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Sherwood Smith
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What is Q&A?: Housed here is an overflowing source of information on the world of Crown Duel. Questions from the CastleTlanth Yahoo! group answered by Ms. Smith are catologued here for fans to learn more about the world, the characters, events in the book, and even what happened after the story ended.

Citations: Used to show in which CastleTlanth message number quotes were originally posted.

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Age, Appearance, Pronunciation (6 - 1 New)

Characters, Character Actions (15 - 1 New)

About the World of Crown Duel (26 - New: 1, 2, 3)

Calendar, Holidays (4 - 1 New)

Magic (15)

Fashion (9)

Mel's Name Day, Rings (5)

Romance (12)

Flauvic (6)

The Merindar House Party (4 - 1 New)

The Wedding, After the Story (11 - 1 New)

"Beauty", After "Beauty" (4)

Other books by Sherwood Smith (3)

Ms. Smith on Writing (11 - New: 1, 2)

Age, Appearance, Pronunciation

Q: "I was wondering how old the characters are. I've always thought that Mel starts out 17, then turns 18 on her Flower Day, and Bran and Vidanric were both about 23. (Mel is 'almost grown' and Bran is 'a man these four years.') What do you guys think? Ms. Smith, how far off am I?"

A: "Rachel, you're not far off, sorta. I deliberately didn't put ages in because they count years differently (that is, their year is 441 days), and also puberty works differently there. (Basically it doesn't hit until you get your full growth.) So you're more or less right, except Vidanric is a few years older than Bran, and Bran is closer to Mel's age" (Msg. 184).

Q: "About how old are the main characters supposed to be in Crown Duel?"

A: "Well, I deliberately don't say, for several reasons, one of which is it's easier for readers to identify with them if the ages are not stated. (Another is that their days are counted differently.) But think of Mel as more or less late teens, Bran four years older, Nee just about Bran's age, and Vidanric maybe four years older than Bran" (Msg. 1731).

Q: "I notice . . . a majority of main characters have either blue or grey eyes. Is this the way of those worlds, coincidence, or just the author's eye color preferences? =) "

A: "It's a local phenom. I have no preference. (Well, maybe I do: for light brown eyes.)" (Msg. 347).

Q: "I was wondering... how tall do you imagine Vidanric and Meliara are exactly, Sherwood?"

A: "I figure Mel is about five two or so, a size three--not much figure. (Which she hates--she hopes her daughters will be tall with splendid figures, but the Princess is also small, so unlikely.) "Vidanric is about six one or two, slim in build, longwaisted. Bran is taller, and Shavona taller than both of them. Nee is about five six or so, and probably about a size twelve or fourteen. (Mel envies her that figure.)" (Msg. 1695)

Q: "How do you pronounce Meliara's name?"

A: "Mel-YAR-ah" (Msg. 2551).

Q: "How on earth do you pronounce "Renselaeus"? Give me three vowels in a row and I'll give you a crazy pronunciation that is WAY too French."

A: "Renn-seh-LAY-us. (Sartoran is rife with double vowels.)" (Msg. 3496) .:. Top .:.


Characters, Character Actions

Q: "Why is Mel's hair so important to her that she'll risk her life by leaving it long? How is it so closely connected to her plan for revenge that she would risk that by keeping such an identifyable trait?"

A: "Mel wasn't in all that much danger; she just kept it up, braided, and covered. But it was important to her since she was convinced it was her best feature.

"When I rewrote the book, I had to stop and consider that, actually, but decided that what I wrote in the first draft, when I was twenty, was truer to a teen's feelings, and so I didn't mess around with her justification for not being practical--the idea of cutting her hair wouldn't have occurred to her" (Msg. 1772).

Q: "I was wondering what Vidanric was thinking when Mel threw the candleholder at him? I mean, what was going on behind that court mask of his? It would be pretty funny to know what he was thinking about while Mel was freaking out."

A: "He realized that under the bluster she was very afraid about her brother; after she threw that thing at him, the look on her face changed so radically, from fury to chagrin--she really was appalled at herself--he had to look out the window to get a grip. He knew she'd utterly misunderstand, and be humiliated, if he gave in and laughed" (Msg. 2008).

Q: "What is with the thing that Vidanric says at Mel's ball about his declining prestige?"

A: "The declining prestige remark was just a joke--I mean, he was almost king by then. He was referring, though, to Mel's attitude, but he recognized that she had altered just enough for him to tentatively begin making jokes and not have her get pissed. (Though she still didn't really understand it; it took her years before she got court-type humor.) The joke was also a compliment on Mel's rising status among fashionable circles, capped with the ball" (Msg. 2011, 2037).

Q: "Why was Bran so mean to Mel when he arrived at the castle with Nee and Danric? Was it something he got from court, or what? I mean, he didn't have a problem with the way Mel dressed before! Was it just because he was embarrassed by the way she dressed to meet is soon-to-be-wife? Or did he just expect her to run out on a shopping spree?"

A: "Of course he did! Remember, he sent her all that wealth, and he just assumed that she promptly hired tailors, just as he did. And he envisioned arriving home with his surprise visitors to hve her waiting in the the latest most stunning court gown... Bran isn't entirely stupid--he's more aware than people think--but he never did understand Mel, because he kept expecting her to react like him" (Msg. 2054).

Q: "When Mel was returning to the castle, with Savona and Shevreath, after an incident with Flauvic outside his home (one of my favorite scenes, btw), Savona commented on how pleasant it was to speak to Mel without her usual crowd of swains and she said something like 'Is the rain affecting your vision? Or am I blind?... I don't see any swains... just as well too'. What was it about that exactly - that could be taken as an insult?..."

A: "Without her usual crowd of swains meant Derek and the rest of the young men. But she says she doesn't see any, which excludes the two walking with her--on the surface it could be taken as an insult, but both of them knew she didn't mean it that way, which was why they laughed; when she realized how it could have sounded, her face changed so radically they couldn't not laugh" (Msg. 2179).

Q: "And, also, what was it (specifically) that was inapropriate about her being there (so that they'd need to escort her)? Was it because she was alone with a man? Or was it because she was alone with Flauvic? Or was it something totally different?"

A: "Because they knew Flauvic was very dangerous indeed, and they didn't want him pulling anything; the way they closed in around her was a hint to Flauvic to back off from her. (In that culture girls don't need chaperones any more than boys do. Your reputation is made on how you treat others, there is no "virginity for sale before marriage" (if you will excuse the crudity) as has been predominant in our culture for so long" (Msg. 2179).

Q: "Why is it that Bran and Nee leave Mel behind on all the riding trips?"

A: "They don't. It's just that they were in the habit of riding with these friends--including Vidanric. And since they both knew Mel disliked the latter, they didn't mention the rides. It was up to Mel to fix that situation, which she did" (Msg. 2201).

Q: "Ara's mother asks Mel if Ara's music still bothered her....why?"

A: "While Mel was still recovering, she heard music that was familiar from her mother's day, which distressed her. I forget; I might have cut a lot of that out for word count sake" (Msg. 2363).

Q: "Vidanric mentioned that Mel's mother was murdered by Galdran because she was selected by the Council of Mages to learn magic in order to prevent war. How would she have been able to do that? By transforming Galdran into a toad and taking over the throne on the grounds that she was the last of the Calahanras family?"

A: "Mel's mother could not have prevented war directly, what would have happened would have been an altered balance of power; tyrants have a tough time staying in control when there is a member of the Mage Council on hand who witnesses and reports on what they see. Sartor's government, and the Mage Council, have a tremendous amount of influence" (Msg. 2527).

Q: "When Mel sent Vidanric the letter saying that she had "promised someone important that I would not let myself get involved in political brangles" what did he think?"

A: "He was relieved and pleased to have guessed that indeed she had a strong sense of honor, she was just emotionally behind (as one would expect from someone who grew up without a mom, as his own mother pointed out in private) and was searching, hard, for the education she should have had all along" (Msg. 2841).

Q: "Wasn't Vidanric being ironic when he thanked Meliara for promising not to try for a throne again?"

A: "Not the least. (Her distress was far too obvious.)" (Msg. 2566)

Q: "Wouldn't the political advantages of marrying a Calahanras descendent who happens to be regarded as a national heroine for standing up to Galdran be a consideration for Vidanric? He's too intelligent not to see the advantages of the situation."

A: "Not a consideration for him, in the sense that the knowledge tipped his decision one way or the other, though he was certainly aware of it; his parents did indeed consider it a positive, but he was the one in the field, not them, and he knew that given a promise of peace and a diminishment of the increased taxes, his government would not be questioned by the people, who were the ones who might value Mel for those reasons. Court was another matter, of course--and Mel took care of that on her own. He would have married her in the teeth of all of them, had he been sure of her response earlier. The wait rewarded him with repercussions being far easier than could have been foreseen a year earlier" (Msg. 2566).

