Our Oh My Teen book group interviewed author Ari Marmell about his young adult novel Thief's Covenant, the first in the Widdershins Adventure series and the group pick for November. A brief synopsis of Thief's Covenant: "She is Widdershins, a thief making her way through Davillons underbelly looking to find answers, and justice with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and the mystical aid of Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshipers but Widdershins herself."
Q) Why did you select to write Theif's Covenant from a female perspective?
When I very first started to envision this book, the main character was male. Problem was, as I tried to develop the basic story and the outline, it just didn't feel right, no matter what I did with it. It only started feeling like it was working when I decided to make Shins female. So, bottom line? Purely a creative decision that felt right for the book and the character. Nothing more complex or detailed than that.
Q) How does your role-playing experience impact the development of your plot and characters?
I don't know if it influences them much anymore, but it certainly did when I was first learning and developing the craft of writing. As someone who's both played and worked in the tabletop role-playing game field, I had to develop the ability to create settings and sometimes even plots that worked for any variety of characters. Similarly, I had to create characters without always knowing what sort of plot they'd be involved in.
Now, obviously, when writing a novel, the author has control over all of that, and it's definitely a good idea to make sure it all fits together. Still, knowing how to treat them as separate pieces has, I think, allowed me to come up with some broader story or setting ideas than I otherwise might have.
Q) What exisiting elements helped you create your world in regards to the beliefs of the characters? In other words, where does the existing mythical foundation end and your imagination begin to take over?
Olgun isn't based on any specific deity out of any real-world religion. He's influenced a little bit by Norse mythology, just in terms of his name and general appearance, but that's mostly on a purely cosmetic level. Both he and the Hallowed Pact are mostly my own creations.
Most modern fantasy novels use limited pantheons of gods, because that's how most modern Americans think of mythology. When we think of a pantheon, we think of the Greek Olympians, or the Norse Asgard, or the Egyptian gods. Thing is, we tend only to think of the really big names. Zeus, Ares, Poseidon, Hera, and so forth.
But lots of cultures throughout history had a huge--even uncountable--number of gods. In some cultures, each particular village might have its own deity. Sometimes, a particular family or household might have its own. In some cultures, there was a spirit or god for every mountain, every river, every tree.
I wanted to play around with that idea somewhat, when creating the setting of Davillon--partly just because I find the idea fascinating, but also in part to give the society its own unique feel. It's pretty obvious, given the names and the styles and whatnot, that Davillon is based, in part, on Renaissance-era France. Having the religion of Davillon be this sort of broad pantheon, which is nothing close to France's religion of that historical period, was a good way of making it very clear that, despite the similarities, Davillon is its own thing and not just France with the serial numbers filed off.
(In fact, quick bit of trivia for you... Before the folks at Pyr Books and I settled on the name Thief's Covenant, my working title for the novel was Household Gods.)
Q)What is your favorite role-playing game?
I'm still a big fan of the classics. These days, most people think of computer games when they thing RPGs, but I still prefer the old-fashioned kind: Dice, paper, pencils, and a bunch of people sitting together in the living room. So I'm going to have to say that the original--Dungeons & Dragons--is still my favorite. (As far as which edition of the game is my favorite? I have things I love and things I dislike about all of them. So let's say that while D&D is my favorite game, my favorite version of D&D is still to come.)
Again, thanks for reading the book, and I really appreciate the chance to talk with you all.
Thief's Covenant is available for check-out or request at your favorite KC branch library. Discover more about Ari Marmell, his world, and his books here. Oh My Teen Book group meets the second Tuesday of every month at 5 p.m. at the Trails West branch library.