Many thanks to Stina, for allowing me to visit and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel, Darkbeast. Due to the generosity of my publisher, Simon & Schuster, I will give away a copy of Darkbeast to one commenter chosen at random from all the comments made to this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight.
In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.
When I started to write Darkbeast, I focused on the human characters and their animal companions. I introduced myself to Keara's family, to her mother and her sisters. I came to know Caw well, his wry tone, his unflappable (sometimes literally!) certainty about right and wrong. I understood society's expectations, the rules and regulations that controlled how people and darkbeasts interacted with each other and with strangers.
And very early on, it became apparent that part of that interaction was due to deeply ingrained traditions, to forces so strong that even a willful child would never dare to disobey. I realized that religion – that the Twelve – were central to life in Keara's world.
The Twelve are gods and goddesses. At first glance, they might seem related to Greek gods or Roman ones. There's Patrius, after all, the somewhat Zeus-ish father of all the gods. And Madrina, the occasionally Hera-ish mother.
But the Twelve include some gods who bear no resemblance to the inhabitants and heirs of Olympia. There's Bestius, the god of darkbeasts. He controls the interaction between humans and their magically bonded companions, from the moment the bond is created (on a newborn's twelfth day of life) until it is dissolved (on a child's twelfth birthday, when the sacrifice of the animal frees the child to become an adult in society.) Of course, the Greeks and Romans didn't have Bestius.
They didn't have Pondera either. Pondera is a goddess who grew in the telling. She started out as a simple hearth goddess (paging Hestia!) Before long, though, she grew into a symbol of more general hospitality. Her godhouse is located at the southern entrance of every village, waiting to welcome new arrivals along the Great Road. Of course, those new arrivals change the balance of any community, creating new stresses, forcing people to find new ways of communicating with each other. Pondera became the goddess of that balance which led, in turn, to her being the goddess of justice and law. All of a sudden, my humble household deity found herself controlling the fate of accused criminals of all kinds.
Each of the Twelve is complex. Each is worshipped in a godhouse that has a unique architecture (round wooden structure for Pondera; rectangular columned marble for Patrius…) Each is associated with a specific animal sigil (a fly for Bestius, a dun cow for Madrina). Each becomes three-dimensional and real as Darkbeast unfolds – because to Keara and her darkbeast, the Twelve are real. They might appear at any moment, changing lives forever.
Of course, with Twelve gods, I couldn't have a deity for everything. What one god or goddess would you create for your own fantasy world? And what would his or her unique traits and attributes be?
Morgan can be found online at:
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were books. Lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C. In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads. Because there are still books. Lots and lots of books.