Q: "Doesn't Savona seem to be too much of a stereotype? Tall, dark, handsome, charming, popular, wealthy, highborn, etc. He's got every possible advantage, but no apparent purpose in life - unless it's to get Tamara out of the way so that Danric & Mel can get together. Tamara's character was certainly influenced by her horrible mother, but there's no indication whether the death of his own parents affected Savona."

A: "Obviously the perception of stereotype or failed character development must be the reader's decision, not the writer's, but I can offer a couple background bits of data: first, because this is a YA and not an adult novel wherein I could have the wordcount to explore the minor characters more, one simply could not see the work that Savona did. In actuality, he had grown up learning to govern, and thus provided the younger generational viewpoint for Vidanric, as his parents represented the older. Savona was in on every decision made, down to the fake wager and other fake-outs of Galdran, and the subsequent decisions on how to repair the kingdom. I tried to hint it; obviously I failed with at least one reader.

"As for his parents, they died when he was not quite old enough to talk, and he was then surrounded by adoring relatives who had the wit to pick good tutors. Being good looking and fast he was popular with his peers from an early age, and thus made emotional bonds with peers rather than the older generation" (Msg. 2566).

Q: Why did Savona support Vidanric as king, rather than trying for the throne himself?

A: "... he most definitely did not want the added responsibility of the throne. From a young age he had his own responsibilities dinned in his ears, and while he met them, he had no illusions about glamour of power. His throwing in with Vidanric was partly friendship and partly adventure when they were younger, and later because Vidanric made it clear that he could only bring it off if he had, in effect, a team of people (the court interview scene was supposed to hint at all that, without being overly didactic for the young reader who doesn't really want to know about the ins and outs of government" (Msg. 2579).

Q: "Now I have a sneaking suspicion. Did Princess Elestra show Mel the library her first night at Athanarel in order to throw Mel and Danric together? And was Danric the one who told his mother Mel liked to read or was that Bran?"

A: "She didn't do it to throw them together, but to make an extra friendly gesture, so Mel wouldn't think her an enemy. And both told her about Mel's reading" (Msg. 3459). .:. Top .:.


About the World of Crown Duel

Q: "What is the signifigance of regions such as Merindar and Renselaeus, which are named after the ruling families?"

A: "Historical association is the short answer. That determines how Renselaeus is a principality and Tlanth is a county. As for names and places... if the ruling family has been in charge since the place was formed, or renamed, then the family name is also the place name" (Msg. 251).

Q: "How does the political system work? Is Aranu Crown sovreign over Remalna, or just more powerful so that Remalna wishes to emulate the Empire?"

A: "Well, in that world, she's an empress, and everyone owes her a distant sort of fealty. That means if the really nasty Emperor of Sveran Djur declares war, Remalna owes her fighting men, etc, but on the other hand she is obliged to protect Remalna with her greater forces. There is also an easement in trade taxes.

"In the world where the stories really take place, Sartor is no longer an empire (though it will be again; these things keep evolving), and therefore Remalna is independent. But Sartor's queen is recognized by all monarchs (except a couple...) as First Among Equals, because Sartor is the oldest kingdom on the world" (Msg. 251).

Q: "How widespread is the Code of War in Meliara's world?"

A: "Not very; that area is the last holdout, and everywhere else arrows, and even crossbows, are common. There is magic sanction against gunpowder though ( a universal spell made years ago, and nigh unbreakable) that prevents the powder--if it can even be made--from igniting. The technology of warfare will never get past, say, the Napoleonic period sans artillery and musketry" (Msg. 258).

Q: "In the party scene of Court Duel where the Renselaeus' hosted, it said that the room had "tiers" around the floor. Does that mean the ground is uneven?"

A: "Well, not quite; the floor is even, but there is a low dais around the edges, where people sit on pillows at low tables. It's no more than about ten inches above the floor--just enough so that people don't think they're sitting on the floor, but not enough for two steps" (Msg. 403).

Q: "I was wondering where and why you came up with the notion of kneeling for formal occasions and meals."

A: "It's a part of their culture--the images were there, and I had to go along with them. (And later I figured it made sense, in a land where there is very, very little wooden furniture, but lots and lots of woven textiles.)" (Msg. 2776)

Q: "In the worlds you create, are there countries that differ as much as ours do? Are there "third world" countries, or anything like that? Are there different languages, and races? Are there any humans who are not caucasion?"

A: "I can't answer for anyone else's world, but this one I've been working on my whole life. I constructed their globe when I was 19, but it took another almost twenty years to discover all the countries on it, and then to start delving back in the history, to find where and when things changed, and why.

"Humans did not evolve there, and there are indigenous sentients, who have had a profoundly powerful impact on humans. So you can't really compare completely with Earth. There are different languages, as for races-- when people stay in a given area, they began to evolve subtle physical differences over the milennia. Some are quite different, others marginally so. Customs vary quite a bit. As for not caucasian, the humans that came over were from quite a number of racial backgrounds, who blended so long ago, that the physical characteristics of given geopolities can't be related to Earth races any more. But the average skintone is roughly the color of latte, and varies a lot" (Msg. 2091).

Q: "What about climate, and its effect on evolution? Are there polar and tropical regions? If so, wouldn't fair skin be a survival trait in the former and more melanin in the latter, so variations would evolve as the have in our world? What about ice ages?"

A: "The planet is colder than earth; the polar regions are indeed cold, though a strong current up one coast brings fairly mild weather surprisingly far north, in the spring and summer.

"White skin and hair are survival traits of the morvende, who live underground. The equator on land is banded by high mountains that are uninhabitable for humans; the islands along the equator are indeed warm, and brownskinned peoples live there.

"Humans have only been on this world for under ten thousand years, and they have been tampered with by the indigenous peoples, so Darwinianism is worthless to discuss with respect to that world" (Msg. 2097).

Q: "What is the name of the world?"

A: "Sartorias-deles (that's what the humans call it)" (Msg. 2104).

Q: "What country on Earth would Remalna most resemble? Ireland maybe?"

A: "Not Ireland--at least, not the Ireland that I picture. More like New Zealand, I think" (Msg. 2520).

Q: "In England, in a similar historical period, the sons of noblemen were often sent to the households of their fathers' allies to be fostered and trained in the knightly arts. I gather that is NOT the norm here, and the young aristocrats would be raised in the bosoms of their families if it weren't for the meddling of a tyrant." 

A: "Yes; Flauvic was the only one sent out as a page, and it harmed him probably even more than his family would have. (He could have made friends at court, instead of coming home and seeing them instantly as rivals.) (Msg. 2570)

Q: "How did humans get there? Magical or scientific means? Did they come to explore or immigrate or were they brought here as prisoners?"

A: "World gates, over a number of centuries" (Msg. 2105).

Q: "Do they remember Earth at all? Or do the worldgates permit them some contact?"

A: "The only ones who remember are the occasional ones who come through in their own lifetimes, of course.

"Otherwise, the old data is elusive, some having been destroyed over the centuries, and because some of the groups that came over did not have written language. Travel is still possible, but it takes a very great deal of magic ability--and some risk, mostly because time can be mutable" (Msg. 2840).

Q: "If humans came to the world of CD, would some of Earth's flora and fauna have come with them through the world gates, either deliberately or unintentionally? Horses and roses would be examples of the former, but bears and skunks might possibly fall into the latter category (i.e. the bear-trap that got Mel's ankle, comparison of Flauvic to a skunk - I can't imagine anyone deliberately bringing them)?"

A: "Both intentionally and unintentionally. Rats, for example, came over when ships sailed inadvertently through the worldgate; what were then food animals were brought (pigs and cows, goats, etc) and rats and mice came along for the ride. Insects as well, though some of those have evolved; if there are mosquitoes now, frex, they do not suck blood" (Msg. 2527).

Q: "Didn't the planet have pre-existing species?"

A: "There were no indigenous mammals. All those were brought--and there were some mages who deliberately brought over as many species to make the place as Earth-like as possible. Many plants have adapted, some maintained their genetic individualism; same with animals" (Msg. 2541).

Q: "How idealized do you see Mel's world as being--in other words, how much do you share your characters' mores/ideas?"

A: "I don't see it as idealized so much as different--human beings still have terrific problems, which causes much debate among the non-humans watching. But they have come a long way, which seems to enable them to learn new things in new ways.

