Executive Editor Matt Sutherland Interviews Lynne Hill-Clark, Author of A Woman’s World
Life on Earth has many pleasures and attractions but that has never discouraged talented storytellers from fantasizing about life on other planets. Yet, it’s not an easy task to create a new world in book form, one that retains smidgens of earthliness and humanity so as to seem plausible to readers. One such Fantasy that recently caught our attention was Lynne Hill-Clark’s A Woman’s World. Seeking insight on how she imagined the world of Pathins into virtual existence, Foreword’s Executive Editor Matt Sutherland reached out to Lynne with a few questions.
In the island world of Pathins, you’ve created a unique class system with women as both superpowered goddesses and rulers, while men are forbidden from education and serve as domestic servants. Was there a particular place or society in history that you referenced as a model for such a dynamic?
Yes, I limited the technology of this world to about that of Ancient Egypt. And I took a conservative Middle Eastern country, like Afghanistan, or even a Medieval European society and reversed the gender roles. The astute reader will notice that I dedicated this book to my Jordanian “Sisters.” The effect that writing this book had on me was profound. The ugliness of any social injustice stood out even more simply by placing the shoe on the other foot.
In these days of debates about societal divisions, class, and meritocracy, A Woman’s World explores a complex dynamic of privileged teenaged girls seeking to rise to the priesthood and possibly Unawi, the supreme ruler. As the daughter of Aga, a high priestess, protagonist Baya is ostracized from a jealous group of other students—refreshingly reminiscent of cheerleading tryouts in an American high school, and not very enlightened for goddesses in training. Can you talk about how the early decisions you faced in telling this story? How did the aristocratic, but eminently likable character of Baya develop in your mind?
That’s a good question—it made me think. I learned many things after writing my first three books. With this series I wanted my new heroine to have more depth by giving her flaws. Not too many but I wanted to make her more relatable. So I made her jealous of her younger sister. Plus, Baya is a “late bloomer” which is a sore spot as Baya continually compares her thin frame to her shapely counterparts. Hopefully, readers will relate to this character more since she’s not perfect in every way. Which, of course, none of us are. Giving our characters flaws can make them more realistic and likeable for readers.
Pathin is also experiencing food shortages and overpopulation issues, which Shema—the supreme ruler, second only to Ameris, the Great Goddess—dealt with by limiting pregnancy to just a few priestesses, who hand selected men into their harems. To ensure her no-child policy, Shema also created a unique type of contraception via the water system. Surprisingly, Ameris forbid Shema from motherhood because having children of her own would jeopardize her ability to rule objectively. Needless to say, there’s a lot of sexual tension in the air. In an unjust society like Pathins, seeing these high priestesses frustrated is satisfying. Can you talk about how you pulled off such a subtle plot twist so compellingly?
That’s funny. I never thought of it that way. Yes, it is satisfying to see the elite struggle or have things they desperately want yet cannot obtain. They should have everything but even with the world seemingly at their fingertips they still have problems and don’t have all they desire. How I pulled off such a subtle yet satisfying twist in this story I cannot say. It was not intentional so maybe that’s what makes it work. Perhaps, since I wasn’t trying to be compelling it ended up being more convincing.
While she lives in the palace and trains for the initiation trials, Baya befriends a boy, Vicaroy, working in the palace’s gardens. As the forbidden relationship grows more intense, the two of them are forced to escape the island in order to stay together. As it turns out, Aga and Shema realize Ameris was well aware that the two would flee together and knew that Baya was well trained for whatever dangers and challenges they would face as they headed into the unknown. And so, Baya and Vicaroy’s odyssey begins—with the apparent blessing of all-powerful Ameris. Were you influenced by some of the great epics of the ancient world?
Absolutely, writing and storytelling never come from a void. I love Greek and Roman mythology and Egyptian lore and Nordic tales and more modern stories and … you get the idea. Most writers get their material from real life events and people, as well as other’s stories both fictional and nonfictional. Interestingly, some writers report that they have help from spiritual sources. This provides them with some of their best creative inspirations. And, yes, I’m one such writer. Sometimes when I go back over my work, I think, “There is no way my wee-little brain could have thought of all this.” Sometimes it seems like I get inspiration from guardian angels/spirit guides … whatever you’d like to call them.
An interesting dynamic occurs when Baya realizes her cantaloupe-sized pet spider, Doba, can read Vicaroy’s mind—allowing Baya, in essence, to always know what he’s thinking because Doba tells her. Of course, this frustrates Vicaroy to no end, much to the delight of Baya and Doba. Even while they experience great danger, there is a lighter playfulness to the story. Can you talk about your ideal reader?
Humor can be a useful piece of the storytelling puzzle. It lightens the tension when things get too serious. I’m by no means a comedian but humor manages to weave its way into the story when it’s needed (I hope).
My genre is YA (Young Adult) Fantasy. I think my ideal readers are young women but I hope other’s will relate to my characters and stories as well.
Please describe the elements you look for in a good fantasy story and how you learned the skill of storytelling?
Some have said that fantasy is all about “World Building.” Readers of fantasy tend to want to immerse themselves in a completely new and fantastical world. Some readers wish to escape the monotony or stress of everyday life and fantasy is a great way to do that.
I’ve had so many great teachers along the way (too many to count). But my writing teachers have been fellow authors who have been willing to critique my writing. They’ve helped me improve so much over my writing career. And I also study my favorite authors. Not just reading their books but really analyzing them. What was good about the book? What elements made them bestsellers, etc.? I also listen to them speak at online conferences, or read their blogs, etc.
Are you currently working on book two in the A Woman’s World series? What can we look forward to?
Actually, books two and three will be released along with book one in the Woman’s World series. I’m currently plotting my seventh novel, which will be book four in the Woman’s World series. My previous novels are the Lords and Commoners series—all my books take place in the same world. So to get the full effect it’s best to start with Of Lords and Commoners.
Best reading order:
The Lords and Commoners Series
Of Lords and Commoners, Book 1
Of Princes and Dragons, Book 2
Of Gods and Goddesses, Book 3
The Woman’s World Series (A companion series to Lords and Commoners)
A Woman’s World, Book 1
Lost Powers, Book 2
A Collision of Worlds, Book 3