Name: V. S. Holmes
Location: New England
V.S. Holmes is the author of SMOKE AND RAIN, the first in an epic fantasy series. Her favorite genres include fantasy, science (of both the non-fiction and fiction varieties), and most anything else she finds in her hands. While not writing, she works as a contract archaeologist. She lives with her artist/illustrator husband in a Tiny House (yes, like the HGTV show) and owns far too many books for such a small abode.
What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life? There are two sides to the ‘hero’ coin. Often, the first side is during the making of the hero — a person has a difficult choice and chooses others over themselves, or perhaps they have no choice at all, but give it their all despite the circumstances. Those close to her or him see the struggle and the pain, and they are the first ones to call the person ‘hero.’
The second side of the coin is afterward. The hero has become something other than a person — he or she is an idea. The flaws are gone, and so, too, is the struggle, and what actually made the person a hero in the first place.
The gritty, first side are the heroes we see in our own lives, those that make an impact on our worlds. They are what books are made of.
If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books? I don’t have a single hero in my books — I have a few main characters, all of whom have their own abilities and flaws. Each one is a hero in his or her own right, though often in very different ways. Grandiose heroes are not something people can relate to. Time changes stories so much, that the few living-legends in my Reforged series, for instance, are unrecognizable in person. I stick to the real, human (even if they aren’t, in fact, human) characters. If they happen to do something that starts friend’s whispering “hero,” then so be it.
Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case. Do you have any experience of this? This is an issue in all genres, but it is very prominent in science-fiction and fantasy. When I was first breaking into the reading world on my own, I noticed a dearth of well-written books that had female protagonists, or even female characters that were more than simply filler. While I think we’ve come a long way from that reality, we face a new problem — female characters are slotted as “strong” and the character arc goes no further. Furthermore, it perpetuates the idea that the only way a character can be strong is by having masculine tendencies. This cripples writers, characters, and worst-of-all, readers. For more on this, I urge you to check out the article, “I Hate Strong Female Characters,” by Sophia McDougall for newstatesman.com.
How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? One of the main criticisms a lot of fiction faces — specifically science-fiction — is the suspension of disbelief. The genres of both fantasy and science-fiction are all about breaking rules and creating worlds that are apart from our own, so why is it an issue if it seems far-fetched? What is more important than plausible, is being plausible-in-the-created-world. Each invented world a writer creates relies on a set of rules — who wields magic, who travels at light-speed — and the story MUST function within those rules or it doesn’t work. Like all rules, of course, there are loopholes, but if your character wields magic and no other human does, there better be a damn good reason behind it.
Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold? I love discussing how our past forms our future. I work as an archaeologist for my “day job,” and I face this question every day. I wrote an article for the New Hampshire Archaeological Society last year talking about why I dig. The reason I write is much the same. Humans have always been exploring, whether it was searching over the next rise, the next ocean, the next galaxy. This exploration may begin as a search for food or for others, but ultimately it is a search for self. Our myths — cross-culturally — are about that search. They are familiar ways to frame the questions we want to ask. Our character may wonder what to do in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, so she looks back on what brought her here. Perhaps her parents were scientists, perhaps her Master’s thesis focused on Ragnarok. Where she comes from will not inform whether she fights, but how and with what.