"Though I do wish I could live there, because there are no mosquitoes, no horrors like cancer or STDs--those specifics were eradicated; things that people do to themselves still haven't been. But by and large, short of murder, people live a long time, and there is usually a sense of when death is coming, when the body needs to be shed and the mind perceives it. (Which makes murder all the more shocking.)

"As for how much I share their mores...I'd have to think about that. Most, perhaps, though not all; for example, I live in a completely monogamous marriage, but I can see how, in their culture, some alternatives could work.

"I can also understand the mindset of the Marlovens, say, though sometimes it gives me chills" (Msg. 2360).

Q: "[Sartorias-deles] seems so idealized and perfect... Not that I'm complaining about it, but it's like our world but with all the bad things gone. I was wondering why you created this world in this way?"

A: "Well, it's not perfect; basically, the indigenous life forms, appalled by these things that came through and started multiplying and spreading out, carrying their diseases and wars, tried to fix things for the humans--immediate things, like waste spells and the like--and then started (in subtle ways, taking centuries) to fix things, with the concurrence of the mages then--mostly women. (Who ruthlessly began a campaign to execute child molestors, etc.) Their history is not all happy, it's very strange, and humans still have many human problems, but in other ways they are somewhat different from here.

"As for why--well, I saw the world the way it was, and tried to figure out why it was that way. Why were the cities so clean, I wondered when I was a kid. I knew about sewers, etc. Why is it safe to drink from a stream there, and not here? Why is it safe for kids to go off for a few years of adventuring, and parents don't mind (well, most don't mind) whereas here, you do it and you know you'll soon be dead? Etc" (Msg. 2530).

Q: "So... can children travel alone in that world?"

A: "Ten is the usual age kids will do a walkabout in that world. Ten and up, that is" (Msg. 2541).

Q: "I remember reading somewhere that in the world of CD that puberty hits only when a person has his or her full growth. Does this mean that there's a different between physical maturity (i.e. voice changes, facial hair, etc.) and sexual maturity (i.e. the ability to have kids)?"

A: "It means it hits more or less at once--physical maturity fist,then sexual. So girls don't get their cycle until 16-18 or even twenty. It's about the same for guys having to go get the beard spell" (Msg. 2447).

Q: "I was having a discussion with a friend about family/family units, and the past versus the present. Which in turn made me curious about Remalna... it seems there that families stay together, but it also seems that women have as much freedom as men, and do the same kinds of jobs, which sort of gets rid of the need..."

A: "Well, there are some crucial differences between Earth's past and the past of this world, the main one being that in Earth's past, women kept producing children willynilly, so to speak, and also there was no protection for children in family units.

"On my world, humans were not the original inhabitants--who were appalled when these fast-breeding, dirty, disgusting creatures came through the world gate, killing each other off including their own offspring at times. Babies starving, etc. One of the things they did to try to improve the lot of humans, and keep them from spreading everywhere, was to take away their ability to breed without thought. Women have to go to a little trouble to have kids, which means they have to want them, which keeps the population down to a stable number. This has rung profound changes all the way down through the ages, concerning families, how kids are raised, rights, freedoms, the whole bit" (Msg. 2759).

Q: "Beard spell??? Is this to keep them from getting "face fur" or to keep it from looking scruffy? Also, does the "waste spell" take care of the girls' cycles?"

A: "Right on both counts. Sometimes beards or mustaches come into fashion, and then the guys get modified spells. And yes; the girls are taught a modified Waste Spell that gets rid of the mess all at once" (Msg. 2491).

Q: "[Is there] a law of primogeniture for royalty? Or does it apply only when an heir isn't named?"

A: "There is no rule of primogeniture, but it so happens that the oldest is the best suited for ruling. The two girls [Mel and Danric's daughters, Elestra and Oria, after their oldest, son Alaerec] want nothing to do with it; Oria will be leaving to train in high magic soon's she hits fifteen. She has been counting the days since she was about nine. Elestra will end up as a well known writer for the region. (3 kids is also quite rare.)" (Msg. 2447)

Q: "How long were they [the Merindars] in power? For that matter, how were they able to gain the throne in the first place if they had so much familial in-fighting going on?"

A: " I recall, when the Calahanras family nearly died out--last of them either didn't want to rule, or was a lousy ruler--there was a power play, and the Merindars were the toughest bunch and came out on top. Only for about three generations, though. The Calanhanras ancestors were a smart bunch and kept the Merindars on task and limited in powers" (Msg. 2504).

Q: "Sherwood, I noticed that a lot of your names use the same sounds/letter combinations such as 'ara/ra'-end [for women] (beginning of Arthal though), 'Mel'-start, 'ic/ec'-end, [and for men,] 'ri/i,'-middle. I noticed that one day on a re-read, I think it was the name 'Melise' that set it off, but it could have been another. Anyway I started writing down names, and noticed all of the simillarities, more often with women's names then men's, and especially then, the closer/more important the woman is to the main charachter the more likely it seems that her name will end in an 'r-a,' and sometimes 'i' combination. Was there anything to that, or am I just insane. . . .?"

A: "There are linguistic patterns to the names--yes--but the 'ra' thing is pure coincidence. (If you saw all the main storyline that this story is just a tiny part of, it might be more clear.) Meliara is actually related to a far older name on that world, that has evolved through several language shifts and splits" (Msg. 2765).

Q: "What are all the major [countries] on the planet, I know that there are Sartor, Remalna, and a few others ... and are both [the CD and Wren] stories in the same world? Is there some kind of ocean that separates them (kind like the Atlantic or Pacific)?" 

A: "Sartor and Remalna are on the same continent, at the eastern end. Most of the stories on this world take place in the southern hemisphere. There are five major continents, and a number of island groupings.

"It is not the same as Wren's world, which has a lot more islands and is tectonically far more active" (Msg. 3011). .:. Top .:.

Q: "How are flower days celebratd?"

A: "It depends on where you are, of course--different places celebrate it differently. Basically it's the day that a kid is regarded as an adult, at least, the day after, they appear in adult clothes, instead of the outfits that are pretty much interchangeable between the sexes for kids. (And some places are stricter about that than others.)" (Msg. 3118) .:. Top .:.

Q: "How do the nobles celebrate their Flower Day in Remalna?

A: "Oh, with a big party--usually a ball--at which the young person dresses as an adult and dances publicly for the first time" (Msg. 3169). .:. Top .:.



Q: "How long is a year in CD? Do they divide it up into months and weeks like we do?"

A: "441 days. 12 months of 36 days each and seven day weeks--all taken from Earth, which is where the humans first came from. The extra week is New Year's Week--in the Northern Hemisphere nations that keep the Sartoran calendar, it's Midsummer Week" (Msg. 2830).

Q: "Do they still have the Earth names for the months and days of the week? Or have they been discarded?"

A: "Oh, they were long ago discarded. Some have their language equivalents of Firstmonth, Secondmonth, Firstday, Secondday, etc, others have seasonal names" (Msg. 2833).

Q: "Do they even have holidays in Remalna?"

A: "The celebratory days that most places on the world share are the New Years' Week ones. Individual celebration days occur depending on where you live. (Msg. 2804)

"…The most important celebration is New Year's Week, which exists outside of the calendar (12 months, 36 days); New Year's thus always begins on a Monday. Customs vary from country to country, but the basic tradition is that oaths are renewed on First Day (some places, important weddings are performed--like Remalna, others wait on Third Day) and one forgives and makes amends. Second Day, in many places, is Debt Day--you pay what you owe. Etc.

"Midsummer is a celebratory day as well; it's pretty much considered a day off from work, a day on which to make merry. (Msg. 2824)

"…In some places the first three days are more serious, and people are to abstain from wine while seeing to various things such as debts, resolving problems, renewing oaths, whatever, and in others the first three days are for making merry. In one place, the first day tends to end up with duels" (Msg. 2827).

Q: "Sherwood, you said that Remalna celebrates mid-summer (summer solstice?) with a ball, does that mean that they have a mid-winter ball as well?"

A: "Well, that would be New Year's. (They deliberately counted the days so that the first day of New Year's falls on the darkest day of the year in the south, and longest in the north.)" (Msg. 2846) .:. Top .:.



Q: "How and why does magic work in Remalna? And how do people know how to do it? Did they always know, did they figure it out for themselves, or did somebody tell them?"

A: "All right. There's almost no magic in Remalna, that is, almost no mages. The Fire Sticks are made by the Hill Folk, who are indigenous. They have their own ways of accessing magic, which is, oh, think of it like electricity: its potential is there, a part of the world, but you have to know how to access it.

