Blog Tour: Cynthia Hand dishes her thoughts on Angels!

by Cynthia Hand

Pages: 403
Release Date: January 2nd 2012
Publisher:  Egmont Books
Buy the Book: Amazon

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought.
Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

As part of the Hallowed blog tour, the lovely Cynthia Hand has written an exciting post on Angels. What's fun and what's hard about writing about them. Hmmm, Lets find out shall we?

The Angel Angle:
What’s fun and what’s hard about writing about angels

I started writing about angels by accident. When the idea of Unearthly first came to me, I knew that Clara was special in some way, that she had powers and abilities beyond that of a regular human being. But I didn’t know what she was, exactly. None of the run-of-the-mill paranormal creatures seemed to fit.

She definitely wasn’t a vampire, or a werewolf, or a fairy, I knew that. I wanted her to feel like a normal teenager, with a tiny element of the extraordinary. It was a real dilemma, trying to figure Clara out, until from some distant corner of my brain, I remembered a passage in the Bible I once read about the “sons of God” and the “daughters of man”: the Nephilim, the offspring of angels and men. This was perfect, I realised immediately. It meant that Clara wasn’t a supernatural creature so much as she was a human with a touch of the divine thrown in. I also loved the way that the angel angle learnt a whole new layer of moral and spiritual questions that Clara would be forced to deal with. The idea of destiny is hard enough, but the idea of destiny when you find out that you’re part angel? Brutal.

That’s what we call a goldmine, fiction-wise.

Here’s what else is fun about writing about angels:

• There’s a wellspring of rich, textured mythology that a writer can draw from, not only in the Christian religion, but in many other religions, far and wide. I do loads of research for every book I write, which is huge fun; I dig research. For Unearthly I did a lot of investigation into the idea of the Nephilim, taking the elements of that mythology that I liked and making up the rest. In Hallowed I went more in depth into specific characters, and researched the characters of Semyaza (Samjeeza) and Michael in angel mythology, in particular. There’s so much good stuff out there to work with, and I ended up using only the smallest tip of the massive iceberg of angel mythology, but as a writer it’s awesome to have so much to draw on.
• Angels are beautiful. When you write about angels you get to write about wings and flying off into the wild blue yonder, seeing the world from above. I’ve always loved the idea of flight, so this was great for me. Angel mythology also deals with the contrast of light and dark, the halo around the angel’s head-- comae celestis, as Angela calls it (a Latin phrase I mangled to make suit my purposes), the idea of glory, flaming swords and arrows, all good stuff as far as imagery goes.

• There’s a sense of redemption and hope that’s implied in angel mythology, of falling from grace and being redeemed. I love this dynamic. The stakes are naturally higher in fiction about angels, since it is not only the body at stake, but the soul. The problems that Clara faces always operate on two separate but intertwined levels for me: the surface problem, i.e., someone I love is going to die and that is going to suck, a lot, and the spiritual problem-- is it my fault that this person is going to die? Am I being punished? Can I fix it? Stop it? Am I supposed to accept my fate or fight it? All good questions that lead to good storytelling.

But writing about angels also has its pitfalls. Sometimes I feel like I am a tightrope walker when I write, struggling to balance as I slowly and carefully follow the line of my story across a high wire. Here’s what’s hard about it:

•People will think it’s too religious. It’s very difficult to extract angels from the idea of God. I didn’t try to do that; I wanted Clara to live in a world where there is a definitive God, but I also wanted my story to be friendly to people who didn’t believe in God or people who believed in vastly different things than I do. I am not a preacher, and I don’t have any kind of religious agenda underneath my writing, but because of the subject matter there are always going to be people who think I am trying to influence them, religiously speaking, and who are going to resist my story because of that.

•People will think it’s not religious enough. I’ve found that there are actually more people who are offended that Clara doesn’t go to a specific church than there are people who are offended that Clara believes in God. To which I can only say, I didn’t want Clara to ascribe to a particular religion because I wanted the book to be friendly to people of all religions (see what I said above about not being a preacher), and because I wanted the spiritual questions of the book to operate under the surface, not on the surface. If you’re religious I think my books can work on a different, metaphorical level, but I don’t want to shove the reader’s face in it.

•People will think your characters should be perfect. This is similar to what I wrote about above, but it works in a different way. There’s an argument that’s made that if Clara is part-angel and therefore a representative of the divine, she shouldn’t make mistakes. She shouldn’t act selfishly or complain too much or consider doing things that a fine upstanding angelic being shouldn’t do. But this would make for very dull fiction, in my opinion. Characters need flaws, and those flaws, those conscientious mistakes, are what produce the kind of conflict that drives a good story. I don’t want Clara to be a representative of the divine. I want her to be a realistic, flawed-but-growing person. I want her to be wrestling with the idea of the divine inside of her. I want her to make mistakes, sometimes huge mistakes, that have both real and metaphorical consequences.

Sigh. Sometimes I think it would have been easier to write about vampires.

But that brings me back to one of the best things about writing about angels, which is that it’s a thought-
provoking subject. It’s something people can interpret a bunch of different ways, and argue about, and feel passionate about, and have complicated reactions to, based on their individual notions of
spirituality and history.

Which. I happen to think, is the best kind of subject matter there is.

An amazing post right? A great insight into the mind of Cynthia! A great big thank you to Cynthia for this post...
Let us know your thoughts!

1 comment:

  1. Amazing post, I really enjoyed reading it! You're right about the religion, it must be annoying, people always judging your book by that kind of thing! I think it looks fab, I would love to read it!


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