Guest Post by Cristina Jurado:
“La Corte de los Espejos”, by Concha Perea,
“Fantamagic” for adults
Sometimes, I don't recognize myself. I thought I was part of science fiction, fantasy and, a bit less, horror fandom but, still, there are certain sub-genres which I don't quite click with. I'm sure this is a manufacturing defect in me or, maybe, my sensibility is simply more in tune with other sub-genres. But the truth is that I suffer, especially when everybody (excluding some exceptions that cannot be called “everybody”) looks like they enjoy epic or magic fantasy. Something must be wrong with me. It's anti-natural! Sure this is the result of some childhood trauma: maybe once, when I was little, I spoke to an imaginary fairy and I got frightened when it really replied to me...
All this is to say that I have problem, I admit it. But I'm also really stubborn, so I don't stop reading “fantamagic” books, more so if the author is from Spain. I must confess I enjoyed La Corte de los Espejos (Fantascy) by Concha Perea, even though it is not the type of story I'm attracted to. As I see it, it is more a thriller set in a parallel word –TerraLinde- where magical creatures are strong, weak, despicable, virtuous and a mix of all that, same as our world. Actuality, it is really much like the real world, only with goblins, knockers, phokas, elves, satyrs, fairies, etc., divided in different factions and interest groups.
The main character –Nicasia- is a half fairy, half goblin who has been deeply hurt in the past. She carries a big burden with numerous traumas and lives a double life: on one hand, she is an engineer and owner of a tavern; on the other, she is Dama RecorreTúneles, leader of Hueste Invernal, inside the fairy community. The story starts with a crime that reunites Nicasia and several characters of her past and present time in a journey to discover the assassins. Through that voyage, filled with adventures, we will know many details about the difficult life of the characters, as well as about the dark politics of TierraLinde.
Indeed, the most interesting part of the story to me is the personal journey of Nicasia and of her counter-partner, Dujal the phoka, even though I feel mythology lovers will enjoy this novel for its richness in magic characters, settings and situations.
Concha Perea’s style is direct, clear and fluent, with well-crafted dialogs and a very good creation of characters. In an interview to the author, I've read that she developed the story in her blog. One can tell an almost self-conclusive structure in some of the chapters, as if they were episodes or installments. Sometimes, the amount of secondary characters living in La Corte de los Espejos distracted me: surely it is because my capacity of focusing is limited. I personally would have preferred less characters, so I could concentrate better in the stories, but I understand that TerraLinde is not simply going to bend to my wishes.
I'm happy the main character is a female one, away from stereotypes: she hates, fights, get furious, smells bad and loves heatedly. Actually, Dujal is also an insolent scoundrel, a sort of mirror reflection of Nicasia. Chemistry between both of them is unquestionable, and I like the emotional triangle with Marsias, Nicasia's official lover.
TerraLinde could have being any village or city in Spain, and the schemes present in the story could be compared to the ones in any City Hall, adding imagination and exaggerating to certain extent, of course: political parties with opposed interests, sentimental disputes, conspiracies, frauds… That's how I've understand it. I recommend this novel to fans of “fantamagic”, thrillers or epic fantasy.
Concha Perea graciously found a bit of time to answer some questions. I would like to thank her for her kindness and willingness to collaborate with me, even though she is working on several projects. Next beer, Concha, is on me.
Cristina Jurado: Why you took the path of Fantasy? What has this genre that others don't? Is it because of the infinite possibilities of themes, settings and characters? Is it because of the freedom to break the laws of the known physics?
Concha Perea: I think so. There is a famous sentence -“write about what you know”-, which is the pillar of writing, but there is no way to know how a dragon is, or how the magic works. Every novel, even a fantasy novel, requires a certain amount of research, but this genre also entails a “sense of wonder”, which is the capacity to follow your own logic and rules.
CJ: If I understood correctly, Fantasy is the genre more familiar to you? Why? Is it also true that you are the descendant of an ancestral lineage of Turdetani magical creatures from the old Orippo (actual Dos Hermanas in Seville)?
CP: I feel really confortable in Fantasy, maybe because I'm the descendant of a long lineage of talking squirrels, holders of an ancestral secret to bake cookies. We, the talking squirrels, think that debating “what fits in or out Fantasy” will be a long, hard and absurd discussion. Genres exist to help publishing companies and book shop owners to mange the titles they work with.