"Humans found magic when they came to the world. At first, the beings there gave them the ability to access it easily--and they managed to almost destroy themselves, nearly destroying all the magic potential of the world itself. Many, many centuries later, human populations recovered, and so did magic potential.

"Learning to use magic became more difficult, more controlled. Magicians use words and gestures; these are not 'magical' in themselves, but help to contain the magic. Think of a huge electrical pool of potential. If you turn it all on at once, what do you get? Crispy Mage! So the words and gestures help the human being to control the amount, and do what needs doing" (Msg. 512).

Q: "Obviously not everyone in Remalna does magic. Is it simply because not everyone wants to both with training? Or are some people better at it than others? Or are only some people able to do it at all?"

A: "I don't think many people want to bother with it. Life's basics are met, and so much of magic doing is keeping ordinary things going properly.

Q: "So somebody gave people the ability to access magic? Who and how?"

A: "Indigenous beings, and they did it by example, once they figured how to communicate with humans."

Q: "How can the magic potential be destroyed?"

A: "Used up."

Q: " 'Many, many centuries later, human populations recovered, and so did magic potential'. Are these two events in any way linked?"

A: "Yup."

Q: " 'Learning to use magic became more difficult, more controlled'. Did the creatures who gave people the ability to use magic do this to safeguard things? Or was this a natural effect of the magic potential almost being destroyed?"

A: "Both, is the simple answer. (I actually explore more of this particular question in one I'm writing now, set several centuries before all the ones you've read.)

"Magicians use words and gestures; these are not 'magical' in themselves, but help to contain the magic. Think of a huge electrical pool of potential. If you turn it all on at once, what do you get? Crispy Mage! So the words and gestures help the human being to control the amount, and do what needs doing."

Q: "Do magicians cast spells in a special language? If so, is it because it's somehow 'better' for magic, or is it just because? If the words and gestures are just arbitrary, does that mean you could simply say 'oogledy-boo' and have something happen? Could you cast spells in your own language?"

A: "No. The language is ancient Sartoran, though some don't know that any more, and think of it as the language of magic. And it's arbitrary because that's the only way for the human mind to shape magic; think of mentally building a house. You don't skip the foundations, or put butter in place of wooden a-frames, just because it sounds nice."

Q: "Is this an effect of magic becoming 'more difficult, more controlled'? Is it now impossible to use magic without a spoken spell? Is it just a crutch people use? Or is it a kind of mental block trained into them so they can't turn themselves into crispy critters?"

A: "Oh, that's right, you haven't read the redbook, when some of the poopsies discover how to access the Old Magic. They're taught that the spells, etc, are the only way, but some discover that it isn't, but the Old Magic is really, really dangerous."

Q: "How are spells made? Can new ones be made?"

A: "Yes, by a whole lot of experimenting."

Q: "What are the limitations of magic? What are the things you can and can't do with it?"

A: "Ah, that one is impossible to address swiftly. I think you can do most anything, but how labor intensive is it? Say you want a new gown. It's actually easier to purchase the cloth and cut the pattern and sew it than to do spells to summon the elements of your cloth, bind them together into fabric, and then do all the other steps. Each has to be done exhaustively and specifically."

Q: "Does using magic have any nasty side effects on you/the bespelled object/the neighborhood?"

A: "Not what's called white magic. It just doesn't work if you're wrong. The opposite is very dangerous to self and environment."

Q: "Let me see, I think that covers it....OH! Can you tell me how to turn my math teacher's computer into a gecko so she can't teach me math anymore?"

A: "Sorry--I only do dragons!" (Msg. 689)

Q: "So the amount of magic potential is related to the number of sentient/living beings in the area?

A: "No, not at all. It's more that both took approximately the same time to recover."

Q: "So you have to use Sartoran, instead of any old words that spring to mind? Or is it that you have to use a foreign language?"

A: "No, you have to use Sartoran, the specific words. Just as you are taught that 'house' means that thing over there when you are small. You can't suddely begin calling it a googoo. The word, the image, and the action go together, shaping a kind of mental control."

Q: "Can you say the words of a spell without actually doing anything? If not, how is magic ever taught? And what did the ancient Sartorans do?"

A: "The Old Sartorans shaped it all mentally. You can say the words, but without the signs (it shapes the mental intent) nothing happens" (Msg. 696).



Q: "When exactly do girls wear tunics? It seems like Mel wears them around home at the castle, and to fence in, etc, but Nee wear dresses at home. Is that just a typical Mel thing or is it custom?"

A: "Well, children in general wear tunics, except perhaps the wealthy and the aristocrats (which Nee is on both counts). Tunics are also worn for general training and work" (Msg. 625).

Q: "So what was the dress code like?"

A: "As for my world, it's a cold, wet climate, so clothing tends to cover one. Everyone wears hats, for example. Sleeves are in for both sexes, to keep them warm, and tend to be decorated if you can afford it" (Msg. 1229).

Q: "I was wondering if Mel ever decided to re-introduce the fashions of the time of the Desert Queen, which if I recall correctly were loose, flowing blouses and trousers like palazzo pants. Would have been much more comfortable and practical."

A: "Well, they already wear trousers for riding clothes. Mel likes pretty dresses too much to change radically--and the climate was in a warm spell when Therais was there (actually she's from the plains...those stories are my best ones of all; I changed it to Desert for the Harcourt version, when I set it nominally in Wren's world.)" (Msg. 2776)

Q: "When you wrote Court Duel, did you base the fashion on a specific period of history, and if so, which one?"

A: "None, actually--those gowns are a combination of many fashions, and of course there was no Western period where they sat on cushions, so dinner dresses were made narrow, and dancing dresses belled out. But I've been studying fashion books for so many decades, it becomes easy to envision how fashions change in a world one is writing about" (Msg. 1732).

Q: "Other than being really cool, what exactly is the purpose [of fan language]? I mean, if everyone knows fan language, then it's not secret, right? So in communicating subtle underlying messages, would they be so subtle? Or is it meant more like a hand gestures are used today?"

A: "Oh, it's the variations, and the fact that one can communicate without words, that makes these things work. One can also flirt in a crowd, if the fan movement is quick enough" (Msg. 2114).

Q: "Sherwood, where did you find your [fan language] information?"

A: "Well, I find it everywhere. Ideas come at me the more I read history. In this case, I found out about fan (and other clothing codes) by reading about the history of the court of Louis XIV" (Msg. 2093).

...See also: Excerpt about fan languageon Sherwood's site, here.

Q: "In both CD and Beauty, the heroines dislike being skinny, and you said that Mel only pities skinny girls. I was wondering if that's was the common attitude of people in Remalna. I guess what I'm trying to ask, is whether their opinions are a socially accepted view of their time, or whether they are unique to them. Kind of trivial, I know, but it's just something I've been wondering about."

A: "Super-skinny is not considered attractive in their culture. (It looks rotten in ballgowns--bones sticking out all over.) They all get plenty of exercise, so they are in good shape, but the men tend to look most at the girls with real figures, and the girls admire another woman who wears her gowns well--and that means having some real curve to hips, etc. (Some girls as scrawny as Mel pad their gowns, but Mel is far too "what you see is what you get" for that.)" (Msg. 2199)

Q: "If they don't have leather, what do they make boots out of? ... Why no leather? They eat meat, don't they?"

A: "Blackweave--the thickest, toughest leddas--provides boots and belts and most purposes of leather. Shod with iron, for marching long distances" (Msg. 2270) ... "They do not eat mammals. Only fish and fowl" (Msg. 2287).

Q: "Is ledda a kind of plant, or fabric?"

A: "Leddas is a spiky, waxy-leafed plant that grows in marshes and along rivers. There are many varieties" (Msg. 2282).


Mel's Name Day, Rings

Q: "What does the finger that Mel wore her ring on signify?"

A: "The ring was on her longest finger, which is the heart finger for that particular society. Its meaning is actually marriage" (Msg. 124). . . . "Fidelity to one's true love" (Msg. 251). . . . "Oh, think about it: longest finger, courtship for life! (Little finger means 'flirtation only')" (Msg. 2841).

Q: "I just lent my friend Hilde, who makes jewelry, the paperback of CD, and we were wondering if an ekirth was modeled on the black opal. Hilde pointed out that most 'black' opals are dark green or blue, with flashes of color."

A: "Actually, I didn't know about black opals when I first wrote CD. There [are] a bunch of flowers, stones, birds, trees, etc, that haven't anything to do with Earth, or are evolved from forms brought over. 2766

Q: "Why did Vidanric put Mel's ring on after the ball?"

A: "For courage! He'd decided to commit himself, whatever happened" (Msg. 251).

Q: "When Vidanric gave Mel the ring, did he know it was her Name Day that day, or was it just really good timing by luck?"

