Meet My Main Character Blog Tour
Last week the amazing Weaver Grace was kind enough to ask me to participate in an interview where authors of works-in-progress discuss the main character of their historical fiction. While the book I’m writing isn’t strictly historical fiction per se (it’s a fantasy based on a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood), it’s based on 16th – 18th century Afro-Brazilian culture and late medieval English nunneries.
I’ve been researching extensively, reading scholarly works such as Eileen Power’s eye-opening Medieval English Nunneries: C.1275 to 1535 (available for free on Kindle), which dispels any notions of quiet-living, pious women. It must be remembered that many women of this period who ended up in convents were not necessarily there because they felt called to serve God, but often because they had no choice. Late Medieval English nunneries were sometimes used as dumping grounds for unmarriageable or unwanted females of the nobility and the upper class (untitled, rich merchants and such).
This explains why many English convents of the time were cited by their presiding Bishop for excessively luxurious clothing, keeping small pets, lavish food (when available), dancing, gossiping, visiting taverns, running off with men, and having children. In fact, one rather infamous French abbess, Angélique d’Estreés had not one, not two, not even four, but twelve children; each brought up according to the rank of their father.
I’ve also being reading about the history of colonial Brazil, not easy material, that includes the dehumanizing conditions of slavery, which wasn’t abolished there until 1888.
There is a region in Brazil, Patrocínio, Minas Gerais, , a rural town located in the western region of the state known as the Triângulo Mineiro, where a regional Afro-Brazilian dialect, Calunga, is spoken. Apparently, Calunga was “the speech … utilized by Africans and Afro-descendants so that they would not be understood by people with authority over them – a common theme especially articulated by older Calunga speakers who are more familiar with the era of slavery in Brazil.” (Byrd, 2012)
I hope to incorporate some of this unique language into my story as well as aspects of Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion that is a blend of traditional Yoruba, Fon, and Bantu beliefs as well as some Catholicism. All in all, it’s fascinating researching all of these subjects.
Incidentally, in Brazil, people don’t refer to themselves as Afro-Brazilian. That’s an American thing. If a person appears to be black they are referred to as preto; if they look multiracial they are referred to as pardo. As of 2010, over 50% of the Brazilian population identified themselves as either preto or pardo.
So, to finally start answering the questions:
1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Porcelana is my main character and she is fictional. She is an Afro-Brazilian albino who’s been hand-picked to train to become one of the warrior/nuns of Convento do Pano Vermelho (The Convent of the Red Cloth), the protectors of her town who hunt the savage wolves said to roam freely in the surrounding forests. Porcelana is the Portuguese word for porcelain.
For the teenaged Porcelana my inspiration is the stunningly beautiful Thando Hopa, who’s not only an African model but also a lawyer and advocate for albinos. I chose her not only because she’s an albino but also because she is able to embody both the softness and strength of my protagonist.
2. When and where is the story set?
The town where Porcelana lives is situated in an isolated valley high on a mountain where the lone road was destroyed centuries ago, cutting them off from the rest of the world. This town exists in a subtropical highland climate similar to that which is found in the mountainous regions in Brazil.
The time frame is something of an amalgamation of the 15th and 16th centuries.
3. What should we know about him/her?
Porcelana is an outsider in her community because of her albinism, although she is very loved by her family. Some of her attributes make me think of Weaver Grace: she is a gentle person, observant, kind, and quick to come to the aid of those she feels are unjustly treated.
Some of her other attributes (not saying these are also like Weaver Grace but she’s free to claim any she likes) is her love of being physical: training, hunting, riding, running, swordplay, and archery. Her flaws are her tendency to keep things to herself, even her intense emotions, and her reluctance to ask others for help. She also has a very strict sense of fairness that can border on self-righteousness as well as being a bit judgmental.
4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Like all the other girls chosen to go live and train at the Convento do Pano Vermelho, Porcelana had no real choice in the matter. Allowing herself to be selected provides her family with gold and the chance to move out of the favela (the slum area of the town).
While Porcelana comes to love living at the convent she is at odds with the abbess, who has instantly taken a deep dislike to her. It isn’t until her first hunt that Porcelana learns that the wolves they hunt are actually Lupines (humans who can change to wolves and back) when she wounds what she thinks is a wolf. Separated from her hunting group she stumbles upon the young Lupine girl that she’s seriously injured, Isidora, in her human form, just as Isidora’s older sister, Cátia, also locates her.
Horrified that she has harmed a person and not merely a wolf Porcelana agrees to hide Isidora and Cátia under the convent in the catacombs until Isidora is healed enough to return back to the Lupine camp.
A friendship and eventually a romance begin between Porcelana and Cátia as they seek to discover the truth behind the founding of the convent and its war with the Lupines.
5. What is the personal goal of the character?
As Porcelana discovers she is surrounded by lies and treachery she becomes determined to expose them even as she tries to understand why she feels the way she does about Cátia, wondering if they can ever have any kind of future together.
6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
The title of this novel is Crimson and you can read a bit more about by clicking here.
7. When can we expect the book to be published?
That’s a lovely question and I wish I had some sort of firm answer. First, I have to finish researching for it, then, of course, write it. Then I need to procure an agent (that’s right, literary agents, I am on the market. Meow!), who then will want me to edit it, and then we would have to find a publisher, who will want more edits, and then a year after that, it would finally get published, so I’m thinking around the time my oldest goes off to college. Certainly by the time my second goes off, right? Right? 😉
Thanks to Weaver Grace for asking me to participate. I really appreciate it! I would recommend other writers but I don’t think I know of any that are specifically writing historical fiction other than my former husband, Arif. He’s actually written what sounds like a really intriguing novel (and I’d love to read it -hint, hint), already has an agent, and is in the processing of editing it with her. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a blog, otherwise I would have asked him to participate as well. Hopefully, he’ll get a blog going soon (again -hint, hint) 🙂