How Dana Marie Bell Got Her Elf On
|I Didn't Exactly Shop at Elfmart|
Caution: You're about to take a trip into my brain. I've heard it can be a dangerous place, full of dangling participles and killer plot bunnies. You have been warned.
I think one of the hardest questions an author can be asked is, "Where did you come up with the idea for...?" Because our first instinct is to look at the person asking and say, completely deadpan, "My brain. Same as everyone else."
Okay. That's not strictly true. Don't ask me why, but I come up with my best ideas in the shower. Maybe, when I get water in my ears, it sloshes around in my cranial cavity for a little bit and shakes things loose. Before you know it, a waterlogged idea plops down into my forebrain and I get my EUREKA! moment.
Ahem. But, I digress.
So the question I was asked was, “Where did you come up with the idea for the elves in Dare To Believe?” Well, if I remember correctly, it all started with my running (okay, limping, I don't do much running anymore) down the stairs after a particularly fruitful shower (mind out of the gutter, people).
"Honey! I have an IDEA."
Dusty, my poor husband, is not a fool. He prepared for the deluge. No pun intended.
"What about an elf who's in love with a human, see? But he can't tell her who he is, at least not at first. I mean, who would believe it, right? Oh! And his brother gets kidnapped by this skanky ho who wants Our Hero for herself, only she doesn't know he's found his mate, and remind me to find a better term than mate, I use it way too much. OH! And he kidnaps her and takes her to, get this: Nebraska!"
Dusty, eyes glazed, ears bleeding, looked at me and said, "Why?"
"Because you married me?"
"No; why Nebraska?"
"That's easy. It's where the farm is."
Needless to say, for Dusty anyway, it went downhill from there.
So how did I come up with my elves? Was it Tollkien, the man who took old myths and legends and mashed them together to make a wonderful, unique whole? Was it my Dungeons and Dragons teen years, where I loved playing someone who was actually shorter than I was?
Nope. Believe it or not, it all started with Oberon. See, I'd gotten to thinking about Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which led to thoughts of Robin Goodfellow, which led to thoughts of Oberon, which took me to Calista Flockhart (don't ask) and wound around to Titania and thoughts of cheating spouses. Before I knew it I'd taken the Seelie and Unseelie courts and, instead of making them elves (or Sidhe) only, I made them the courts for ALL the fae. And over them all I placed Oberon, the High King and ruler of the Gray Court. Now all I had to do was people those courts.
Okay. Rubbing my hands together, I started doing research on fairies. And I researched. And I researched. And I ... you get the picture. I discovered a few things during that research, but mostly what I found out was that some types of fairies are universal, and there isn't much out there on the Sidhe. They have powers that range from no more than human to phenomenal, cosmic powers (without the itty bitty living space). And since I'm a firm believer in having my characters have limits, that wouldn't do at all.
So I thought about it. I do that a lot, in case you hadn't noticed. I thought about elves, and what I'd read, and the fairy tales that surround them. I could have gone the Tolkien/Dungeons and Dragons route and made them rangers with keen eyesight and skills that would humble the world's greatest hunters. Or I could give them magic, make them something otherworldly.
Guess which one I went for?
But, as my husband pointed out, look at your spreadsheets! All the other fairies are bound to an element. Leprechauns are earth, sylphs and will-o-the-wisps are air, and so on. Making the Sidhe the only magical fairies gives them a distinct advantage. You need to bind them to an element. And, considering your recent dive into magic for another book, didn't you say that some people believe there are FIVE elements?
Why not spirit?
Huh, said I. You're right. Why not?
So I took a look at the elves and their love of glamour to get what they want. And you know what? That could be spirit magic, couldn't it? After all, making yourself look more beautiful in the eyes of those around you, or making your junker car look like a Ferrari, involved nothing more than the elf’s will and the mind of the viewer. And that led to the idea that elves could weave a fantasy in the minds of those around them; affect their senses in ways even a psychic human couldn't detect.
Now all I had to give them something that would make them stand out from Tolkien's elves even more.
I had to make them taller than four foot five!
Aren't you glad you asked?
P.S.: In book two, Noble Blood, I'll be going much more into the Gray Court, and how the Dunne family winds up joining it. And yes, you’ll see Robin again, and you’ll get your first introduction to Oberon, the High King.
P.P.S.: Don’t mock the spreadsheets. They make the world go round.
- Dana Marie Bell