A: "What happened was that Julen saw instantly what was going on, during Vidanric's stay at the Tlanth castle. Or, she was pretty sure. So she tested the waters by casually dropping a hint once, when Vidanric came down to breakfast in order to deal with mail while Nee, Bran, and Mel were still asleep. She mentioned Name Day celebrations, and how Mel's was coming up, and how Bran probably would have forgotten...

"So Vidanric thought about it all the way through the journey back to the capital, and decided that Mel would like a gift, but not with any strings attached. (For someone as totally inexperienced in romance as Mel, a 'string' would be knowing the name of the sender!) So he did what he did, and the fact that he was right gave him the first key to understanding her--and his first hope that they might, eventually, be able to communicate" (Msg. 300).

Q: "How come Vidanric didn't remind Bran about Mel's Name Day? Did he think Bran remembered and didn't want to be rude or did he not want Bran to think he was in love with Mel?"

A: "It wasn't even remotely his place to do so, though he suspected (and was right) that Bran had clean forgotten. (But then Bran was always saying, 'What month are we in now anyway?' so this was no surprise.)" (Msg. 334).



Q: "What do you think would have happened if the Duke of Savona fell in love with Meliara too? Hey, it could have happened!"

A: "Well, it could have happened, though it wasn't too likely. Mel was far too unsophisticated for Savona to be attracted to her. He regarded her right from the start as a kind of little sister (which is why his fake courtship didn't even including holding hands!). Whereas Vidanric was tired of court masks.

"But if it had happened, it would have put strain on a very old friendship until they both felt badly enough about that to have a talk, agree that Mel would take her pick, and the loser would retire honorably. And then Savona (who would have lost, because even if he had courted her, she wouldn't have responded for long) would probably have taken off for a world tour, or visited cousins elsewhere, until he got over it. His being gone would have forced Tamara to grow up a little, too, so when he returned he would have seen her with new eyes" (Msg. 46).

Q: "How did Savona know that Vidanric's feelings for Mel weren't hopeless?"

A: "Oh, it was so obvious to anyone who wasn't too busy with their own concerns. Savona would nearly explode with suppressed laughter when Vidanric came into a room and the first thing he looked for was Mel... and the first thing Mel looked for was Vidanric--whereupon she'd turn her back. And keep checking, and checking, and checking... Vidanric would scrupulously not look her way again, so he didn't see all this. Savona had no such compunctions. He thought it was better than a play--and he was especially amused that his quiet, sophisticated cousin didn't fall for some incredibly sophisticated, much traveled lady, but a loudmouthed, passionate, scarcely civilized, totally inexperienced person like Mel! Savona had enough experience to know that opposites don't always work out in a relationship, but he suspected that in the case of Mel and Vidanric they were alike in the deeper things, and where they were unalike they would always be interesting to one another, because they were unpredictable. He was determined to help them come together--though they did it fine enough on their own!" (Msg. 251).

Q: "Did Elenet know about Vidanric's feelings for Mel?"

A: "She knew it almost from the gitgo; she saw it, same as Savona did. That is why she was so uncomfortable around Mel, and poor Mel (not your most perceptive individual) finally figured it out when she heard Elenet laughing for the first time, when she and Nee were talking and Mel wasn't present. Elenet was fairly devastated, finally figured that she and Shevraeth were far too alike, and she got over it after a time. After which she, too, got her happy ending. She stayed friends with Vidanric, and made better friends with Mel" (Msg. 292).

Q: "Towards the end of Court Duel Mel talks about remembering the servants trying to throw them together. What was she referring to?"

A: "The servants trying to throw Mel and Vidanric together were the ones who carefully put Mel on Vidanric's trail at the end. There were plenty of ways she could have gotten to that forest, but the runners involved, and her own maid, thought if the two could just be together away from court, maybe they could hammer out their problems. (Because they all knew about the letters, of course.)" (Msg. 1034)

Q: "Why was Mel so embarrassed to see Bran and Vidanric in their shirts? When they were gearing up for battle and didn't have tunics on. Likewise, why was she embarassed to be seen in a shirt?"

A: "It's because she was already feeling attraction for Vidanric, which she translated out into a sense of intimacy. Wearing shirts to them is about like wearing the undershirt sort of t-shirts now; it's not taboo, but implies intimacy, or at least familiarity. She was also subliminally aware that Vidanric was looking at her, too!" (Msg. 1226)

Q: "I've always wondered, what did Bran and Nee (along with the Prince and Princess) think about Vidanric being in love/marrying Meliara, and vise versa?"

A: "Bran saw it coming almost from the first moment he saw them together, at the end of Crown Duel, which is why he actually backed off from teasing her, once he'd asked how many times Vidanric had saved her life and why didn't he know? That's why he brought Vidanric along at the beginning of Court Duel, hoping that his wayward sister would get her act together. No, of course she had to do it the hard way.

"Nee didn't see it until Bran explained it to her, and then she, too, stayed out of their way.

"The Prince saw it right from that dinner that Mel and Bran went to, told his wife, and they were on the watch to try to facilitate things" (Msg. 1253).

Q: "Vidanric says to Mel [that the white rose was] 'something to convince you of my good intentions,' and that the rose means 'Purity of Intent' -- was that a deliberate hint to Mel? Or to the readers?"

A: "Oh, just to Mel! He was actually a tad chagrined that she wrote it all down, but of course would never think of interfering" (Msg. 1774).

Q: "If Elenet is Nee's best friend, and it was completely and totally obvious to us that she was in love with Vidanric, then why didn't Nee pick up on that? Or did she realize but inside still wanted Mel to be with Vidanric?"

A: "Nee didn't know about Elenet's feelings for Vidanric. There are two reasons, one; that moment when Mel accidently saw Elenet and Vidanric, in the courtyard, Elenet was not wearing her "court face", her expression was utterly unguarded, but also, when one person has feelings for another, they tend to be preternaturally sensitive to others who might also have feelings for that same person.

"Second, Nee had known Elenet all her life, and had it firmly in mind that Elenet was serious, devoted to both art and to her home territory, and just wasn't the type to fall in love. So she was completely oblivious to other meanings there. What she thought about no more sad songs was that Elenet might, at last, be able to get rid of the debts her stupid great-uncle was piling up, and because he stayed at court gambling so much, she was able to straighten out things at home" (Msg. 2205).

Q: "Sherwood- So, don't you have a specific idea of what twoing, etc. is? I mean, how do you picture it?"

A: "Sure I have specific ideas, that is, I know what the words mean in the cultures involved. But you have to remember that human relationships always redefine themselves. Take Oria, now. For her, twoing would be a lot of flirting, a partner to dance with, lots of laughter, some kisses, gifts back and forth, talk. She's far too busy with her real love--her work. And so "twoing" would mean, for her, "exclusive flirt for about a year or so" and then it's time to part as friends, and find a new flirt.

"For her brother, once he reached the age, Twoing meant looking for a wife. He wanted a family" (Msg. 2274).

CastleTlanth messages 2274 – 2343: Discussion of twoing, monogamy, marriage, and Vidanric’s past, ah, experience. (Some questions turn into discussions, and aren't really in good 'Q&A' format, so I'm just adding a link to this info here in case anyone wants to check it out.)

Q: "Is it more difficult to get out of a ring marriage than a non-ring marriage?"

A: "No. The method is the same; it's just that ring marriages include vows of fidelity, so you can imagine the emotional fallout of one or the other partner turns out to be frail" (Msg. 2360).

Q: "If Danric had been really in love with Tamara, who would have made a dreadful queen, would he have married her?"

A: "Yes he would have" (Msg. 2570).

Q [Well, statement, anyway]: "I always felt Savona was probably doing a lot of stuff that wasn't brought up because it was too dangerous to mention--intelligence work, perhaps, as well as his above board activities. I do think he deserves better than Tamara." 

A: "Well, but they both really, really enjoy making up from their frequent quarrels...and she does gain some wisdom as she gets older. (Her mother, a beauty, was a cold, vain fool who began competing with her daughter when Tamara was small, and consequently Tamara actually had some serious self esteem issues.)" (Msg. 2570).



Q: "How did you come up with Flauvic's character?"

A: "Flauvic is an example of what a person can be like who is raised in a court atmosphere. I have some stories that examine that phenomenon, in the bigger project, and what it means to be exposed from a young age to the ethos of a very sophisticated court. (And those other characters are far more interesting than Flauvic, which is why they have whole stories about them, and he doesn't.)" (Msg. 100).

Q: "Vidanric says about the Marquise, "She's the only one in the family who's still a danger...". Is there a reason he doesn't suspect Flauvic at this point, or is he just not mentioning him?"

