Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A merciless enemy who threatens everyone they hold dear - Dawnflight (The Dragon's Dove Chronicles #1) by Kim Iverson Headlee

Gyan is a Caledonian chieftainess by birth, a warrior and leader of warriors by training, and she is betrothed to Urien, a son of her clan’s deadliest enemy, by right of Arthur the Pendragon’s conquest of her people. For the sake of peace, Gyan is willing to sacrifice everything...perhaps even her very life, if her foreboding about Urien proves true.


Gyan is a Caledonian chieftainess by birth, a warrior and leader of warriors by training, and she is betrothed to Urien, a son of her clan’s deadliest enemy, by right of Arthur the Pendragon’s conquest of her people. For the sake of peace, Gyan is willing to sacrifice everything...perhaps even her very life, if her foreboding about Urien proves true.

Roman by his father, Brytoni by his mother, and denied hereditary rulership of his mother's clan because of his mixed blood, Arthur has followed his father's path to become Dux Britanniarum, the Pendragon: supreme commander of the northern Brytoni army. The Caledonians, Scots, Saxons, and Angles keep him too busy to dwell upon his loneliness...most of the time.

When Gyan and Arthur meet, each recognize within the other their soul’s mate. The treaty has preserved Gyan’s ancient right to marry any man, providing he is a Brytoni nobleman—but Arthur does not qualify. And the ambitious Urien, Arthur’s greatest political rival, shall not be so easily denied. If Gyan and Arthur cannot prevent Urien from plunging the Caledonians and Brytons back into war, their love will be doomed to remain unfulfilled forever.

But there is an even greater threat looming. The Laird of the Scots wants their land and will kill all who stand in his way. Gyan, Arthur, and Urien must unite to defeat this merciless enemy who threatens everyone they hold dear.

The Plot of a Spiritual Romance

Wow, what an unusual topic, and thank you for suggesting it!

Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we humans are spiritual beings. Spirituality, and its legalistic expression, morality, shape our values, our decisions, our relationships, our very souls. As a reader, I find it disappointing when an author chooses to ignore the spiritual dimension and its historical context but instead drops characters possessing twenty-first-century morals into, say, a medieval romance. And yet, as a reader, I also do not enjoy being preached at! Since I write what I like to read, I find the spiritual aspect to be a difficult yet rewarding tightrope to traverse.

The development of a character’s spirituality is mostly an internal struggle, which is why I like to use it as a counterbalance to external obstacles. I say “mostly internal” because there will occur a point in a later book in The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles when my characters must come into direct, open, violent conflict with those of differing religious beliefs. As Arthur himself remarks in the sequel to Dawnflight, Morning’s Journey, the last war he would ever want to fight is a “holy” one. And yet that is exactly what he and his allies and enemies will be forced to face. The prevalent belief that “God is on our side” of any international conflict is something that I do plan to explore in the vehicle of my fiction, so I’ll not dish out any spoilers about that today.

As for the framework of a character’s spiritual development – or “plot,” if you will – it should follow the same rule for any other type of plot in that it should possess a beginning, a middle, and an end. This framework can be a scaffold to the novel, as in the case of Dawnflight, or it can be a much lighter structure that lends a touch of humanity to the characters, as in my female gladiator novel Liberty, whose heroine is very firmly a pagan Celt from start to finish, but her spiritual growth leads her to accept the belief systems of the most important Roman and Egyptian characters in her life.

The beginning defines the character’s starting point: to what belief system does she adhere, and why is she dissatisfied with it? Dissatisfaction is key, because growth cannot occur from contentment. If the root were content to lie within the seed pod, it would never acquire the strength to split the husk and thrust into the dirt.

The vast bulk of the middle shows the character’s progress toward spiritual change – downs as well as ups, for progress toward any goal is never linear. To whom does she turn for advice, and why? How long does it take her to accept or reject the advice? How does she apply what she has learned to the decisions she must make? What are the consequences for doing so? In the case of a romance novel, how does the character’s spiritual progress intertwine with her progress toward achieving her happily ever after? My favorite section of the Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne movie The Quiet Man occurs when she turns to her parish priest for advice, and he visits the village’s Protestant vicar. My second favorite part is when all the Catholics – even the senior priest and his young underling – display vocal support of the vicar in front of his bishop, just so that he won’t be transferred. They are subtle moments in the film, and they lend a depth of poignancy that could not have been achieved had human spirituality been ignored by the writers.

The end of the character’s spiritual arc may or may not jive with the end of the story, but often it does. It may be expressed in metaphysical terms, as in the film Gladiator, wherein the titular character played by Russell Crowe is shown entering his belief system’s version of the afterlife, and the viewer comes to realize that this passage has brought his entire existence full circle, based upon how the opening of the movie was filmed. The birth, baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ represent transitional points in his spiritual arc, with yet more to come after each point. So in reality, a spiritual arc never ends; it continues to evolve, and a writer must decide where to stop describing this evolution based upon the needs of the overall story.

As Yoda observed in The Empire Strikes Back, “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” When a writer embraces this truth and incorporates it in ways that make sense for the characters without being heavy handed, then the resulting novel truly begins to shine.

About the author:
Kim Headlee lives on a farm in southwestern Virginia with her family, cats, goats, and assorted wildlife. People & creatures come and go, but the cave and the 250-year-old house ruins—the latter having been occupied as recently as the mid-20th century—seem to be sticking around for a while yet.

Kim is a Seattle native (when she used to live in the Metro DC area, she loved telling people she was from "the other Washington") and a direct descendent of twentieth-century Russian nobility. Her grandmother was a childhood friend of the doomed Grand Duchess Anastasia, and the romantic yet tragic story of how Lydia escaped Communist Russia with the aid of her American husband will most certainly one day fuel one of Kim's novels. Another novel in the queue will involve her husband's ancestor, the seventh-century proto-Viking king of the Swedish colony in Russia.

For the time being, however, Kim has plenty of work to do in creating her projected 8-book Arthurian series, The Dragon's Dove Chronicles, and other novels under her new imprint, Pendragon Cove Press.


Kim Iverson Headlee said...

Thank you so much for featuring Dawnflight and my guest post on your blog today!
Have a wonderful weekend,
Kim Headlee
Stories make us greater.

CCAM said...

@Kim H. - You're very welcome!

And I think you are right, the stories make us greater!