Thursday, April 7, 2016

Guest Post by Susan Signe Morrison, Author of Grendel's Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife

I'm delighted to have Susan Signe Morrison on the blog today with a wonderful guest post about her new novel, Grendel's Mother. Please enjoy! And if you didn't see it check out my spotlight post HERE for more information on the book, the blog tour and your chance to enter the tour-wide giveaway!!
My novel, Grendel’s Mother: The Saga of the Wyrd-Wife, was inspired by the famous Old English poem, Beowulf, replete with monsters, dragons, and warriors. Rather than depicting ogre-like brutes, my villains are the humans who commit acts of violence against one another. In the original, Grendel’s Mother avenges the death of her son, Grendel, who kills and even eats heroic warriors. Not in my novel—where he is a human unjustly condemned for a secret transgression (you’ll have to read it to find out just what it is!).

It was while teaching Beowulf that I wondered: what was the life like for the women around the year 1000 when the poem was written? Or in the year 600 when the poem is set? I felt I could best explore imaginary possibilities through fiction, including verse. My prose work is studded with the occasional poem that crystalizes the tragic—and sometimes funny—view of the world various characters’ convey. I call my novel a feminist version of Beowulf, where the women are not simply victims of a violent male culture, but succeed in carving out a space of emotional and creative freedom for themselves. Yes, it is ultimately tragic, but at least one woman offers hope for the future.

No dragons appear in my version of the story, which is told from the various female characters’ viewpoints. Dragons, though, have attracted many readers to Beowulf over the years and to the medieval period in general. Thanks to J. R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the atmosphere swirling around the Anglo-Saxon heritage—replete with swords, fantastic creatures, and honor even in the face of death—has made fantasy writing possible. And it has drawn students to my classes where I have taught Beowulf for years.
Runic Story by 10 year-old student
I love to do outreach in public schools. At a local elementary
school, an annual Young Writers Workshop draws excited youngsters to my class on writing “medieval” stories. The kids were thrilled to write their stories in runes, the alphabet system used by Germanic shamen for magical and religious purposes before the advent of Christianity. I even got 250 high school freshmen to stand up and recite the Lord’s Prayer in Old English, as well as giggle over a thousand-year-old riddle about a rather phallic-sounding onion.
I also have done readings at local bookstores. At one such place, a musician, the incandescent Sarah McSweeney, sang a version of one of my poems from Grendel’s Mother. I had tears in my eyes at the beauty of her music put to the language I had worked over for years.

I wrote my books off and on for about fifteen years, which suggests that one should never give up. Keep plugging away and ultimately your vision can become reality!

I would love to ask your readers: what books do you like that take a well-known story or myth, but presents it from the point of view of a woman?

Thank you for letting me share my ideas with you!

So tell us: do you have a favorite book that takes a well-known story or myth and spins it from the point of view of a woman or women? For me, I'd have to say that Stephanie Thornton's novel, The Conqueror's Wife (see my review HERE), did an exceptional job of showing the life of Alexander the Great through the eyes of some exceptional women. Share yours below!

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