A: "No one knew that Flauvic was studying magic. Not even his mother--which is why he had to get rid of her for his plot. Flauvic, in short, fooled everyone. Except the hill folk, who sensed his destructive magic way before he decided to move" (Msg. 251).

Q: "Why does Flauvic call Vidanric his cousin?"

A: "Intermarriage between the families a couple generations back (Msg. 251)." . . . also: "It's because the families are related by marriage a couple generations before. Not a close cousin, like Savona" (Msg. 120).

Q: "I was rereading Court Duel, and near the end, Flauvic tells Meliara, "I wish you could have been granted the right tutor." Mel and I wonder same question. Tutor in what?"

A: "Tutor in...whatever. Sex? Politics? What he wanted was her to have had no morals, like him" (Msg. 1721).

Q: "Given the mutual dislike within the Merindar family, would Flauvic's attempt to seize the throne be motivated more by a desire to show up his mother and sister rather than the family's hunger for power?"

A: "A good question, and yes, a great deal of Flauvic's motivation was competition with his mother" (Msg. 2527).

Q: Had Flauvic's plan worked, would he have even been able to hold the throne?

A: "I don't think Flauvic would have stayed on the throne much past getting revenge against his own family, especially as he'd have faced resentment and covert as well as overt resistance from all those who had been put in place since the Merindar days. The Merindar "machine" had been pretty well dismanstled by the Renselaeus parents during the interregnum, and their own trusted people eased into place. The idea being, after the coronation, things would precede smoothly" (Msg. 2527).

Also concerning Flauvic, see: "Beauty", After "Beauty"


The Meridar House Party

Q: "I came across that section again that drives me nuts because I don't get it! It's on page 109 to 110, that whole conversation they are having at the Merindar house. What is it that Mel 'misses'? There are undercurrents there that I just keep missing, too."

A: "Well, Mel gives the main hint when she talks about the 'verbal trap'--in other words, Tamara knew very well that Mel was lousy at sword fighting. So her comment about rising at dawn to observe her (all in fake admiration) was to trick Mel into admitting she was lousy--thus not only admitting that she was a crummy swordfighter, but crummy at words. (In other words, stupid.)

"Then Fialma (the Pickle) attacks with her "mere swordplay" comment, hinting that whatever Mel does is simply childish--that she was a loser at 'real' dueling (i.e. the war) and thus is a loser in all regards.

"Then Tamara gives the finishing blow hinting that Shevraeth went easy on her even in defeating her, so she's even more of a loser. And Fialma asks if it's a contest (duel) when the best riders don't even participate. She turns to Shevraeth, who zaps her with his comment about how if the "point" draws blood it's a duel--in other words, he's quite aware of what she's saying, and is giving his own--very oblique--warning to back off. The others, who don't like Fialma, laugh a little, and she knows she lost, so she sighs and bows out gracefully--her fan language indicates that at least he was oblique, and not overt. So she lost with what grace she could muster, but still lost" (Msg. 573).


"In other words, Shevraeth is not only rejecting Fialma's snide implication that he won't race because he's a better rider than Mel, but telling her obliquely he knows what she's doing.

"And because he was oblique, rather than overt, she thanks him for his "liberality"--and Flauvic, ever alert to the slightest hint of secrecy, is the first outside of Savona (and Bran) to pick up the vibes between Mel and Shevraeth. (Why do you think he took a sudden interest in her? At first to find a way to use her against Shevraeth--and then because he was amazed that Shevraeth was attracted to someone exactly the opposite of what anyone would have predicted.)" (Msg. 2149).

Q: "...At that Merindar party, Fialma, Tamara and Mel were talking about duels and then Flauvic and Danric came up. Flauvic was looking at the three of them, but he looked at Mel twice... what was that significance? ...Did he sense something between Mel & Danric? If so what was it? "

A: "He did indeed see just the most subtle sign of interest, but only one way, from Danric to Mel. He was busy thinking how to exploit it when Mel herself showed up to see him, all alone. His idea was to get involved with Mel in order to stir up Vidanric--and keep his mind off other events in the kingdom. (Nobody had ever turned him down before, so it took him quite by surprise.)" (Msg. 2010)

Q: "So, Nee and Trishe picked up on that [Shevraeth's intrest in Mel] too? Or were they just realizing Fialma's insult to Meliara?"

A: "By then Nee had a pretty good idea what was going on, though she didn't trust herself (she was hoping too hard Mel and Vidanric would make a match, so she never did really trust her instincts--after all, Mel was so new to her). Trishe, the kindhearted, did see Fialma's nastiness, and blushed for it; they all had known Fialma for years, and loathed her because she'd begun as a nasty kid and just got meaner as she got older" (Msg. 2153).

Q: "At the Marquise of Merindar's gathering, is Savona present? It says that a Duke is there, and you do not note his absence as you do the Prince and Princess of Renselaeus."

A: "Yes he's there, and super quiet, observing everything. (He would never have flirted with Mel under the Marquise's nose--give her too much ammunition.)" (Msg. 3459) .:. Top .:.


The Wedding, After the Story

Q: "Anyone else (besides moi of course) wonder what the wedding was like?"

A: "Weddings on that world are fairly simple . . . Royal ones aren't, unless the partner is to be merely a consort, i.e. with no political authority. The wedding itself is first: the couple wears white and green (in most places; in some, they wear House colors) and they exchange vows that have been more or less the same for ages. (There are different types of weddings, such as ring weddings and non-ring weddings, but I won't go into all that now.)

"But the tough part, for Mel, were all the vows that in effect invested her with authority as a queen. Now, this was one situation where the groom had a great time, because Vidanric had grown up doing formal parties, and he'd planned to get a whole lot of diplomatic fences mended, and pay off the last of the old scores vis-a-vis those who were secretly helping the Merinders. But Mel was so terrified of making a mistake she was a robot for the day. Her female friends designed her gown, and coached her, and Savona tried to crack a couple jokes to get her to smile, until he realized she couldn't hear him. That's why there's no real writeup in her account--she really doesn't remember it.

"Afterward, of course, when she began to gain confidence, she realized that no one really enjoyed stuffy parties, and because most of court was so young, she changed fashion--parties were a lot more fun, and she was a great hostess. (She was especially good because she was always on the watch for newcomers, and got quite practiced at gently finding a way for them to fit in.)" (Msg. 322).

Q: "Did Mel ever give Ara the promised tour of Athanarel when she became Queen?"

A: "Ara was there at the wedding! (And didn't she just stick it to her snotty friend at the next farm over, afterward!)" (Msg. 313).

Q: "What ever happened to Ara and her family?"

A: "Nothing story-like, which means they had regular lives; they did have to evacuate during the war, but came back and took right up again when it was over" (Msg. 2883).

Q: "If Mel had to throw a ball for Bran and Nee for their wedding, wouldn't Savona have to throw a party for Mel and Vidanric? That would be kinda slammin' to watch--the ball I mean."

A: "Well, actually, the family that is being adopted into throws the official party, and so there was a very correct, very sedate, very expensive one thrown by the Prince and Princess, with all the local diplomats attending. Mel, of course, was on her best behavior, and found it agonizing. But Savona did indeed throw a party for them, for just the young people, and that one was a total blast--so fun that it went clear into the next day. In fact, somewhere in my notes, I recall, they invented a new dance that changed fashion" (Msg. 322).

Q: "Did Mel and Vidanric have a honeymoon or anything of the sort? If they did, where did they go?"

A: "No honeymoon--things were too uncertain for that. But they had a whole palace wing to themselves, and for Mel's sake the changeover was gradual, and not sudden. (The Prince and Princess stayed around helping out for a time.) They did eventually get some trips up to the mountain, which recharged her and relaxed him. Their kids (three) also got plenty of mountain time, Mel saw to that!" (Msg. 328).

Q: "How did Savona and Tamara become reconciled?"

A: "I would have loved to have put that in--like Elenet's story, but the publishers already thought the books too long, and I had to cut things. (Like another Flauvic scene.) Basically, Mel taught Tamara how to laugh, and then how to laugh at herself. It made an amazing change. She and Savona fight like cats and dogs, but they always reconcile. (Some relationships are just plain fiery from the gitgo.)" (Msg. 334)

Q: "I wonder how Savona and Tamara finally got together--what reformed her sufficiently that he was willing to commit to her for the rest of their lives?"

A: "It happened right after the marriage/coronation. They had really been devoted to one another since childhood, though both had plenty of other flirts--but always after one of their huge fights. Finally they realized that they really enjoyed making up after those fights, and that no matter how stormy their relationship they just couldn't stick it with anyone else. And though most people don't do well with that kind of fireworks, it works for them.