CJ: Now is the time when you reveal what is the deal with the talking squirrels.
CP: It's all a joke between my partner and me. He always has called me “Rodent” and I ignore the reason. We started to joke about it in social media. On top of that, I love squirrels, and the blame is on Tad Williams.
CJ: The Process of literary creation is a wonderful and unique phenomenon, like UFOs sightings. I would like to know how you pose a story's development (a novel or a short story) from the moment in which you are commissioned or have an idea, until the moment the story is ready to be in the hands of the reader.
CP: I give it quite a lot of thought. If it's a short story, I throw away many ideas before I stick with one. Then, I write an outline. In a short story, I use my “Tardis” notebook, definitely bigger in the inside (with a lot of worlds waiting to be explore) and, afterwards, with the outline and my research, I start writing. If I'm working on a novel, I buy a new notebook and I get crazy developing outlines and chronological guidelines. I plan a lot.
CJ: Do you have characters’ cards?
CP: I don't have characters' cards: I have soap operas! I usually write personalized cards about each character and, sometimes, they are so long that frightens me. And I even don't use half of the information I write, but it's a good thing to have it. You never know when you may need it.
CJ: Why is it so important to have so much material about characters?
CP: That depends on the writer. I always say: “without characters, I don't have a story”, but it's just because I think before about characters and their personal stories than about the main story itself. Outlining biographies helps me to grow them and to go deeply into the plot.
CJ: To write biographies so meticulously, do you think it helps to give every character their own voice?
CP: To me, it's vital. The more pieces of information I have about the characters and the more things I know about them, the better I can work with them and I can give them different ways to speak: I know how are they going to react, how they interact with one another. It's a lot of previous work but it helps with the writing. It's worthy investing time on it.
CJ: La Corte de los Espejos is an adult Fantasy novel, even though it presents most of the characteristics of a thriller: a crime, an investigation, characters full of shades, a colloquial way of talking, political plots as a reflection of a decadent society… I think about G. R. R. Martin talking about Game of Thrones (a TV series based on Song of Ice & Fire) who said that, for him, it's like The Sopranos in a Fantasy world. Why do you think there is an intersection between Fantasy novels and thrillers?
CP: Because both are the coolest genres! (I'm joking!). I've always thought that it's impossible for a novel to be limited to just one genre. Juan Ramón Biedma is a recognized author of thrillers and, nevertheless, in his books he flirts in a disturbing way with the esoteric and weird. Sometimes, he reaches even horror. The majority of China Miéville's novels are almost sociological essays. Victoria Álvarez writes adventure stories, full of ghosts and paranormal events. I don't believe in the “mix of genres”, but I think that we should stop labeling the stories we read.
CJ: When magic is included in a story's worlbuilding, the risk is to be looked down, as it was a trope that diminishes the credibility of the narration. In your case, not only you make your characters use spells but also you direct the story to adults and not children. Don't you think is a risky decision? What brings magic to a novel full of lights and shadows like La Corte de los Espejos?
CP: Anglo Saxon readers talk about the “sense of wonder”. Magic is included, one way or another, in the fantastic stories I like to read, even in the ones directed to adults, and it was something I didn't want to give up. I could not imagine a word of fairies without magic. I really didn't think about the public of the story: I just thought about what I like.
CJ: A mandatory question, what do you think about the current landscape of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror in Spain and why?
CP: I think it's promising but I prefer to be cautious. It seems publishing companies have realized it's a good time for the genre. We have a great wave of talented writers and there are new publishing companies with interesting products. Now, we need to see if all this gets off the ground: literary competitions need to consolidate; and media and academia need to stop considering the genre as “lesser literature”. We have a long way to go.
CJ: How do you think social media have influenced the craft?
CP: There is a positive aspect: you can communicate with your readers without any filters. It's possible to receive very interesting feedback, but this interaction is a treacherous thing: “to be in social media” can become an ungrateful obligation or an obsession, which keeps you from writing.
About Cristina Jurado: Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue was published in 2012. In 2014 she edited, together with Leticia Lara, Alucinadas, an anthology of science fiction stories written by women in Spanish.