Renee Writes

Author Spotlight: Girls of Dirt (Dirt, Series Two) by C.C. Hogan

Welcome to this week’s Friday Author Spotlight! Today I have fantasy author, C.C. Hogan, returning with Book One in Dirt Series Two, Girls of Dirt! He’ll also be sharing his wisdom on dealing with social issues in fantasy, but first more about C.C. …

Short, dieting, cook, lives in own sad world and drinks too much wine. Damn; must be a writer!

LOL, and that’s all he has to say on that…

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About the Book

It is five hundred years since the events of series one. The world has been ruined by petty wars and the dreams of Pree and Farthing have been forgotten. The population is smaller, trades less often and is poorer. Even the dragons are thought of as only children’s stories; they probably never existed.

But on the beautiful Isle of Hope, Silvi Farthing is seventeen, a cheese maker, living on her own and about to be rescued by an incredible creature from her own family’s forgotten past; Be-Elin, the dragon.

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Keep reading for a guest post from the author:

Dealing With Social Issues in Fantasy

Just because I am writing a story set on a world that does not exist does not mean I cannot deal with issues that we face in our own world in our real lives. Unless a writer decides to leap into the complete unknown and create an imaginary world that is unique, and that is a rare thing, there will be correlations between their fantasy land and their own experiences. Generally, this is seen as a good thing since many readers like to be able to recognise characters and situations in some form or fashion so they can relate to them.

When I was planning the Dirt Saga, I made the conscious decision to make it as close to our world as possible without it actually being our world at all. I wanted all the characters of whatever species to be believable, almost as if it would be no surprise if you encountered them walking down your local high street. This meant imposing limits on characters. Dragons are big and can fly, but they don’t breathe fire or live in damp caves; they have communities and families like we do. Magicians might do things that we cannot do, but they do not wave wands or pick up and hurl rocks across valleys; their abilities are more subtle and vague. And of course, all characters can face problems in their lives because of the culture.

Series two of Dirt, which is now available, features several female lead characters, both human and dragon, and the main lead is a young woman called Silvi. In series one, I talked about issues such as slavery, inequality, poverty and so on, but having a mainly female-led in series two cast allowed me to address sexism head on.

Silvi Farthing is not just a young woman, she is also a lesbian. Although I do not make a huge deal of her coming out or deciding on her sexuality, it is there in plain sight and some accept it and some do not. We do not know a huge amount about her younger life, but there are hints that it was more abusive than she easily admits to and this is at least partly responsible for the strong, independent streak that drives her through the story.

When addressing any problem in any type of tale, it helps to have something to compare it with; my situation must be bad because over there I see someone whose life is better. In real life, this is not always clear cut. Sexism as we see it today has to be compared to centuries of history that says men are superior to women and therefore what women suffer is not sexism. It was unforgiveable even back then, in my mind, but it was the status quo and we still have to fight that today when making arguments for equality; look at the women in some towns in the USA who not only think they SHOULD be subservient to men but also support Trump and have no issue with his terrible comments. This is sometimes joyfully referred to as dealing with dinosaurs. In a fantasy, you have the opportunity of inventing a comparison that does not exist in our real life and is therefore less ambiguous.

In Dirt, dragons are my perennial good-guys. They live hundreds of years, think friendship is more important than family, don’t have nations, borders, or the subsequent wars, don’t lie, and have no sexism or any other bad isms. If they were human, they would be unbelievably perfect and would not work, but because they are a species that do not exist, as long as I make them realistic, give them humour and tempers, I can get away with it. So, when Silvi is attacked by some men because she is a lesbian, although she is rescued by a dragon, the dragon is confused. Such violence is unknown in her people and she does not understand it. Oh, if that were so amongst humans too!

Fantasy is the perfect genre to address many issues that plague our world. It allows the writer to work with interesting metaphors and similes, whether that is using inter-species contact to portray racism or fantastical cultural structures to portray ageism and sexism. In Star Trek, they used the character of Data to ask logical questions about irrational human ideas; it was a little clunky sometimes, but worked quite well. Probably one of the best examples is George Orwell’s Animal Farm which used farmyard animals to explain the danger which was Stalinism. Of course, you can go the other way like Mervin Peake did with Gormenghast, and have a set of characters none of whom you would invite to dinner!

I wouldn’t advocate that a writer must deal with difficult social issues, but certainly it can be an opportunity that is hard to resist. In the end, a fantasy is only set in a fantastical environment; the story is still one about people of some kind or other. People create societies and sometimes those societies stink. Humans have managed that in every society they have ever built, right up to and including today. So, if you feel that there is an opening to perhaps raise an issue from our own world in your created world, go for it. It will add depth to your story and will resonate with readers.

I will leave you with an excerpt from series two of Dirt. Silvi is sitting on the ground and next to her is the vast Bren-Hevvin. Just his head is much bigger than she is, and his body wouldn’t even fit on the cover. This is not about sexism, but about war, yet another important issue. There has never been a dragon on dragon war; their culture is so different to ours that there has never been a reason for one.

“Dragons don’t want to go to war, do they, despite your dreadful jokes. It is not in your blood. I see it in your eyes sometimes.”

“You do? What do you see? I don’t think you want to go to war either, but you do.”

“I didn’t want this war, you are right. But there is a difference between you and me; between humans and dragons. When I look into Hal’s eyes, when we are planning and realising the consequences of our plans, I see his hatred of war, but I see a tolerance of it. He knows we have no choice, and he understands that however terrible, it happens again and again and is part of our existence. War makes sense to him, even if he abhors it.”

“And what do you see in my eyes?”

Silvi turned and looked up into the big, soft, face of the Draig Mynyth Coh. He was not beautiful like a desert dragon or a sea dragon, but he had a face you could love. Even when he was angry she could happily hug his face if she had long enough arms.

“When I look into your eyes, I not only see a hatred of death, dear Bren-Hevvin, I see puzzlement and confusion. You don’t understand war in any way whatsoever; it mystifies you. You only know that they happen and humans start them. I have seen the same in every single dragon I have ever met.”

Dirt is a fantasy saga by CC Hogan. Series two is out now as an eBook on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other stores. The series starts with Girls of Dirt and includes a recap of series one.

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