"But the trigger was her admitting, straightforwardly (but only to him) that she'd been a twit to go after Vidanric, and that furthermore, Mel was the better choice for queen. She had to learn honesty--that was the real lesson she took from Mel, that even if it hurts, it's better in the long run. And that painful lesson in honesty really did work to cement their relationship. Poor Tamara trusted few people, but she had learned she could trust Mel (at a distance--they never were close) and she learned not just to want Russav, but to trust him. Bingo. He was her devoted servants to command ever after. (Even when he had to ride to the other side of the kingdom to get some space after a fight!)" (Msg. 2037)

Q: "I've been wondering about the reactions of people at court [after Flauvic was defeated], as well."

A: "Regarding the people at court, you have to remember that they were all turned into stone, and so their reactions were quite a bit different than they might have been had there been no magic. (Actually I would have loved to write that part, but the word count the first time was already "too high".) Had there been no magic, Mel would have had a tougher time, but she would have been fine. As it was, because so few know anything about magic, they all assumed that Flauvic's spell had just 'happened'--that mages intending evil could come along and zap them--without knowing that actually that spell had taken weeks to set up. And all night to finish, after the ball, once Flauvic knew exactly where everyone would be.

"Mel's connection with the Hill Folk lent her the necessary prestige to enable the considerably subdued court to be grateful that she was marrying Vidanric--and grateful that he was taking over. (They were considerably more grateful a few years down the road when the big war hit.)" (Msg. 2034)

Q: "I was wondering how people reacted to Mel and Vidanric's relationship, and their engagement. Did they know what was going on?"

A: "A few had guessed, and were pleased; those with ambitions were disappointed, but hid it. The majority were quite surprised, and pleased. Mel had become popular in her own right, and the match promised lively times for the younger people in court.

(It got far more lively than anyone expected when the war that broke out to the north overran them, but all that's in another series of stories.)" (Msg. 2771)

Q: "...Jerrol. Anyone remember him? He's the cute curly-haired equerry that delivered Meliara the message that they'd be getting Galdran's money. I'm just curious about what happened to him. Did he and Oria ever hookup, did he even stay in Tlanth like Mel said many Artisans did? Did he ever meet up with Mel again?"

A: "He stayed there to become a runner for Bran; he liked being on the move. He and Oria had a flirtation, but she never wanted to settle down with one fellow--she liked her life just the way it was, with plenty of flirts for celebrations nights, but nothing to interfere with what she loved most: running a castle" (Msg. 2148).

Q: "I was wondering if Mel and Vidanric ever have one of their misunderstandings again, just on a smaller scale? Mel is very emotionally driven and I was wondering if maybe she misinterpreted things Vidanric did of said on a few rare occasions even after they had worked everything out."

A: "I have the sense that once they'd learned not just to communicate, but to read one another's signals, they had few problems. Mostly disagreements over this and that, but they are both seasoned negotiators, and the marriage kept getting better as the kids were born and then war made life very tense. They are different enough to never find the other boring, they have the same friends, and of course they have the kids. When I think about them, there are no scenes of estrangement or trauma. Not good story material, in other words--but fun for them!" (Msg. 3249) .:. Top .:.


"Beauty", After "Beauty"

Q: "I was wondering, does Elestra ever meet Flauvic again? I know the last line says he would come back, but that's not a definite. I'm curious. :) And does anything ever... happen between them, if you get what I mean?"

A: "He does indeed come back, and makes a slow but steady reform; he and Elestra will end up with the Merindar estates, and Elestra turns to writing--she does a whole lot of plays, in fact, and becomes quite well known for them" (Msg. 1965).

Q: "What are Mel's and Vidanric's reactions toward Flauvic and their daughter? I mean, I'd imagine that the first thing Mel might like to do is give him an earful... or possibly smack him ^_^ "

A: "Mel is quite ambivalent when he shows up again, but it is later, he has some adventures that better enable him to see where he had been headed, and his lack of ambition becomes apparent after a time. (Also Mel trusts her daughters, who are quite strong minded.)

"[Oria ends up, at least for a time, with someone world famous...but those books must come out first, or the whole story won't have any meaning.]" (Msg. 1977)

Q: "I was just remembering a question I had when I read "Beauty" the last time -- concerning Savona and Tamara's daughter [Tara]. Sherwood -- didn't you portray her as having blonde hair? How can that be when Tamara and Savona had black-black hair?..."

A: "Tara does have golden hair, but it won't stay gold for long. It will be a just-as-gorgeous deep brunette. (Lighter hair in childhood does run in both families.)" (Msg. 2401)

Q: "Just how old are Tara and Elestra in "Beauty?" I thought they were in their teens, kinda like Mel in the beginning of Crown Duel , but if Tara's hair color can still change - is she still a child?"

A: "She's a teen. (But hair color can darken clear up into one's thirties--mine did! And my dad's went from pale lemon to dark, dark brown by the time he was 25.)" (Msg. 2422)


Other Books by Sherwood Smith

Q: "How old are Tess, Wren, Connor, and Tyron in Wren's War?"

A: "Well, I never actually say . . . Connor is the oldest, about eighteen at the end of Wren's War, and Wren is the youngest--about two years younger than Tess. Tyron and Tess are the same age" (Msg. 404).

Q: "Would you tell me anything about what happens to Connor and Wren? I totally thought they'd be an item."

A: "Yep. In the fourth book, by the end, it's clear that they are indeed an item. As for Teressa, her ordered life is thrown askew when Hawk (whom she distrusts but finds quite attractive) comes a-courting in earnest" (Msg. 411).

Q: "Is there any chance we could get a general idea of that storyline [the 4th Wren book: Wren Journeymage]?"

A: "Wren goes after Connor to the Summer Isles, and they get mixed up in fairly large adventure. (Wren always seems to be in the wrong place at the right time!) They come back to find out that a lot has changed, and Connor has inherited one of his brothers' land, which has a lot of magical folk on it--nobody else in the family could handle it. Teressa is courted by Hawk--and Tyron does not like it at all, not at all" (Msg. 421).


Ms. Smith on Writing

Q: "Ms. Smith, do you have any thoughts on fan fiction being written about a world or characters you've created?"

A: "Well, I'm ambivalent, to tell you the truth. I hear other writers tell horror stories about problems with fanfic, though I don't really think my stuff lends itself to the kind of stuff they were deploring. (Porn and S&M and so forth). One writer got into a very expensive legal battle because a fan who had been writing fanfic about her character for so many years decided that she had a "right" to the character, and wanted to get her book published.

"I know I love speculating about characters' lives after The End on a story I've read and loved. I often try to imagine Eliza Darcy's life, and her children, after she married Mr. Darcy. But I've never written any fanfic, because I have trouble with the idea of trespassing on another writer's vision. He or she might be like me, having written about a given world for many decades, and know so clearly how the people act, and look, and what happens to them, that any divergence would seem false.

"My own feeling is that it's so much easier to just make up one's own world and people...but I've been told, no, that's not easier. That it's easier to take what's already there, and add one's own vision. And I am a firm believer in the Bill of Rights. Also in creative freedom.

"So I guess my answer would be...go right ahead, for amateur purposes, but for my sake please maintain the PG 'tone'" (Msg. 68).

Q: "Do novelists have any say in cover art? What are the specifications for a cover-artist?"

A: "Writers very seldom get a say in cover art. I was lucky: I at least got to see mine for the Wrens and the CDs, and to make some mild suggestions. (And one demand, on the Wrens: that her hair be NOT drawn as short, barely to her shoulderblades!!!)

"How are they picked? Various methods; one I know of is exhibiting art at scifi conventions, and being hired by editors cruising the art show.

"What they are looking for is the ability to paint what is considered to be eye-catching covers. Obviously the definitions on this vary, considering some of the disgusting klunkers we see on the racks...but some art director thought that cover was just spiffy.

"Either that or the book was orphaned (the editor was fired before the book came out) and none of the other editors care about it, so they get a cover from out of their back stock, and slap it on, even though it has nothing to do with the book.

"And some highly paid cover artists only want a paragraph describing the book, and won't read farther" (Msg. 815).

Q: "How much say do you get in what the cover art on your books looks like?"

