Home' Perth Guide : Perth Guide 08 Contents All events online | scoop.com.au
OPEN MONDAY - SUNDAY
125 Claremont Crescent, Swanbourne
Telephone: (08) 9383 3493
The Dagger of Dresnia is WA author Satima Flavell’s first novel. Here she talks about
strong female characters, the lessons of history, and working in a fantasy world.
The Dagger of Dresnia is the first book in a trilogy. Was your writing process solely
focused on the first instalment?
I had a plan for the entire trilogy, and in fact I started to write what is now the second
book (The Cloak of Challiver, due for release later this year) before writing the first.
Sometimes the hardest thing about getting started with a piece of writing is knowing
where to begin the story! However, they say you have to write a million words before
you’re any good, and I think I paid my dues in spades finding the best place to start!
The fantasy genre entails creating whole new worlds – is there much you created
that didn’t make it on to the page?
Oh, lots! Small snippets appear in the book but there’s no way to fit in all the world-
building, and it makes for a tedious read if the author tries. I have a map and a calendar
in my head, and the makings of a magical language. I know my characters’ backgrounds
and, in the case of the story’s three princesses, a bit about life in their countries of
origin – and, of course, about the protagonist Queen Ellyria’s elvish childhood and
youth. There’s just enough in the novel to set the scene, I hope, and to give the story an
authentic feel. I love history, and twelfth century Europe – the time and place in which
the story is based – is one of my favourites. It has been transported to an imaginary
world, though, and the characters are not based on people in our own history books.
To some, fantasy seems somewhat of a masculine genre. Was there any particular
reason that made you lean towards it?
I’ve always loved fairy tales and folklore, right back to my early childhood when I read
Enid Blyton voraciously, later graduating to the Brothers Grimm and The Arabian Nights.
One of my early influences was Mary Stewart, author of The Crystal Cave. She took the
very masculine Arthurian legends and, while staying true to the tradition, brought
a woman’s perspective to her reworking of it. Most fantasy writers today pay due
attention to the female characters and often incorporate a bit of romance as well. My
guess is that over the last decade or two, fantasy has become more popular with women
than men. Many of the most widely read writers in the genre are women, including
West Australians Glenda Larke and Juliet Marillier, who have a strong global following.
The Dagger of Dresnia portrays a number of strong female characters that break
the gender roles of a medieval setting...
High fantasy uses a historical setting to comment on the mores of the present one. We
must remember, too, that over the last fifty years, women have made great strides in their
search for sexual equality. Including a character like Nidvar reminds us that it was not
always so, and that at one time a husband virtually had the power of life and death over
his family. Medieval times were not easy for strong women – but plenty of them fought
for a place in history: Saint Hilda of Whitby and Eleanor of Aquitaine spring to mind. I like
to think that my main character, Ellyria, would have been another if she were real!
Will the subsequent titles follow suit in terms of the book’s themes?
I don’t know! Funny thing about themes – they tend to reveal themselves during the
writing process, and sometimes they are only clear when the book takes its final form.
I could see from the start that one of the themes was the many forms love can take,
but the major theme turned out to concern the danger of doing something risky and
imprudent in the hope of getting out of a difficult situation. From time to time, we all
find ourselves in some kind of ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ scenario.
That unpredictability is the knife-edge on which all our decisions, rest – and, of course,
sometimes one decision can affect the fates of whole nations.
Links Archive Perth Guide 09 Perth Guide 07 Navigation Previous Page Next Page