Since Mother’s Day is right around the corner, I am thinking of what it means to be a mom. As someone who runs an animal rescue, I am “mom” to many beings, from hedgehogs to horses, pigeons to goats, and all walks of life in between (including a couple of humans). But I am also “mom” to all of my characters in the books I write. I often joke that I’m officially crazy because I have hundreds of voices in my head. And it’s true! I know my characters as well as I know my own kids, my own pets, my family and friends. They are a part of me, and in a way I “birthed” them, starting from the tiniest seed of imagination, to bring them full-grown into this world.
I recently had the unique experience of helping create one of my characters into a 3-D rendering for my upcoming book The Fairies of Feyllan. I can picture my fae characters in my mind perfectly; I can see their nuances, understand their motives, and envision them in my mind’s eye; six inches tall, they fly around in my brain. But to have the opportunity to help the artists at Mischievous Muse Press create Varia, my main character, gave me an opportunity to realize how well I know her, inside and out.
I was encouraged to choose “pieces” of Varia bit by bit, from the 3-D graphic artist’s array of hair, clothing, expressions, and body parts. It is a surreal experience to gather together your “child” by parts. First, I had to pick out her hair. I looked at many 3-D renderings of hair styles, and found two or three that would work, but I found it interesting that I knew instinctively what Varia didn’t look like. I kept thinking, No, that’s too short; that’s too curly; that’s too dark as I made my choices. Note that I was thinking those things about a fictitious character! Yet I could envision Varia of Ashenthorne so precisely, that I could discern what was “right” for my faery offspring.
I enjoyed dress shopping the most for Varia. In my imagination, her clothing is made from simple, natural materials; leaves and flower petals, meticulously woven into fine cloth by faery artisans. So many of the hundreds of outfits I could choose from were wrong, and the thoughts that accompanied those ill-fitting choices made me laugh: Varia would never wear that, she couldn’t fly in it! Or, there is nothing in the natural world that is that color, that wouldn’t work, and that looks like something a gypsy prom queen would wear, not an Alawe faery. I came to realize that her style would be regal, as Varia is of a royal bloodline, but also ornate, as the fae spend a great deal of time crafting lavish objects. In the end, Varia’s dress became a hodgepodge of decisions; the belt is a shield, and the top of the garment boasts a leafy vine pattern that was altered to make it appear to be growing out of the organic material of the dress and merging with her skin, almost like a tattoo. The artist did this to create the underlying message that Varia is deeply connected to her environment and the materials she uses from it. The design on the dress (the gown I chose was plain and had to be reworked) was inspired by Celtic knotwork, and created by Varia’s second artist from the Mischievous Muse Press design team.
The artists were like the midwives at the birth of Varia, taking good care of her as she emerged whole and complete from the tiniest of ideas. It was a cooperative effort to make her the faery she is today, from ensuring the lighting around her would exist in reality, to checking that her crown and necklace had correct elements of the Alawe faery tribe’s heritage.
So just like being a mom to a child, I feel like a mom to Varia. And just like actual parenting, the experience of creating Varia in 3-D for the book cover with the guidance of two committed artists made me realize, it takes a village not only to raise a child . . . but also, to create a faery.