A: "The cover artists were selected without consulting me. (Usually the writers at the bottom of the totem pole, like me, have no say whatsoever.) I did get consulted on the first pass on the cover paintings, though. If you have Wren to the Rescue you'll notice that her hair is very odd-looking. That's because I howled and stamped and foamed at the mouth when I saw that she had short hair. All my childhood I desperately wanted long hair, and was told mine was too ugly, thin, and wispy to be long. (As soon as I got to my teen years I grew it out, and haven't cut it since, though it stopped growing years ago.) Anyway, even when I was a kid, if a book said that the heroine had long hair, and the illustrations showed short bouncy curls I felt betrayed! The editor was astonished that I, usually the most mild-mannered (well, dweebish) person, would howl with despair that Wren was depicted with short shoulder-length hair, and so the guy awkwardly painted it longer, just for me. (We bought the paintings, too. They are quite lovely.)

"On the CDs, they just showed me a sketch, and I told them that the onion towers on the sketch were utterly unlike Atanarael, which had been a castle in its beginning days. So they changed that. (I also said, 'Make sure Mel does NOT have short hair!' And we do see a braid.)" (Msg. 201).

Q: "Do you usually agree with your editors when they tell you to take stuff out?"

A: "It depends. Something cut out just to meet a word limit in order to keep the production costs as cheap as possible makes me mad. A genuine editorial decision saying 'This scene is too slow--you need to compress it' will cause me to whip out my red pen and cut like crazy.

"The cuts for CD were because the book was already 'too long' for production costs. (Though the editor did have me add a couple bits-I was lucky. Michael Stearns and Jane Yolen, the two editors, are wonderful at their job.)" (Msg. 353).

Q: "Is there something/someone which/who has greatly influenced your writing?"

A: "That's a difficult question to ask. When I was in third grade I began the read-a-book-a-day habit. If I really loved one, I'd promptly copy the style. I never got too far with High Falutin, Poetique; purple, excruciatingly pompous cliches was about the summit of my 'poetic' writing, and I found that I didn't really like it anyway--it impressed others, but bored me.

"So...I tried writing like various authors I did like, but it's hard to say that any influence stayed with me particularly.

"I think, though, that I've taken convictions from other writers. That you can write with humor and a sharp eye from Jane Austen. That one can aspire to profound insight but not be portentious about it from George Eliot. That one must try to find the right word, the right phrase, from Vladimir Nabokov. That scene goals are not plot goals from Patrick O'Brian. And so on.

"Sometimes I reread something old, and realize that I'd unconsciously processed a scene, or a character, or even some phrases from childhood reading. It happens. There's a scene like that in Crown Duel--and once I recognize it, it embarrassed the heck out of me. (No, I won't say what it is; it's only about four lines.) But I wrote it, and it sat there, and not until the book was in print did I connect with something I'd read over and over and over and over in fifth grade. Bleagh" (Msg. 596).

Q: "Ms. Smith, I have always wondered what it is like to write in conjunction with another author. It seems that it would be difficult at times since each person wants to express his/her ideas in a certain way. Is it a good experience?"

A: "It depends on the situation--the persons involved, and the project to a certain extent. My favorite collaboration has been with Dave Trowbridge, for there was never any ego involved; we each had our own strengths and those covered the other's weakness. We rewrote one another's prose and delighted in the process.

"Others have been more exacting. If you begin a collaboration, best to decide clearly what each of you expects. Do you share equally in world and story development? Who has the sayso on questions? Who goes over the final draft?

"I collaborated when I was thirteen, and happily. We collaborated on several stories. Yet at the end of high school (or was it college?) we tried to resurrect that old joy--and the other person suddenly took over the story and started telling me my part was 'wrong'. Bang! There went the joy. I dropped out of it after that, and it never did get done, though it was a fun idea at the beginning.

"Professional considerations. Most agents and editors will get real queasy at new writers who approach as collaborators, because there are so many instances of terrible lawsuits after breakups on who owns what. This has even happened in marriages, my agent told me. If you draw up a kind of contract beforehand, stating clearly what happens to the project if something happens to the partnership, you have a better chance of selling.

"But always, always, have a clear idea who does what. And stick to it" (Msg. 629).

Q: "When you write long stories, how do you keep the momentum going? What do you do when you're stuck and don't know what to say?"

A: "A strong storyline usually keeps one from getting middle of the book blues. Often enough authors who get stuck in the middle had a strong beginning, and know how it's supposed to end, but hadn't really thought about the middle.

"Then again, some writers are naturally short fiction people, and some are natural novelists. If you love long projects, and hate doing short stuff for school (they mostly want short) the chances are, you're a natural novelist. But if the idea of writing a novel seems tedious and scary, but you do short work all the time, maybe you are a natural short fiction writer" (Msg. 1120).

Q: "I love hearing so much about the developments of the characters. Bran figuring out the 'Mel-Danric' situation... Do you know all of these things about your characters beforehand, or do they develop as the story does?"

A: "To keep my answer short, it's both! (Some characters I know really well, especially the ones I've followed through many books. Others can take me by surprise.)" (Msg. 1619).

Q: "Do you have favorite characters or books you've written? Do you prefer either Crown Duel or Court Duel over the other?"

A: "My favorites are in other series. (One is someone to whom Vidanric is related, through that "Queen of the Plains"--the story of her brother is the one I'm working on now, and she enters it briefly.) Crown and Court Duel are one story to me (which is why I like the Firebird edition so much!)" (Msg. 2091)

Q: "When did you decide to become a writer?"

A: "Writing is one of those very few professions that can hit at any age. I know one woman who commenced her career at age 55. Several of my friends began in their late thirties and early forties, and they learned so rapidly they didn't go through the years and years of bad writing that I did, having begun at a very young age, but I got truly serious about it at eight.

"At risk of being tedious, I have to add that I never intended at age eight to be "a writer". There was no role model for writing anywhere in my environment, not the slightest smidge. Though I also that year became an inveterate reader (began reading a book a day, a habit that persisted until my forties, when working eighty hours a week cut down reading time) it never, ever occurred to me that I would ever publish any of my writing, which I did for sheer pleasure, because I had this tremendous urge to escape to "there" and the closest I could come was via pen.

"It wasn't until I was 13, and met a girl far more savvy, whose mother had been a journalist, that I learned to my surprise that books were actually written by ordinary people, not Olympian gods chosen by the government, or something. That anyone could write a book, laboriously type it out, scrape together the babysitting money for postage, and send it to a publisher, and lightning wouldn't strike, you wouldn't be arrested, nobody called your school and said "Add an F to her report card!"

"And so we began typing up our novels and sending them out that very year, at first together, then separately, but I always tried to write something that publishers would approve of. My "real' stuff, I knew, they would never approve of. Wren was my first successful attempt at something "they" would approve of, written when I was 17, but REWRITTEN many years later.

"Crown Duel was the first of the "real" ones.

"Anyhoo, to cut this short, my second mindblowing lesson was that personal enthusiasm, the white fire of the heart, does not translate automatically to the page unless one is a genius. For those with a tiny talent seed like mine, there must be heavy work ahead in learning how to use words in such as way as to get that enthusiasm onto the page. It took me a long, long time before I found anyone to tell me that--no one took me seriously for all those years. Once it happened, it was just as startling a revelation as the first time I put on glasses, and realized that yes, trees really truly do have leaves!" (Msg. 3105, 3106) .:. Top .:.

Q: "I was wondering if you had any tips about writing conversation?"

A: "You'll get advice from different people saying different things, but for what it's worth, here's mine. Listen to people talk. I mean on the bus, at school, at the lunch area, before a movie, at another table at a restaurant, though don't be obvious about listening in on strangers. Don't look at them at first. Listen to the rhythm of their language, how their voices rises and fall when they express emotion, whose laugh is real, whose fake--and whose angry.

"Don't do this to TV characters. That writing follows strict patterns, in most shows, that are dull cliche. (Frazier is different, but that's akin to playwrighting.)

"When you get used to how people talk, then is when you watch. Watch body language, how people hold their heads, how stiff or relaxed their bodies are, where theyr body is pointing when they talk--are the arms up in defense, or are they relaxed and open? What characteristic tricks do they have?

"That's one way to begin having your people sound like people.

"Now, dialogues in fiction have to go somewhere, unless you are Ionesco. Each long conversation, like each scene, ought to have a little story of its own. The more reaction you build in, the more the reader reacts. If everyone is neutral, it becomes dull and bland. If everyone is always laughing and chuckling and grinning, to show that they are good guys, then that too can get dull.


"Don't have characters tell each other what they already know. (Or if you have to, have them react to that fact!) Writers who try to give info through dialogue this way trip up because how can you have any sort of real reaction when someone is telling you their life history, and you are responding with yours, even if you've known one another ten years?

"Don't cheat with false reactions. Bad writers will have an entire room 'roar with laughter' after a very stupid remark that they want the readers to think is a funny joke.

"Does that help?" (Msg. 3160) .:. Top .:.