Eleanor O’Rourke, she commented that Mary Magdalene was really the Diana Ross of spirituality in France and that all of the other stories of amazing women were somewhat lost in her shadow. I loved the comparison and have borrowed it from her. Read more of The Divine Miss El’s insightful observations by checking out her blog, here at www.eleanororourke.com)
And so it was in searching for a project to tell more stories, more readily, combined with the quickness and versatility of the new e-book formats, that I developed this idea of a series to celebrate these lesser known but supremely (ahem) important women. I will draw from a long list of culturally diverse stories from the places I have personally explored. Now, here is why I think this is a truly innovative idea, and I hope you will agree. I will tell each story first as fiction, introducing you to some of the richest characters I have come across in history and legend, so as to explore their inner lives and ultimate motivations and awakenings. I will use a “novella” format, which is shorter than a full length novel, but quite a bit longer than a short story. Following each work of fiction will be a non-fiction exploration of the themes within the story, including the back-up research, photographs of the actual locations, historical details, and my personal journey of discovery to find these legends where they live. All of the books will conclude with an examination of how the story chosen represents the Divine Feminine for the culture in which it was born, as well as how the archetypes and lessons take us to new understandings of the Divine Feminine around us and within us into the 21st century. The combination of fiction, non-fiction and spiritual/inspirational exploration is what I think makes this project so unique and exciting. Certainly for me as a writer, to have the opportunity to introduce you to these magical and extraordinary characters (through fiction), while also having full freedom to show you how, why and where they have inspired me (through non-fiction) makes this a most joyous job indeed.
WHY is THE BALLAD OF TAM LIN the first story you have chosen for the series?
I first fell in love with the 16th century Scottish Ballad of Tam Lin when I came across it in a collection of fairy tales from a Time-Life book series called The Enchanted World. I was 20 years old when the series came out, and utterly captivated by the international tales of myth and magic. The legends from Scotland, specifically the supernaturally charged stories of Thomas the Rhymer and the elfin knight known by the strange name of Tam Lin, both captivated me as they each featured an omnipotent and potentially wicked fairy queen. A few years later, a friend introduced me to the ballad as it had been recorded by an English folk-rock band, Fairport Convention, and vocalized brilliantly by lead singer Sandy Denny. The Fairport Convention ballad (Google it – there are versions on YouTube) illustrates musically this story of two very powerful female protagonists locked in an epic and ancient power struggle. The clear cut heroine is young and courageous Janet, who must endure a profound spiritual battle to secure the release her true love, the knight Tam Lin, from the fairy queen’s clutches before he is sacrificed to the powers of Hell.
The trials Janet endures at the hands of the fairy queen are so rich in symbolism that I became utterly obsessed with exploring them, and all the layers of this very ancient story, steeped in the wisdom of the Celts. For this is no mere fairy tale, no simplistic story of dark and light, wicked queen and maiden fair. This is a complex and sensual exploration of feminine power in all of its aspects, with some unexpected twists. Although the earliest documented versions of Tam Lin emerge from the 1500s, the story is far older, and the events it may be based around are believed to have occurred shortly after the death of William Wallace in 1305. Yet these themes are as old as humanity itself. The Ballad of Tam Lin is a spiritual and esoteric fable that just may be the richest and most profound I have encountered in all of my studies. It is certainly an illustration of the power of the divine feminine in its multiple guises unlike any other.
For years, I kept The Ballad of Tam Lin on the back burner as a book I would one day write, perhaps in a series exploring women in Celtic legends, which is one of my great passions. But fate intervened when I fell in love. My newlywed husband, Philip Coppens, has a home in Scotland, within an hour’s drive from these magical locations where the legends of humans having encounters with the Otherworld remain strong to this day. It was in spending many hours climbing through the stunning, mythical locations of the Scottish Borders from whence the original Ballad of Tam Lin first emerged that I became inspired to use it as the launching point for this series. Further, it is one of the lesser known legends, yet in my opinion, arguably the greatest – a perfect place to begin!
HOW and WHERE will the new series be available?
Initially, I am releasing the books included within the Legends of the Divine Feminine series solely as e-books, and they will be available on all formats, including Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc., but they will also be available as a PDF download to your computer for those of you who do not have e-readers. This e-book format gives me so much (exciting!) freedom to include links, artwork, maps, etc., which I would not have otherwise, and it gives me freedom to release more books, much faster. Eventually, if there is enough demand, I will consider releasing the series in a trade paperback format.
WHEN will the first book be available?
Due to some technological issues (I am still learning what all of this new technology can do, and it seems to be changing every day) my original plan to release the first book on the Summer Solstice didn’t quite happen, but I do intend to have it out before the end of the summer. The current release date is September 1, 2012. Barring incident with Kindle, Nook or ipad files, we should meet this date! We will send out an official release email when it is up and available on all formats.
Finally, and this is what I am most excited about, each project will be tied to a charitable component as well as a project that helps a female artist. A percentage from the sale of each copy of The Ballad of Tam Lin will be donated to my favorite charity, Made By Survivors, an organization founded to support women and children who have survived enslavement and human trafficking. Many of you have donated to MBS in the past; in fact, you are the reason we were able to put the roof on a building that now shelters up to a hundred survivors! MBS continues to expand their great work around the world, and with our help even more women will find a haven of safety and opportunity on the way to building worldwide awareness to the plight of the 27 million enslaved people on the planet today.
For more information on helping survivors and to save women’s lives (by shopping!) please visit www.MadebySurvivors.com