It has been some time since I read The Deed of Paksenarrion. When I read it, though, I was struck by how it captured the essence of esprit de corps, the comraderie developed among a group of soldiers bending their efforts towards a common cause, often with life itself on the line. I have, at a previous point in my life, been an infantry medic. Well, it was no surprise to me, after reading Elizabeth Moon, that this author had prior military experience. In fact, she was a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps in the late '60's. Now that's something you can wear on any sleeve.
Elizabeth Moon is accomodating and gracious, however. How do I know? Because she gave a lightweight blogger (yours truly) the time of day and an interview. This being my first such interview, I bear an indebtedness and gratitude to Elizabeth Moon that I will never forget.
Elizabeth Moon has returned to the world of Paksenarrion. The first book to her new series, Oath of Fealty, will be released next spring. Without further ado, the interview:
PW: I have read that your upcoming series will chronicle Paksennarion's former commanders (Dorian, Arcolin and Phelan). Can you give a thumbnail preview of the new series?
EM: When a paladin comes in and does great deeds, there's always fallout...always change. Combined with the activities of the other people (which also has consequences) this means lives disrupted and re-directed in ways those involved never imagined. In the first book, out next March, the political situation in Tsaia has been destabilized by both the loss of Kieri Phelan to the kingship of Lyonya--his domain and his mercenary company now have no commander--and the treachery of the Verrakai family. The South, Aarenis, has been less than stable since the wars depicted in the original Paks books. Instability both north and south of the mountains makes for interesting times, in the worst sense of the term. The main POV characters are all mature people who thought they knew how the rest of their lives would play out. ("Mwah-hah-hah-hah!" cackles the evil author.) It will all come out in the end, but I'm not there yet.
PW: I have read that Paksennarion, while the catalyst, is peripheral to the new series. Do you have any plans to re-visit Paksennarion in the future, and if so, any teasers?
EM: Paksenarrion has refused to be a point-of-view character again. She won't let me write her from inside, and I care too much about her to fake it. She's a character in the new books, but seen from the outside by the others. If Paks ever changes her mind and lets me into her head again, I will certainly go back to her--she was enormous fun to write (well, the bad parts weren't fun, but they were satisfying in their strength.) As a teaser, looking at her from outside...imagine Paks as a temporary caretaker for a bunch of children. There's more of it in the second book.
PW: As a former commissioned officer, what of your former U.S.M.C. career helped refine or define the character Paksennarion?
EM: My military experience helped most in creating the whole milieu of the military groups Paks came in contact with. Her character as a soldier was inextricably linked with her future as a paladin, which meant that more of her character development came from the spiritual side. The spiritual influences the military mind (for good or bad, depending on the individual's spiritual growth), as many military organizations (including the Corps) have recognized. Something must counterbalance the practical routines and the brutality...there must be something beyond and above...if you don't want the group to fall to the level of common thugs.
PW: In sampling your site, the Paksworld blog, your live journal, etc., I get the impression you are extremely energetic, organized and highly compartmentalized. Would you agree and could you offer a brief taste of your approach to life, specifically the rigors of writing?
EM: (Hollow laugh at the thought of being considered "organized..." or "compartmentalized..." My workspace is a typical--I like to think--writer's space cluttered with books, magazines, papers, writing implements of various kinds, scraps of paper covered with notes, and oddments...in my case a rusty old chisel, two rocks, measuring tape, metal ruler, spare flash drives, spare memory cards, the rattles off a rattlesnake, etc. And more etc.) A brief taste of my approach to life? Live it while you've got it. Learn, work, love, enjoy. The rigors of writing? Less than the rigors of waiting tables or bagging groceries. It's not fun all the time, but that's where the work ethic comes in. (If it's not fun most of the time, do something else.)
PW: I used to tease my mother and sister about their, and their co-conspirators, "horse-y" obsession. Could you offer some encouraging words to the book-loving/"horse-y" Nation out there?
EM: If you mean Are there horses in the new books, absolutely. The main characters are higher ranking than Paks was, and normally ride, so horses get more attention. The horses aren't characters, but they are written as important to their riders. Since every culture that uses horses for work has opinions about breed and color, I've given the cultures involved a chance to demonstrate this. Elves, for instance, prefer horses "of water and air" and the humans in Lyonya have thus learned to think of those horses as partaking of elven characteristics, even though they don't. Kieri gets to choose mounts from the royal stables in Lyonya; the crown prince's younger brother has a terrifying incident during a riding lesson with the other young boys his age.
Look for Oath of Fealty in March 2010, in the US.